Club Drugs: The Risks, Effects and Dangers
Club drugs also called rave drugs or party drugs, are a category of recreational drugs associated with enhancing the experience of music and socialising in nightclubs or raves.
They enhance the partying experience, whether at a club, rave, music festival or a regular Friday night around a friend’s house.
Taking drugs and drinking alcohol is commonplace for many who like to party. The main danger in doing so is the lack of education about so-called “designer club drugs.”
The most common types of club party drugs:
- MDMA (Methylenedioxymethamphetamine), also known as Ecstasy and Molly
- GHB (Gamma-hydroxybutyrate), also known as G and Liquid Ecstasy
- Ketamine, also known as Special K and K
- Rohypnol, also known as Roofies
- Methamphetamine, also known as Speed, Ice, and Meth
- LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide), also known as Acid
Here lies the problem –
When partying, some people take almost anything they are offered without knowing its source or what it contains.
Some club drugs can be contaminated with highly toxic substances. These drugs can lead to injury, poor decisions and sometimes even death.
The most commonly used party drug of all is alcohol. Alcohol is a mind and mood-altering liquid. Just because it is legal, it shouldn’t be disregarded as a drug in its own right.
Alcohol is seen as an effective and acceptable social lubricant by society. Yet, it can affect all of the bodily senses. It becomes especially dangerous when it is mixed with other drugs. Partying is when this is most likely to happen.
Those types of partying age will not always take adequate precautions to ensure their safety. Some will do their utmost to get as drunk, or as high, as possible.
The inevitable consequences of a drug or alcohol binge will not even enter their mind at the time.
Who likes to party?
Partying is all about having a fantastic time at the time. The consequences are generally not thought about until after. Most people will suffer nothing more severe than a hangover. For others, however, the consequences can be much more severe.
Most of us know about the dangers of alcohol and the risks involved in binge drinking. The dangers of the numerous other drugs used to facilitate partying and having a “good time” aren’t discussed so often.
Here, we look at a list of the most commonly used club drugs, their effects and their risks. We hope you will make better and safer choices by providing the correct information.
Further on, we advise what to do if you, or someone you know, has a drug problem. We also advise on how to access the most appropriate help.
What are party drugs?
Party drugs are a collective name for several drugs used to enhance the partying experience.
People use drugs for all kinds of different reasons. Give them confidence, and energy, relax them or increase sexual desire. Some like to have psychedelic or trip-like experiences.
They can make a person feel more socially confident and energised and enhance music and colours. These drugs often include stimulants, hallucinogens and depressant drugs.
The younger generation and peer pressure
The younger generation, in particular, is heavily influenced by social media and their peers as to what the current “drug of choice” is.
New, so-called “designer drugs” (previously known as legal highs) are constantly being developed. For this reason, it is very hard to pinpoint which party drug is the most popular. It can vary from area to area and can swiftly change with time.
Some that use them will take a stimulant drug or a psychoactive drug to enable them to enjoy the partying experience more and to party harder for longer. Following this, they switch to a depressant drug to relieve the symptoms of drug withdrawal and help them relax or facilitate sleep.
Mixing drugs in this way is not uncommon, but it does add a layer of risk.
Why do people use party drugs?
The main reason a person will take them is to intensify their experience of partying or clubbing. They may also take drugs to fit in with their friends.
Teenagers and young adults (16-25-year-olds) are the most likely to take club drugs. The leading age group regularly attends festivals, clubs, parties, dance bars and raves.
When partying becomes a problem
Not everyone that uses drugs has a problem. For many, it is an experimental phase that passes without long-lasting damage. But for a few, party or club drugs can become a dangerous problem or an addiction. A problem that goes well beyond the usual parting hours.
Someone who has a problem with drugs will find that other areas of their life become affected by partying. Their drug-taking will start to affect their relationships, work or education. Partying is also likely to affect their physical and mental health. Yet if they suffer from addiction, these ill effects will not be enough for them to stop.
Drug addiction is a severe physiological and psychological condition. If you or a family member have an addiction or are abusing drugs, it is important to seek professional addiction help.
Addiction is more than “just a phase”; it is a chronic and progressive brain condition. Without the correct treatment and support, this life-threatening condition only ever gets progressively worse over time.
Common party & club drugs
Several drugs are commonly associated with the party scene and can go hand in hand with the lifestyle. There are a range of illegal drugs sold as tablets (“pills”) or capsules (“caps”).
Here we take a closer look at the most commonly used drugs, their effects, risks and dangers.
