In recent years, a number of our Nation's best monitoring mechanisms have detected alarming increases in the popularity of some dangerous substances known collectively as "club drugs." These drugs are often used by young adults at all-night dance parties, such as "raves" or "trances," dance clubs, and bars. But in the past few years, these drugs have been found increasingly in more mainstream settings.
"Club drug" is a vague term that refers to a wide variety of drugs including MDMA (Ecstasy), GHB, Rohypnol, ketamine, methamphetamine, and LSD. Uncertainties about the drug sources, pharmacological agents, chemicals used to manufacture them, and possible contaminants make it difficult to determine toxicity, consequences, and symptoms. However, the information in this bulletin is based on scientifically sound data regarding the use of these drugs.
Data on students reported through the NIDA-sponsored 2003 Monitoring the Future (MTF) study showed declines in use of MDMA and LSD. The use of methamphetamine, Rohypnol, ketamine, and GHB remained unchanged and these drugs continue to present a threat to our communities. NIDA-supported research has shown that use of club drugs can cause serious health problems and, in some cases, even death. Used in combination with alcohol, these drugs can be even more dangerous. In recent years, there has been an increase in reports of club drugs used to commit sexual assaults - yet another reason NIDA is alerting you to these trends. Thus, we are issuing this updated alert to aid communities in their information gathering activities.
What follows is an overview of the scientific data on several of the most prevalent club drugs. Because many of the drug use trends are still emerging, some of the data presented here are preliminary. However, we feel obliged to share what we know now to help you and your community as you anticipate or respond to club drug-related problems. We also will increase our research efforts on the effects of club drugs and will facilitate the development of treatment and prevention strategies targeted to the populations that abuse club drugs.
As new research emerges, NIDA will continue to disseminate findings to you quickly. To this end, we have established a Web site to provide scientific information about club drugs - www.clubdrugs.gov (discontinued). We hope this information will be helpful as you combat drug use in your own community.
Nora D. Volkow, M.D.