Club Drugs

Club drugs are a group of psychoactive drugs that are usually abused by teens and young adults at bars, nightclubs, concerts and parties. Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), Rohypnol, Ketamine, as well as MDMA (ecstasy) are included in this group. 

GHB (Xyrem) - a central nervous system depressant originally approved in 2002 to treat narcolepsy.

Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) - a benzodiazepine (chemically similar to Valium or Xanax), that is not approved for medical use in this country, and is legally banned. 

Ketamine - a dissociative anesthetic, mostly used in veterinary practice.

MDMA (Ecstasy) – a synthetic, psychoactive drug, chemically similar to methamphetamine and mescaline; it results in increased energy, euphoria, emotional warmth and time distortions. 

How Are Club Drugs Abused?

GHB and Rohypnol are odorless, colorless and tasteless forms that are usually combined with alcohol and other beverages. These are also known as "date rape drugs" because of their ability to sedate and incapacitate unsuspecting victims, leaving them unable to resist a sexual assault. GHB is usually ingested orally. Rohypnol is taken in pill form, but can also be ground up and snorted. GHB and Rohypnol have intoxicating effects, similar to other depressants. GHB has anabolic effects and has been used by bodybuilders in fat reduction and muscle building. 

Ketamine is usually snorted or injected into muscles. 

MDMA is taken orally, usually as a capsule or tablet. 

How Do Club Drugs Affect the Brain?

GHB may result in sleep, coma, or death. Rohypnol produces anterograde amnesia, whereby individuals do not remember events while under the influence of the drug. Ketamine distorts perceptions of sight and sound and results in feelings of detachment from surroundings and self. Low-dose intoxication also results in impaired attention, learning and memory. At higher doses, ketamine can produce dreamlike states, hallucinations, delirium and amnesia. MDMA produces confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving and severe anxiety. 

How Can Club Drug Abuse Be Treated?

There is very little information available on the treatment for people who abuse club drugs. Since there are no GHB detection tests, many GHB incidents can go undetected. However, residential services seem to help significantly. 

Treatment for Rohypnol includes a 3- to 5-day inpatient detox program with 24-hour medical monitoring and management of withdrawal symptoms, which can be life-threatening. 

Patients with a Ketamine addiction are managed with supportive care for symptoms, with special attention to cardiac and respiratory functions. 

There are no specific pharmacological or behavioral treatments for ecstasy abuse and addiction. However, cognitive-behavioral interventions can help modify the patient's thinking, expectancies and behaviors related to their drug use. It can also help them increase skills in coping with life stresses. Drug abuse recovery support groups are also effective in combination with behavioral interventions.  

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