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Club Drugs

Ecstasy, Herbal Ecstasy, Rohypnol, GHB, Ketamine and LSD are among the drugs used by teens and young adults who are part of a nightclub, bar, rave, or trance scene. Recent hard science, however, is showing serious damage to several parts of the brain from use of these drugs.

Many users tend to experiment with a variety of club drugs in combination. Also, combinations of any of these drugs with alcohol can lead to unexpected adverse reactions and death.

Ecstasy
Ecstasy, (MDMA), also known as "Adam" or "XTC," on the street, is a synthetic, psychoactive drug with hallucinogenic and amphetamine-like properties.

Many problems Ecstasy users encounter are similar to those found with the use of amphetamines and cocaine. Psychological difficulties can include confusion, depression, sleep problems, severe anxiety, and paranoia.

Physical problems can include muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, and chills or sweating. Use of the drug has also been associated with increases in heart rate and blood pressure, a special risk for people with circulatory or heart disease. Recent research also links Ecstasy use to long-term damage to those parts of the brain critical to thought, memory, and pleasure.

Rohypnol GHB, and Ketamine
Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine are predominantly central nervous system depressants. Because they are often colorless, tasteless, and odorless, they can be easily added to beverages and ingested unknowingly. These drugs have emerged as the so called "date rape" drugs.

Because of concern about these abused sedative-hypnotics, Congress passed the "Drug-Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act of 1996" in October 1996. This legislation increased Federal penalties for use of any controlled substance to aid in sexual assault.

Rohypnol
Rohypnol, a trade name for flunitrazepam, has been of particular concern for the last few years because of its abuse in date rape. When mixed with alcohol, Rohypnol can incapacitate a victim and prevent them from resisting sexual assault. Also, Rohypnol may be lethal when mixed with alcohol and/or other depressants.

In addition to sedative-hypnotic effects including muscle relaxation and amnesia, Rohypnol can produce physical and psychological dependence. In Miami - one of the earliest sites of Rohypnol abuse - poison control centers report an increase in withdrawal seizures among people addicted to Rohypnol.

Rohypnol is not approved for use in the United States and its importation is banned. Illicit use of Rohypnol began in Europe in the 1970s and started appearing in the United States in the early 1990s, where it became known as "rophies,""roofies," "roach," and "rope."

Another very similar drug is now being sold as "roofies" in Miami, Minnesota, and Texas. This is clonazepam, marketed in the U.S. as Klonopin and in Mexico as Rivotril. It is sometimes abused to enhance the effects of heroin and other opiates. Based on emergency room admission information, Boston, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Seattle appear to have the highest use rates of clonazepam.

GHB
Since about 1990, GHB (gamma hydroxy-butyrate) has been abused in the U.S. for euphoric, sedative, and anabolic (body building) effects. It is a central nervous system depressant that was widely available over-the-counter in health food stores during the 1980s, purchased largely by body builders to aid fat reduction and muscle building. As with Rohypnol and clonazepam, GHB has been associated with sexual assault in cities throughout the country.

GHB has not been sold over-the-counter in the U.S. since 1992. However, products containing gamma butyrolactone (GBL), a chemical that is converted by the body into GHB, are used in a number of dietary supplements in health food stores and gymnasiums.

Reports indicate liquid GHB is being used in nightclubs for effects similar to those of Rohypnol. It is known as "liquid ecstacy," "somatomax," "scoop," "Georgia Home Boy," or "grievous bodily harm."

Coma and seizures can occur following abuse of GHB and, when combined with methamphetamine, there appears to be an increased risk of seizure. Combining use with other drugs such as alcohol can result in nausea and difficulty breathing. GHB may also produce withdrawal effects, including insomnia, anxiety, tremors, and sweating.

A Poison Control Center in Denver reports that in 1998, 33 calls involved GHB, and almost half of these cases were considered life threatening. GHB accounts for an increasing number of sexual assault cases in Los Angeles, and overdose deaths involving drug combinations.

Ketamine
Ketamine is another central nervous system depressant abused as a "date rape" drug. Ketamine, or "Special K," is a rapid-acting general anesthetic. It has sedative-hypnotic, analgesic, and hallucinogenic properties. It is marketed in the U.S. and a number of foreign countries for use as a general anesthetic in both human and veterinary medical practice.

It is similar to phencyclidine (PCP), although ketamine has a more rapid onset and is less potent. Depending on the dose, ketamine induces everything from feelings of pleasant weightlessness to full-fledged out-of-body or near-death experiences. Ketamine is reportedly used as an alternative to cocaine and is generally snorted.

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Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)
LSD is a hallucinogen. Slang or street names include: Acid, Boomers, Yellow Sunshines. It induces abnormalities in sensory perceptions. The effects of LSD are unpredictable depending on the amount taken, on the surroundings in which the drug is used, and on the user's personality, mood, and expectations.

LSD is usually taken by mouth. It is sold in tablet, capsule, and liquid forms as well as in pieces of blotter paper that have absorbed the drug.

Typically, an LSD user feels the effects of the drug 30 to 90 minutes after taking it. The physical effects include dilated pupils, higher body temperature, increased heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, dry mouth, and tremors.

LSD users report numbness, weakness, or trembling, and nausea is common. There are two long-term disorders associated with LSD, persistent psychosis and hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (which used to be called "flashbacks").

For 24-hour, 7-day per week information and referral for treatment for a drug or alcohol abuse problem, call 1-800-LIFENET (543-3638).

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Some of this information has been excerpted from material developed by the National Institute for Mental Health.