Alcohol is commonly used at parties, bars, restaurants, music festivals and clubs. Generally, alcohol can be safely used within the Chief Medical Officer’s safer drinking guidelines. The guidelines state no more than 2 to 3 units within 24 hours and no more than 14 units of alcohol for seven days.
It should be noted that no amount of alcohol is safe to mix with other drugs. This is due to it causing enhanced adverse effects.
If you are taking any over-the-counter or prescribed medication, you must check with your healthcare provider if it is safe to drink alcohol.
The effects of alcohol on the body result in reduced awareness of a person’s surroundings and poor judgement. This often results in people saying and doing things they later regret once sober. Binge drinking also makes a person more vulnerable and less able to fend off a physical or sexual assault.
Cocaine is a commonly used party drug that comes with a whole host of risks. Powdered cocaine is currently very potent. This is reflected in the huge increase in cocaine-related deaths.
According to government data, powdered cocaine is the most widely used stimulant drug in the UK and the second most commonly used drug overall.
Cocaine’s effects include euphoria, a false sense of well-being, increased alertness and energy, and increased sexual desire. The bad effects of cocaine include rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure and body temperature, sweating and cardiac arrest.
Cocaine use also negatively impacts mental health and is linked to increased anxiety and paranoia.
According to the National Office for Statistics, cocaine-related deaths are at an all-time high, with a staggering 777 deaths recorded in England and Wales in 2020. This is a five-fold increase since 2010, when 144 deaths recorded were attributed to cocaine.
Whilst Cannabis is not necessarily a drug associated with causing death, the broader implications of drug driving and mental health issues are a cause for concern.
According to ONS and Public Health England, Cannabis is still the most widely used drug. Around 2.6 million adults in England and Wales admitted to having used Cannabis in the past year.
Cannabis use is widespread amongst the younger generation, who may well use cannabis as a way of ‘coming down’ from a stimulant party drug.
Younger people are more likely to experiment with cannabis at parties to fit in.
Hallucinogenic drugs – Ecstasy/LSD/MDMA/Mandy/Molly
Hallucinogenic and psychoactive drugs are very popular with clubbers, festival-goers and ravers and again appeal to the younger generation.
Over recent years, deaths have been recorded from bad batches of these drugs being circulated at festivals in the UK.
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine is a mighty long word shortened to the commonly known ‘MDMA’ and their nicknames ‘Mandy’ or ‘Molly’.
Ecstasy and MDMA are popular with party and festival-goers as they increase energy and stamina. Ecstasy’s effects include feelings of love for strangers and an altered perception of surroundings.
Whilst drug addiction is not commonly associated with these classic club drugs, we can assure you it does happen. Like any drug, addiction to a hallucinogenic drug is a life-threatening condition. It can ultimately result in overdose, coma and death.
In 2020 around 4% of young adults aged 16 to 24 had used ecstasy in the past year. This equates to around 254,000 people, showing that this particular drug still appeals to partygoers, despite its evident dangers.
Ketamine – AKA Special K, K, Horse tranquillizer
Ketamine’s psychoactive properties make it a popular drug within the party scene. However, this drug is easy to overdose on and can cause an out-of-body experience referred to as a “K Hole”.
Frequent abuse of Ketamine can lead to painful bladder problems, drug dependence, and addiction.
Ketamine is a pharmaceutical drug with powerful painkilling and psychoactive effects. It is used daily in hospital environments for short, painful procedures, such as realigning broken bones.
Crystal methamphetamine – Crystal Meth
Also referred to as Glass, Ice, Meth, Tina & Christine
Crystal methamphetamine is closely linked to the Chemsex scene and used by party goes to facilitate sex with strangers or with multiple partners.
Crystal meth is highly addictive and extremely toxic. This powerful stimulant drug can cause cardiac arrest, even in young, fit, healthy adults.
Addiction to Crystal meth is one of the most difficult to overcome. The changes in the brain it causes are very substantial and long-lasting. Due to its addictiveness, Crystal methamphetamine is a drug that should be avoided at all costs.
Crack cocaine – Crack
Whilst not the most common party drug (due to its high cost and effects wearing off quickly) crack cocaine is highly addictive.
Those that use crack cocaine with any frequency, more often than not, end up addicted to the powerful euphoric high this drug punches.
Crack cocaine is powdered cocaine in solid form. It can be smoked from a pipe or prepared for injection. The effects of crack cocaine can cause a heart attack. Ultimately putting them at risk of death.
GHB & GBL
GHB and GBL are both drugs that are heavily associated with partying. They also have a more sinister association with rape. Both drugs are colourless and odourless liquids. This makes them easy to add to a person’s drink without them knowing.
