Club Drugs

MDMA (Ecstasy), Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine are among the drugs used by teens and young adults who are part of a nightclub, bar, rave, or trance scene.

Current science is showing change to critical parts of the brain from use of these drugs. Also, in high doses most of these drugs can cause a sharp increase in body temperature (malignant hyperthermia) leading to muscle breakdown and kidney and cardiovascular system failure.

Click here for more information on MDMA.

GHB, Rohypnol, and ketamine are predominantly central nervous system depressants. Because they are often colourless, tasteless, and odourless, they can be added to beverages and ingested unknowingly.

These drugs emerged a few years ago as date rape drugs. Because of concern about their abuse, US Congress passed the Drug-Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act in October 1996. This legislation increased Federal penalties for use of any controlled substance to aid in sexual assault.

GHB Since about 1990, GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) 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 and until 1992.

GHB was purchased largely by body builders to aid fat reduction and muscle building. Street names include Liquid Ecstasy, Soap, Easy Lay, and Georgia Home Boy.

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.

GHB and two of its precursors, gamma butyrolactone (GBL) and 1,4 butanediol (BD) have been involved in poisonings, overdoses, date rapes, and deaths.

These products, obtainable over the internet and sometimes still sold in health food stores, are also available at some gyms, raves, nightclubs, gay male parties, college campuses, and the street. They are commonly mixed with alcohol (which may cause unconsciousness), have a short duration of action, and are not easily detectable on routine hospital toxicology screens. [1]

Rohypnol Rohypnol, a trade name for flunitrazepam, has been of particular concern for the last few years because of its abuse in date rape. It belongs to a class of drugs knows as benzodiazepines.

When mixed with alcohol, Rohypnol can incapacitate victims and prevent them from resisting sexual assault. It can produce "anterograde amnesia," which means individuals may not remember events they experienced while under the effects of the drugs. Also, Rohypnol may be lethal when mixed with alcohol and/or other depressants.

Ketamine Ketamine is an anaesthetic that has been approved for both human and animal use in medical settings since 1970; about 90 percent of the ketamine legally sold is intended for veterinary use. It can be injected or snorted. Ketamine is also known as Special K or vitamin K.

Certain doses of ketamine can cause dream-like states and hallucinations, and it has become common in club and rave scenes and has been used as a date rape drug.

At high doses, ketamine can cause delirium, amnesia, impaired motor function, high blood pressure, depression, and potentially fatal respiratory problems.


[1] The DAWN Report (2000), The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), USA.

The report is available online at or by calling 1-800-729-6686.

The information in this fact sheet is taken primarily from the June 2000 Highlights and Executive Summary, Epidemiologic Trends in Drug Abuse, a summary of the proceedings of the June 2000 meeting of NIDA's Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG).

CEWG is a NIDA-sponsored network of researchers from 21 major U.S. metropolitan areas and selected foreign countries who meet semi-annually to discuss the current epidemiology of drug abuse.