Updated on August 24, 2023
8 min read

Club Drugs: Types, Side Effects, and Treatment

With the rise of modern club culture, most club drugs have become increasingly popular among young people. These drugs are synthetic substances found in bars, nightclubs, and raves.

From MDMA to methamphetamine, these drugs vary in their effects and dangers. They pose potential risks to users' physical and mental health.

This blog post explores club drugs' various types, effects, and potential consequences. By raising awareness about these dangerous party powders, you can make educated decisions if or when they come up in your social circle.

What Are Club Drugs?

“Club drugs” is a term that refers to the illegal drugs teens and young adults abuse at social gatherings. The latter includes raves, nightclubs, house parties, and concerts. 

Club drugs encompass many drug categories, including prescription medicines and other substances. In general, club drugs are any drugs young people use to enhance their experience at a social gathering.

Many club drugs are synthetic or mixtures of different medications, so some users sometimes refer to them as “designer drugs.”


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Why Do People Use Club Drugs?

The most common reasons why people, especially young adults, use club drugs include:

  • Experimentation: To satisfy their curiosity or in response to peer-pressure
  • Enhancing social interactions: To lower inhibitions, overcome social anxiety, and relate better to peers
  • Enhancing recreational activities: To stay awake and to enable prolonged and higher-energy participation in dancing or partying
  • To relax: To reduce tension and cope with stress through intoxication or euphoria.

Although people may take these drugs recreationally, it’s not uncommon to lead to drug abuse or even death.

What Are The Types of Club Drugs?

Club drugs are popular and come from various drug classes. These include:


Stimulants are drugs that increase alertness and energy. They induce an elevated mood, increased sociability, heightened sensory perception, reduced inhibitions, improved concentration, and relaxation. Some examples are:

  • Amphetamines: These are potent psychostimulants that sometimes treat ADHD and narcolepsy.  People often illicitly manufacture and traffic these drugs for abuse, particularly crystal methamphetamine.
  • Ephedrine: It’s a stimulant medication that increases blood pressure and treats asthma. It’s a restricted precursor for the illicit production of amphetamines, including crystal methamphetamine.
  • Ritalin and Dexedrine: These are prescription stimulants that treat ADHD. Physicians prescribe them cautiously because they’re highly addictive and can cause side effects.
  • Cocaine: This substance is a potent psychostimulant traditionally used as a local anesthetic and vasoconstrictor. It's among the most widely produced and distributed drugs worldwide. Users inject, snort, or smoke a base form that's "crack" cocaine.

Psychedelics, Hallucinogens, and Dissociatives

These drugs distort your sense of reality and perception. Common examples include:

  • Ecstasy (MDMA): This synthetic drug acts as a stimulant and a hallucinogen. Ecstasy is the prototypical club drug.
  • 2C-B (2,5-dimethoxy-4-bromophenethylamine): This synthetic psychedelic drug initially served as an alternative to ecstasy when it became illegal.
  • LSD (D-lysergic acid diethylamide): It’s one of the most potent psychedelic agents without medical use. LSD comes from the ergot fungus that grows on rye plants.
  • Ketamine: This is a powerful dissociative agent that is a surgical anesthetic. Users abuse it for its psychedelic effects. It can put people in a trance-like state and amnesia, hence its nickname as a “date-rape” drug.
  • PCP (phencyclidine): Initially a surgical anesthetic, it’s no longer a medical tool due to its severe side effects. PCP is now produced and trafficked illicitly for its hallucinogenic and stimulant effects.
  • Psilocybin: This is a naturally occurring hallucinogen from more than 200 species of mushrooms (magic mushrooms).
  • DM (Dextromethorphan): This is a cough suppressant in many over-the-counter cough remedies. Users abuse DM for its dissociative, sedative, and sometimes stimulant properties.
  • DMT (N, N-Dimethyltryptamine): This is a naturally occurring drug from many plants and animals. It produces a brief but intense hallucinogen experience.

Sedatives and Depressants

Depressants are prescription medicines that reduce central nervous system (CNS) activity. They often treat anxiety and sleep disorders, but some abuse them to get high. Common examples include:

  • Alcohol: This is a legal CNS depressant with sedating and intoxicating effects.
  • GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate) or liquid ecstasy: This is a naturally occurring CNS depressant that sometimes treats narcolepsy. Users abuse it for its sedative and intoxicating effects. GHB is also a potent “date-rape” drug due to its sedating and amnestic properties.
  • Benzodiazepines (especially Rohypnol): These are “sedative-hypnotics” famous for their anti-anxiety and sedative properties. Users abuse “benzos” for their soothing effects. People also combine them with other drugs to enhance intoxication.
  • Chloral hydrate: This sedative-hypnotic drug has been a sedative and anesthetic since the 19th century. However, only a few people use it today due to side effects. Users abuse chloral hydrate for its properties similar to benzos.
  • Quaaludes (methaqualone): This sedative-hypnotic drug was a sleep aid until users complained of its significant addictive and withdrawal side effects. Quaaludes is now illegal in the U.S., but users abuse it as benzos and a date rape drug.


