ECSTACY - CLUB DRUGS

by Darv Smith

Club drugs, formerly known as designer drugs, are now becoming very popular world wide with young people. The term "designer drug" was coined in 1980s to describe drugs that were synthesized specifically to get around legal regulations on controlled substances. The term "club drug" has been more commonly used for this group of drugs because they are mostly used in club settings. These drugs are now illegal and generally used as a part of a nightclub, dance club, bar, rave, or trance scene. Raves are generally night-long dances held in warehouses or clubs where young people may use these drugs to increase their energy and stamina for prolonged dancing and intoxicating high experiences. Many users feel that these drugs promote empathy and better communication in the dance scene. It has been estimated that over 500,000 young people take ecstacy every weekend in the UK. Most of the users of these club drugs are not the usual drug addicts but some do move on to physical dependency. The commonly used club drugs are Ecstacy, Rohyponol, GHB, and Ketamine. Sometimes methamphetamine and LSD are used as club drugs.

Ecstacy ( MDMA = 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is the most commonly used club drug. It goes by many other street names such as XTC, E, Adam, hug, beans, love drug, or for the design printed on the tablet; playboy, popeye, or batman. . It is relatively cheap at $5-20 a pill or capsule and comes in many shapes or colors often with different designs. Ecstasy is often mixed with other unknown harmful drugs and alcohol. It is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, reaching peak blood levels in about an hour. This synthetic drug has characteristics of both stimulants and hallucinogenics. It does not cause overt hallucinations but causes many users to experience distorted time and perception while under the influence of the drug. It causes an amphetamine-like hyperactivity with an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. It disables the bodies ability to regulate temperature which may cause seriously elevated body temperature (hyperthermia), followed by dehydration, coma, and death in some users. There has been over 100 reported deaths in the United Kingdom due to MDMA. Many of the deaths have occurred in first time users.

MDMA is classified as a schedule 1 drug is the US which means that it has no acceptable medical use. Drug abuse specialists and researchers have found that MDMA works in the brain to increase the levels of neurotransmitters; mainly serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Serotonin plays an important role in regulating our moods, sleep, pain, emotion, and appetites. When large amounts of serotonin is released in the brain, the depletion may result in visual and verbal memory loss and other long lasting behavioral changes. Most authorities agree that MDMA causes brain damage. Using brain imaging techniques researchers have demonstated that while using MDMA users have a decreased brain blood flow resulting in a decrease in the needed brain oxygen. Many studies have revealed that ecstacy is not a benign drug. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in the USA sponsored a large international scientific conference in July, 2001 focused on reporting about the research results from many animal and human studies involving MDMA. Many studies revealed that heavy and prolonged use of MDMA may lead to confusion, depression, sleep problems, persistent anxiety, aggressive and impulsive behavior and memory impairment. Research on animals has shown definite damage to brain cells with MDMA.

Despite the many known detrimental consequences of use of Ecstacy and other club drugs there continues to be an increase usage by high school and college students and other social settings in the USA and other developed nations. Various monitoring studies have revealed in the USA that eight graders are beginning to use and that one of nine seniors have tried MDMA in their lifetime.

Historically it is interesting to know that MDMA was first synthesized, developed, and patented in Germany in the early 1900's. A German physician initially proposed using MDMA as an appetite suppressant in 1914. In the 1970s some psychotherapists used the drug, believing that it enhanced communication in patients. In the 1980s it was used in Europe then later in the USA at all night dance parties and raves. In 1985 the US Drug Enforcement Administration moved the drug to the illegal Schedule 1 classification because of research studies revealing its cause of brain damage. The US government / NIDA are providing educational approaches via the TV, Web pages, and conferences in an attempt to decrease the use of this dangerous drug.

Rohyponol, GHB, and Ketamine are other popular club drugs. These drugs are predominately central nervous system depressants and not like Ecstasy which is primarily a CNS stimulant. Because these drugs are colorless, tasteless, and odorless they have been added to beverages and ingested unknowingly. This group of drugs also became know as "date rape" drugs. This resulted in the US Congress passing the "Drug-Induced Rape Prevention and Punishment Act" in 1996. This law increased penalties for use of any controlled substance to aid in sexual assault.

Rohypol is a benzodiazepine with the trade name of flunitrazepam. Some common street names are "rophies," "roofies," roach," and "rope." Recently it been used in combination with alcohol to incapacitate victims from resisting sexual assault. The combination also produced memory loss for events while under the effects of the drug. Illicit use began to appear in the US in the early 1990s. In some individuals it has caused death. Similar problems have been reported in recent years with two legal benzodiazepines, clonazepam and alprazolam which are marketed in the US as Klonopin and Xanax respectively.

GHB (gamma hydroxybutyrate. Through the 1980's until about 1992 GHB was available in health food stores mainly for its anabolic (body building) effects. Body builders used it to aid fat reduction and muscle building. It has also been abused for its euphoric and sedative effects. Its common street names are "Liquid Ecstacy" "Soap," and "Easy Lay". They have been available in some gyms, raves, nightclubs, the internet, and from the street. Usage has resulted in coma, seizures, insomnia, anxiety, tremors, overdoses, and death. GHB problems have often been seen in the emergency rooms of hospital and reports to poison control centers.

Ketamine has been a legally approved anesthetic for both humans and animals since 1970 in the US. Most of it has been used for veterinary use. In some human users it causes dream-like states and hallucinations. It has more recently become a common drug in club and rave scenes as well as for date rape. Common street names are "special K" and "vitamin K". High doses may result in delirium, amnesia, motor impairment, depression, and respiratory failure and death.

Resources:

1. www.drugscope.org.uk/druginfo

2. www.clubdrugs.org

4. www.drugabuse.gov/Infofax/Clubdrugs.html

5. Drugs - A Streetwise Guide, Pieter Mans, Lux Verbi.BM, 2000