Although they are called "club drugs," the
use of illegal drugs such as Ecstasy, GHB, and Rohypnol by young people is becoming
widespread and no longer just a problem for those in the party scene.
The number of teenagers taking these drugs may
be as high one in 10 and the popularity of the drugs has infiltrated college and
high school campuses, even skating rinks and junior high school dances, says Kelly
Smith, Pharm.D., director of the Drug Information Center at the University of
Kentucky and a national health educator on club drugs for sororities, fraternities,
and consumer groups.
"The current mind-set is that club-drug
use is safe and acceptable, but in reality it is very dangerous and can be fatal,"
Smith says. Caucasian, middle- to upper-class young people between the ages of
18 and 25 are the most common users. The drugs are affordable-often $5 to $20
per dose-and cause reactions such as a decrease in inhibition, an increase in
libido, an instant energy boost, hallucinations, and amnesia.
The most common club drug is Ecstasy. It can
give users the ability to dance for hours and hours, Smith says. However, it
is highly addictive and can cause hyperthermia, with a person's body temperature
rising as high as 108 degrees. It also requires users to drink excessive amounts
of water, causes involuntary muscle spasms including lockjaw, and can cause
confusion, depression, anxiety, and paranoia. In high doses, it also can lead
to heart attacks, seizures, and strokes.
Another club drug is GHB, short for gamma-hydroxybutyrate.
"GHB often is taken instead of alcohol because it causes an intense euphoria
and has no calories," Smith says. It works as a depressant that can relax
or sedate the body, but at high doses can slow breathing and heart rates to
"GHB comes in a clear liquid that often
is hard to detect when put in someone's drink and has been involved in poisoning
and date-rape cases," Smith says.
Rohypnol, known on the streets as roofies, rophies,
or the forget-me-not pill, is tasteless, odorless, and dissolves easily in carbonated
beverages, Smith explains. It is not approved for prescription use in the United
States but is used in more than 50 countries as a sedative or anesthetic. The
drug can cause amnesia and has been involved in many sexual assault cases, she
says. "Rohypnol causes the user to pass out and then wake up not remembering
what has happened to them."
Unfortunately, many young people are led to
believe club drugs are all right to use and that they are safer and less addictive
than marijuana, cocaine, or heroin, Smith says. "But these drugs are very
dangerous and in many cases have been fatal. It is important to educate users
of the risk they are taking and the potential side effects."