What is GBH?
GHB and GBL are very popular within the chemsex party scene. Their effects reduce inhibitions, increase sex drive and provide a euphoric high.
Even a slight overdose of GHB or GBL can cause a person to fall asleep or become deeply sedated. It is these properties that make them an attractive weapon for sex offenders.
GHB and GBL are drugs that every party-goer should be well educated about. Several high-profile rape cases have caused the government to call for their reclassification. Moving them from Class C controlled drugs to Class B. The hope is that by moving them to a Class B illegal drug, they will be harder to obtain, and more awareness will be raised around their drug profile.
Whilst some feel that it is safe to drink alcohol whilst taking prescribed medication, others will deliberately mix the two to gain a more pronounced euphoric high.
Common combinations used at parties include alcohol and opiates, alcohol and tramadol and alcohol and benzodiazepines. All of these combinations can cause overdose and respiratory arrest.
Purple dank is a drink popular with young party-goers and is a mixture of codeine and promethazine cough syrup added to soda.
Purple dank is a cheap and effective way of getting high and can be easy to access by those under the legal age of drinking.
This potent drink provides its users with a sedative opiate high. Its effects can also be extremely dangerous for the respiratory system. Drinking Purple Dank is more likely to cause a person to fall or injure themselves.
Because of the codeine contained within Purple Dank, frequent use can lead to codeine dependence and addiction.
Legal highs – New Psychoactive drugs
New Psychoactive drugs, previously known as legal highs, mimic the effects of drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy. The attraction of these synthetic cannabinoids is in their affordability. They are a fraction of the cost of Class A’s.
In the year ending March 2020, around 115,000 adults in England and Wales had used a new psychoactive drug in the past year.
Of the adults who used one of these drugs, 82,000 were aged 16 to 24 years old. These stats show New psychoactive drugs are most popular in the age range typically associated with partying.
Nitrous Oxide – Laughing Gas
Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) is popular with young partygoers for its cheap and effective high. Its effects also wear off quickly, appealing to those who want to take a drug with no lasting effects or come down.
Nitrous oxide tends to be seen as a harmless drug. However, it is possible to overdose and suffers dangerous physical consequences.
In 2020, 8.7% of 16- to 24-year-olds in England and Wales had used nitrous oxide in the past year. This is equivalent to around 549,000 people, making it shockingly popular with teenagers and young adults.
Nitrous Oxide is the second most prevalent drug used amongst young adults aged 16 to 24. Also known as Laughing gas, it is sold openly in the streets outside bars and clubs. As well as being easily accessible from street dealers, Nitrous Oxide can also be purchased from the internet (dark web) in canisters.
Signs a person is abusing Nitrous Oxide would be finding empty canisters, together with balloons, in their possession.
Important note on club drugs and drug deaths
Many who abuse drugs will mix them with other drugs or alcohol. This is when the use of drugs becomes most dangerous.
Mixing drugs, a person is much more likely to experience immediate adverse effects. These effects will place a person at higher risk of injury, breaking the law, abuse, and death.
In 2020, nearly a quarter of the drug deaths recorded in England and Wales died due to “multiple drug toxicity.”
If you mix drugs with alcohol, medications or other drugs, you are at high risk of overdose and death.
What starts as a good night of partying can quickly end in tragedy.
Problem with party drugs?
If you have a problem with drugs and partying adversely affects your mental or physical health, it is important to seek professional help sooner rather than later.
People with a problem with drugs include those that take them to excess whilst partying, those who mix them, and those that take party drugs when there is no party!
Drug abuse and drug addiction are treatable and preventable. You can start your recovery journey today if you need professional help for a drug problem.
Our friendly team of addiction treatment experts at Detox Plus are waiting to take your call. We will provide a free and confidential assessment before advising you of the best party drug treatments available.
- United Kingdom drug situation 2019 (updated 31 March 2021) Focal annual report https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/united-kingdom-drug-situation-focal-point-annual-report/united-kingdom-drug-situation-focal-point-annual-report-2019
- Deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales 2020 – Office for National Statistics – https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/deathsrelatedtodrugpoisonin
- Drug misuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2020 – https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/articles/drugmisuseinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2020#overall-trends-in-drug-misuse
- “Purple Drank” (Codeine and Promethazine Cough Syrup): A Systematic Review of a Social Phenomenon with Medical Implications https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32748711/
- GHB to become class B drug in the UK after use in high-profile rape cases – https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/mar/30/ghb-to-become-class-b-drug-in-uk-after-use-in-high-profile-cases