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Club drugs is the generic term for psychoactive drugs, usually illegal, that are used by participants of the rave and dance club and recreational drug subculture.
The most commonly used club drugs are MDMA (ecstasy), LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, rohypnol, GHB, and methamphetamine. These substances are illegal and strictly controlled. Each drug has different effects and possible complications.
MDMA, or ecstasy (also XTC, X, or E) is a semisynthetic drug that was patented in 1914 by the Merck Corporation. The drug was not used for six decades, until interest in it gathered in the 1970s and 1980s, stimulated in part by psychologists and therapists who began experimenting with its possible uses in treating some psychological conditions including anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress syndrome. Users reported powerfully euphoric or ecstatic effects of the substance, and use of the drug spread into the recreational drug subculture. Due to health concerns over use of the drug, it was made a controlled substance in the 1980s, but manufacture and use of the drug has continued. Raves are events in which participants take the substance and dance to rhythmic, stimulating music. Some scientists have classified the drug as a hallucinogen, while some psychologists have termed the drug an empathogen, meaning it increases a sense of empathy for self and others when used in a controlled environment. MDMA is the most commonly used drug in the rave and dance club subculture.
MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) has stimulating effects in the body, and can create changed perceptions of time, environment, and tactile senses. It can cause an increase in body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. In some cases it can cause unpleasant feelings of anxiety and paranoia. It works in the body by affecting the serotonin system in the brain. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well-being and elevated mood. MDMA causes the brain to be flooded with the neurotransmitter, which creates a feeling of euphoria in the user. After the effects of the drug wear off, a temporary decrease in serotonin levels is caused in the brain, and users may report feelings of mild depression for days or weeks after ingestion.
MDMA is generally taken in doses of 125 milligrams, although effects are observable by ingestion of as little as 60 milligrams. It is generally swallowed in tablets or capsules. Effects begin about one hour after ingestion, reaching a peak after three or four hours, and fading after about six hours. Users commonly ingest a second dose to prolong the effects.
Dangers associated with the drug include increased body temperature, that may be complicated by hot environments and physical activities such as dancing or immersion in hot tubs or saunas. Dehydration is a common occurrence with the drug. It can also cause increased heart rate and blood pressure. There is debate in the scientific community about the effects of the substance on the brain, due to a lack of human studies. Some animal studies have shown that MDMA can negatively affect the serotonin system in the brain and damage neurons. Studies have implied that long-term MDMA users may have decreased memory function. Other problems associated with the substance arise when the chemical is adulterated by more dangerous substances such as methamphetamines and toxic compounds, and mixing MDMA with other intoxicants including alcohol and cocaine. MDMA is dangerous for people with heart disease or high blood pressure, and may increase or aggravate symptoms in people with psychological disorders.
LSD (lysergic acid) and psilocybin mushrooms are psychedelic or hallucinogenic substances. Effects of these drugs range from euphoria to intense halluci-nations and distorted or enhanced perceptions. Dangers associated with these substances include temporary loss of physical and emotional control and psychological distress.
Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) is a powerful sedative that has been termed a "date rape" drug. It can cause "anterograde amnesia" meaning that those taking the substance may lose memory of events occurring under its effects. It may be fatal when combined with alcohol and other depressants.
GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) is a substance with euphoric, depressant, and anabolic (body building) effects in the body. Overdoses can cause seizures and comas, and the substance can be dangerously combined with alcohol and other sedatives. It has also been termed a date rape drug, due to its powerful sedative effects when combined with alcohol.
Methamphetamine is a dangerously addictive stimulant, known as "ice" and "crystal" among users. It is taken orally, intranasally (through the nose) and intravenously. Effects in the body include an intense rush of euphoric feelings and stimulating effects, followed by an addictive need for more of the substance. It causes elevated heart rate and increased blood pressure. Research using animals has shown the substance can cause brain and nervous system damage. It has also been implicated in causing damage to the blood vessels in the brain, respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat, anorexia, and in extreme cases may cause heart failure and death. Emotional problems associated with use of methamphetamine include addiction, paranoia, anxiety, and insomnia. The use of methamphetamine has been growing in the United States throughout the 2000s.
Substance abuse is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV as occurring when: users take a substance in larger amounts or over longer time periods than intended; a persistent and unsuccessful desire to cease usage; spending large quantities of time procuring the substance; reduction in other social activities; continued use of a substance despite physical or emotional problems caused by the substance; increased tolerance of the substance; withdrawal symptoms or increased use of a substance to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Treatment for problems associated with the use and abuse of club drugs include psychiatric, psychological, and substance abuse counseling, as well as emergency medical treatment for overdoses and complications.
Eisner, Bruce. Ecstacy: The MDMA Story. Ronin Books, 1993.
Holland, Julie, M.D. Ecstacy: The Complete Guide: A Comprensive Look at the Risks and Benefits of MDMA. Park Street Press, 2001.
Knowles, Cynthia. Up All Night: A Closer Look at the Club Drugs and Rave Culture. Red House Books, 2001.
Stafford, Peter. Psychedelics Encyclopedia. Ronin Books, 1992.
DanceSafe. 536 45th Ave., Oakland, CA 94609. http://www.dancesafe.org.
Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. 2105 Robinson Ave., Sarasota, FL 34232. (941) 924-6277. http://www.maps.org.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. 6001 Executive Blvd., Room 5213, Bethesda, MD 20892-9561. http://www.drugabuse.gov.
Anorexia — Eating disorder associated with extreme fluctuations and loss in body weight.
Hallucinogen — Substance that causes distorted perceptions and hallucinations.
Neurotransmitter — Chemical in the brain that assists brain function.
Psychoactive — Substance that effects emotional and psychological perception in the brain.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.