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The Danger of Club Drugs

When individuals consume an illicit drug – regardless of the presumed dose, purity levels and, even after having amassed a certain amount of tolerance to the drug effects – they consistently put their lives on the line. Drug use can lead to adverse reactions, overdoses, and other situational consequences that too often necessitate trips to the emergency room.

At clubs and similar settings saturated with substance use, these dangers intensify. Large crowds, limited access to water, and a lack of immediate medical attention can heighten the risks already associated with drug use. We examined seven common club drugs – from stimulants and hallucinogens to benzodiazepines and date rape drugs – to visualize their very real risks for party-goers and average users alike.

From 2004 to 2011, cocaine was responsible for nearly 4 million ER visits. Methamphetamine, another substance with stimulant properties, places second with nearly 1 million reported visits in the same time frame – considerably fewer than cocaine’s staggering tally, but still a substantial number of incidents.

Perhaps these lower numbers reflect MDMA’s more limited level of popularity at a national level. It’s tough to hold a candle to the widespread use – not to mention the profound and immediately dangerous cardiovascular effects – of both coke and meth in any setting, club or otherwise. Still, this isn’t the type of competition one wants to be placing in at all. With 140,000 ER visits, MDMA demonstrates it’s a perilous substance to be reckoned with.

Reported ER visits due to the hallucinogen LSD trail behind MDMA at around 30,000, followed by GHB, ketamine, and Rohypnol – three drugs with retrograde amnestic effects that may be utilized for taking advantage of their unsuspecting users.

Whether a stimulant, hallucinogen, or benzodiazepine, all these common club drugs have unpleasant, if not outright dangerous side effects. Most notably, drugs with stimulant properties such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and MDMA can elicit symptoms of anxiety and raise body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate, which can lead to other heart-related side effects like heart attacks, heart rhythm problems, and heart failure. Hallucinogens such as LSD can raise the heart rate as well.

Confusion is a common side effect of almost all of these club drugs, especially with the trio of depressant, dissociative anesthetic and sedative medications most commonly used as “date rape” drugs – GHB, Ketamine, and Rohypnol. Memory loss is prominent with these substances. They can even cause retrograde amnesia – a form of amnesia during which someone is unable to remember what happened before the dosing.

The side effect profile of the so-called club drugs is frighteningly stacked against an individual’s health and wellbeing. Factor in a chronic, often weekly schedule of abuse, coupled with a reluctance to seek treatment for fear of legal accountability and those abusing these drugs might quickly find themselves in perilous, potentially life-threatening situations. A substance abuse problem involving club drugs is no less serious than one involving more traditional illicit substances like heroin. If the compulsive cycle of club drug use is taking its toll on your health or that of someone close to you, help is available – call to speak with a treatment advisor about substance recovery options at 1-888-986-4028.

The settings associated with clubs, raves, and music festivals can often be further detrimental to the dangers of drug use. If the event takes place outside during the day, the beating sun can take its toll on the body by increasing body temperature; and if drugs are involved, and the body temperature is too high for a sustained amount of time, organ damage and even organ failure can occur. Dehydration, exacerbated by drug use and limited access to water, is also a concern. MDMA can be especially dangerous in festival settings. Over the years, there have been many reported festival deaths around the world that involved MDMA.

Dehydration is a serious concern, but so is the opposite; Some of these drugs, like MDMA, can actually inhibit the user’s ability to regulate water intake. This can lead to potentially dangerous electrolyte imbalances, such as hyponatremia. Hyponatremia symptoms include confusion and convulsions. Overhydration can start as hyponatremia and quickly become fatal water intoxication if the user is having difficulty regulating their water intake.

On top of these physical ailments, large crowds in these settings are particularly dangerous. Users can lose track of their friends, who often look after each other when using. This also increases likelihood that users could be taken advantage of when alone, especially considering impaired judgment caused by drug use.

Drugs such as GHB and Rohypnol are well-known date rape drugs, as they’re associated with memory loss due to retrograde amnesia. However, these effects aren’t exclusive to date rape drugs: Rohypnol is actually a benzodiazepine like Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Ativan. These benzodiazepines can cause similar memory loss symptoms, especially in conjunction with date rape drugs and other substances such as ketamine and even MDMA, which causes loss of memory after multiple occasions of use.


More than the type of drug itself, what defines a “club drug” is the setting in which it tends to see the most popular use. Like any other trend over time, these settings are subject to change. What remains constant, however, is the serious implication of any type of chronic substance abuse—especially in uncontrolled situations or environments. Visit for more information about these club drugs and other substances of abuse, and call for to connect with a caring treatment support advisor who will be able to assist with finding effective detoxification and rehabilitation programs to suit your specific needs or those of someone close to you.

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