Inhalants are volatile substances that users inhale for their intoxicating effect. Common examples include:

  • Nitrous oxide: Also known as “laughing gas,” this inhalant sometimes serves as an anesthetic in dentistry. Users abuse it for its euphoric and dissociative effects.
  • Poppers (alkyl nitrites): These inhalants are prone to abuse due to their brief but intense euphoric effects. People also take poppers before anal sex because it can relax muscles.
  • “Hydrocarbons”: These are inhalants from household products, such as spray paint and glues, or from gasoline, kerosene, and solvents. Users abuse them for their euphoric and disinhibiting effects.

Virtually any drug, including cannabis and opioids, is used in “club” settings. People also commonly combine these substances to experience more heightened effects.

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What Are The Side Effects of Club Drugs?

The side effects of club drugs vary substantially. They can lead to various health complications, including serious illness.

Side Effects of Stimulants

  • Rapid heart rate and irregular heartbeat
  • Fainting
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation and aggression
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Elevated body temperature

Side Effects of Psychedelics, Hallucinogens, and Dissociatives

  • Psychosis (hallucinations, paranoia)
  • Loss of balance
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Agitation and aggression

Side Effects of Sedatives and Depressants

  • Breathing suppression, leading to loss of consciousness, coma, and death,
  • Dizziness
  • Sedation, loss of consciousness
  • Amnesia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Agitation and aggression
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Blurred vision

Side Effects of Inhalants

  • Bubbles in the lungs
  • Sudden death from suffocation or the “startle reaction” of adrenaline bursts
  • Dangerously low blood potassium levels
  • Nerve damage

What Are The Risks of Club Drugs Use?

People who take party drugs are at risk of consuming products that have been misrepresented as other drugs or altered to contain other substances. This could contain impurities such as mold or heavy metals, making them much riskier.

Besides the legitimacy and safety of these substances, club drugs contain various drugs and compounds, and each class has risks and side effects. These include:

  • Injuries from falls or risky behaviors
  • Dehydration
  • Overdose due to lack of inhibition, dehydration, and continued use throughout the night
  • Legal problems and arrest if police raid a rave or due to risky behaviors, including impaired driving
  • Sexual assault due to disinhibition, amnesia (from date rape drugs), and the intense social setting
  • Sexually transmitted infections from shared needles or risky sexual behaviors

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What Are Club Drugs Withdrawal Symptoms?

All club drugs can cause significant withdrawal effects or “hangovers.” These effects vary depending on the drug and dose you used and your biological characteristics.

Common withdrawal effects include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Seizures
  • Cravings for more of the drug
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dehydration

What Are Club Drug Addiction Symptoms?

Using club drugs can lead to the need to fulfill cravings, prevent withdrawal symptoms, and manage the pressures of daily life that drive this behavior.

Addiction affects many aspects of mental and physical health. It may result in severe problems in areas of life, such as:

  • Social: Disruptions of friendships and relationships, social isolation, and risky social behaviors.
  • Behavioral: Using other addictive substances and neglecting responsibilities and activities.
  • Financial: Losing financial resources due to the expense of obtaining illegal drugs and loss of employment.
  • Legal: Problems with the law due to impaired driving or illegal activities to support drug use.

What Are The Treatment Options for Club Drugs Addiction?

Professional treatment centers offer a range of specialized programs that meet the unique needs of those struggling with addiction. These may include:

  • Medical assistance during the detoxification process 
  • In-patient and outpatient options
  • Group and individual counseling
  • Life skills training
  • Support groups and 12-step programs
  • Nutritional guidance
  • Complementary therapies, such as yoga or art therapy 
  • Aftercare support services for ongoing support and guidance even after complete treatment

It’s crucial to address the underlying causes and effects of addiction to prevent relapse. People can find the healing they need to regain their health and overall functionality through proper treatment.

Why Do People Refuse Addiction Treatment?

Freedom from addiction is possible for those willing to seek and accept the proper support. However, recovery goes beyond simply stopping drug use.

Many people suffering from substance addiction don’t seek help or won’t accept help. It may be due to:

  • Illogical, persistent overconfidence in their ability to control or stop their drug use on their own despite multiple failed attempts
  • A need to remain in control
  • A feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, as they may feel their situation is beyond help
  • Embarrassment and fear of being judged
  • Fear of social stigma and other legal consequences

People experiencing drug abuse can still recover long-term and return to good health and function. It’s a matter of letting go of fear and control to accept help.


Club drugs can carry many risks, from misrepresentation and adulteration to physical and psychological dependence. These drugs cause a wide range of severe side effects and withdrawal symptoms.

If left untreated, addiction can lead to serious issues. However, help is available in the form of various professional treatments.

If you or someone you know is addicted to club drugs, don’t suffer in silence. Reach out for help and start the journey to recovery.

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Updated on August 24, 2023

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