Club Drugs

What are Club Drugs?

Club drugs or party drugs see use in many clubs, music festivals, and other venues in the United States, but their use carries the risk of significant and life-threatening side effects. In addition to the basic level of risk that these drugs incorporate, these drugs also carry problems with potential impurities- the informal context in which these drugs are traded and consumed makes it easy for dealers to cut club drugs with inexpensive ingredients.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health of the United States, there are three main club drugs which users in the United States commonly abuse.

  • MDMA
  • Rohypnol
  • GHB

MDMA (Ecstasy)

MDMA, which is also known as ecstasy is a party drug often consumed at raves or other musically-focused events. Reportedly, taking MDMA results in decreased anxiety, lowered inhibitions, euphoria, a sense of connection to other people, and mild psychedelic effects, along with some physical effects such as sweating, chills, and muscle contractions.

MDMA may be swallowed as a pill, or it may be snorted or injected.

The Drug Enforcement Administration of the U.S. Department of Justice classes MDMA as a Schedule I drug, which means that it has no known medical use and its only permissible legal use is for research.

MDMA carries significant short-term risks associated with its use. Notably, the drug causes dehydration and sweating, which can lead to dangerous levels of dehydration over time, especially during physical activity like dancing and with the use of alcohol. The altered state of euphoria that MDMA induces makes it difficult for users to know when they are in need of water.

The long-term effects of MDMA use are disputed due to lack of clear research evidence. Like any other drug, MDMA carries a risk of overdose, which may be lethal. However, MDMA is not considered a particularly addictive drug, so the potential for addiction and accidental overdose is lower compared to other drugs like heroin. One significant risk associated with using MDMA is the danger that a substance sold as MDMA of a given level of purity may not contain that amount of pure MDMA. Producers or intermediaries might cut the drug with other substances to reduce costs per unit. The result is that users cannot be sure exactly what is in the pill they consume. MDMA pills may contain drugs meant to mimic the effects of MDMA without costing as much as MDMA itself.


The second major category of club drug is Flunitrazepam, also known as Rohypnol. Flunitrazepam and similar drugs are far more sinister than the party-enhancing MDMA. The primary use of Flunitrazepam, especially in a club context, is as an aid to rape and theft. Flunitrazepam causes confusion and dizziness, making someone who takes it disoriented. It also causes memory loss for the period during which the user was under the effects of the drug. This makes it useful for predators to dope potential victims with because it makes them less likely to resist and less liable to be able to remember and identify their attacker later.

The risks of Flunitrazepam have less to do with the actual health effects of the drug and more the fact that use of the drug often involves the commission of violent crime. An attacker may attempt to hide Flunitrazepam in a drink or otherwise conceal a dose of the drug when giving it to a victim. Use of Flunitrazepam does have some health effects- its ability to act as a muscle relaxant and sedative in addition to its other properties make it a useful drug for treating persistent insomnia that has not responded to other treatments.

Flunitrazepam is a Schedule IV drug as it does have some medical use but requires a prescription to access. Flunitrazepam also carries a risk of addiction because it is a benzodiazepine, which is a class of addictive drugs that also include some painkillers. Use of Flunitrazepam as a date-rape drug may be over-reported. Studies in the UK, Australia, and United States show that victims who report spiked drinks tend not to have traces of Flunitrazepam in their systems. However, this is complicated by the fact that Flunitrazepam is not easy to detect without specialized testing, which is not carried out as a matter of course.


The third major club drug is GHB or gamma-hydroxybutyrate. GHB has legitimate medical use as a treatment for narcolepsy or other sleep disorders. However, in the United States, it is a Schedule I drug. GHB has qualities similar to both of the above drugs. It has “party fuel” characteristics similar to MDMA, in that it can lower inhibitions, induce euphoria, and excite the senses. It can also cause disorientation and confusion in a way similar to Flunitrazepam, making it a potential date-rape drug. GHB is hard to detect in the body after use. It has significant and dangerous side effects at large doses that include impaired breathing, coma, and death. GHB is easier to synthesize than the above two drugs and requires less equipment. The use of GHB with depressants like alcohol makes the potential side effects more dangerous.

Seeking Help for Addiction to Club Drugs

These drugs are all restricted to use and production due to the risk of harm or addiction that they carry. If you feel that you have experienced dangerous side effects of club drugs, please seek the advice of a medical professional. Do not attempt to break an addiction without the knowledge and aid of a medical professional.