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3 of the Most Dangerous Club Drugs

In the midst of COVID-19 lockdowns, club drugs fell in popularity as users turned instead to substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and prescription opioids. But as venues and nightlife hotspots reopen, there is potential for club drugs to make a significant comeback.

What Are Club Drugs?

True to their name, club drugs are often apparent at clubs, parties, concerts, and raves. Also known as “designer drugs,” these substances are generally manufactured rather than naturally occurring and may be available as substances to be smoked, inhaled, or consumed as pills or tablets. Club drugs are intended to complement high-activity environments with increased energy and mood-altering effects. As such, the umbrella of club drugs is typically dominated by stimulants (aka “uppers”) and hallucinogens.

Perhaps also due to the nature of their environment, club drugs have developed a freewheeling culture that encourages the sharing of drugs among friends, acquaintances, or even total strangers. This makes the drugs all the more dangerous, as it is difficult for users to know exactly what they’re taking, how potent it is, what substances it may have been cut with, and where it came from. 

Club drugs are also dangerous because they are commonly mixed or overindulged. To be clear, no amount of drug use is safe. But at a party or nightclub, users can easily lose track and compound their risk by taking a different combination of drugs or a more significant amount than their body is accustomed to — putting them in increased danger of overdose or harmful drug interactions.

There are many different club drugs in circulation, and new variants seem to appear each year. However, three substances consistently top the list as some of the most widespread and hazardous club drugs.

1. Ecstasy

Also known as MDMA or “Molly,” ecstasy most often appears in tablet or capsule form. Less often, it may be taken as a liquid or snorted as a powder. A stimulant, ecstasy is chosen by users to boost energy and overall mood. For some users, ecstasy can also cause hallucinations, distorted senses, and altered time perception.

Ecstasy works by increasing the activity of certain “feel-good” brain chemicals.

  • Dopamine: increases energy and acts as a chemical reward, encouraging repeat behaviors
  • Norepinephrine: causes increased heart rate and blood pressure, potentially dangerous to users
  • Serotonin: impacts mood, arousal, and trust, among other functions

Together, this mix of chemicals the drug’s “ecstatic” feeling, creating the sensation of positivity and emotional warmth. However, it comes at a steep cost during and after use. Depending on the dosage taken and interactions with other drugs, ecstasy can produce potentially serious side effects.

Side Effects of Ecstasy

  • ​​Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Involuntary teeth clenching
  • Blurred vision
  • Chills or sweating
  • Irritability, impulsiveness, and aggression
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Sleep problems
  • Issues with memory and attention
  • Decreased appetite or libido

Side effects like chills or sweating may correlate to ecstasy’s impact on your body’s internal temperature regulation. Ecstasy-induced spikes in body temperature can also contribute to organ failure in the liver, kidneys, or heart, even escalating to permanent damage and death.

Typically, the influence of ecstasy lasts from three to six hours, leading some users to take multiple doses, increasing their risk level.

2. Ketamine

While technically intended as an anesthetic, ketamine has made a name for itself in the club drug scene due to its hallucinogenic effects. Also known by street names like “Special K,” ketamine is typically used in powder or liquid form. It can be snorted, injected, mixed into drinks, or added to joints or cigarettes and smoked.

Even up to a full day after usage, this substance can trigger confusion and nightmares. With both short- and long-term side effects, ketamine is a dangerous addition to the realm of club drugs.

Side Effects of Ketamine

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness or difficulty moving
  • Depression
  • Amnesia
  • Hallucinations
  • Trouble breathing

Respiratory problems caused by ketamine use are among its most serious side effects and can be potentially fatal. Some users also experience an effect known as a “K-Hole” when consuming ketamine in high doses. This produces an out-of-body sensation likened to a near-death experience.

Ketamine is considered an addictive substance, creating chemical cravings among users. Because it is known to create a detached and dreamy state of mind, ketamine has also been used as a date rape drug.

3. Cocaine

Envisioned by many as the quintessential club or party drug, cocaine has been a staple of illegal drug use for decades. Usually inhaled as a fine powder or rubbed into the user’s gums, cocaine is a stimulant that can produce an intense but short-lived high. Users often take multiple “bumps” over time to maintain the feeling, which can fade within 15-30 minutes. When cocaine does wear off, it can result in a physical and emotional crash, causing weariness and depression.

Another variant of cocaine is called “Crack.” Instead of being taken as a powder, crack is processed into rock crystals that are then heated into vapor and inhaled.

Cocaine is particularly dangerous because it is often cut with other hazardous substances. These are added to pure cocaine to dilute the expensive drug with cheap fillers, upping its profitability for drug dealers but putting users at serious risk. Sometimes, cocaine is also cut with powdered opioids like fentanyl, increasing the likelihood of a drug overdose.

Side Effects of Cocaine

  • Hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch
  • Irritability or paranoia
  • Bizarre, unpredictable, and violent behavior
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea
  • Increased body temperature and blood pressure
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Tremors and muscle twitches
  • Restlessness

Certain side effects are also specific to different methods of cocaine consumption.

  • Snorting: loss of smell, chronic runny nose, nosebleeds, problems swallowing
  • Smoking: asthma, cough, respiratory issues, higher risk of infections like pneumonia
  • Oral consumption: severe bowel decay

Cocaine interferes with the normal functioning of dopamine in your brain, reinforcing drug-taking behaviors and encouraging repeated use. Often, this repeated usage — and the continual top-ups required to maintain a high — means that users develop a tolerance for the drug and must consume larger and larger amounts to produce the same sensations.

Countrywide Testing

If you believe that a friend or loved one is struggling with abuse of club drugs or other harmful substances, Countrywide Testing can provide confirmation so you can get them the support they need.

Countrywide Testing is an online retailer providing you with easy access to drug tests and pharmacogenetic testing. We offer an array of drug tests for testing at home, individuals staying clean after rehab, workplace testing, healthcare emergencies, and law enforcement purposes. 

Our test kits are convenient, affordable, and ship to you quickly. Plus, our lab is accredited by SAMHSA, so you can rest assured your test results are handled in accordance with the highest industry standards.

For more information on Countrywide’s services, visit our website or contact us by phone at (619) 292-8734.



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