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Effects and Treatment Options for Club Drugs

What Adverse Effects Do Club Drugs Have on Health?

Uncertainties about the sources, chemicals, and possible contaminants used to manufacture many club drugs make it extremely difficult to determine toxicity and associated medical consequences. Nonetheless, we do know that:

  • Coma and seizures can occur following use of GHB. Combined use with other drugs such as alcohol can result in nausea and breathing difficulties. GHB and two of its precursors, gamma butyrolactone (GBL) and 1,4 butanediol (BD), have been involved in poisonings, overdoses, date rapes, and deaths.
  • Rohypnol may be lethal when mixed with alcohol and/or other CNS depressants.
  • Ketamine, in high doses, can cause impaired motor function, high blood pressure, and potentially fatal respiratory problems.

What Treatment Options Exist?

There is very little information available in the scientific literature about treatment for persons who abuse or are dependent upon club drugs.

  • There are no GHB detection tests for use in emergency rooms, and as many clinicians are unfamiliar with the drug, many GHB incidents likely go undetected. According to case reports, however, patients who abuse GHB appear to present both a mixed picture of severe problems upon admission and a good response to treatment, which often involves residential services.3
  • Treatment for Rohypnol follows accepted protocols for any benzodiazepine, which may consist of a 3- to 5-day inpatient detoxification program with 24-hour intensive medical monitoring and management of withdrawal symptoms, since withdrawal from benzodiazepines can be life-threatening.3
  • Patients with a ketamine overdose are managed through supportive care for acute symptoms, with special attention to cardiac and respiratory functions.5

How Widespread Is Club Drug Abuse?

MTF (Monitoring The Future) has reported consistently low levels of abuse of these club drugs since they were added to the survey. For GHB and ketamine, this occurred in 2000; for Rohypnol, 1996. According to results of the 2009 MTF survey, 0.7 percent of 8th-grade and 1.1 percent of 12th-grade students reported past-year use of GHB, a statistically significant decrease from peak-year use of 1.2 percent in 2000 for 8th-graders and 2.0 percent for 12th-graders in 2004. GHB use among 10th-grade students was reported at 1.0 percent, an increase from 2008 (0.5 percent), and statistically unchanged from peak use of 1.4 percent in 2002 and 2003.

Past-year use of ketamine was reported by 1.0 percent of 8th-graders, 1.3 percent of 10th-graders, and 1.7 percent of 12th-graders in 2009. These percentages also represent significant decreases from peak years: 2000 for 8th-graders (at 1.6 percent) and 2002 for 10th- and 12th-graders (at 2.2 and 2.6 percent, respectively).

For Rohypnol, 0.4 percent of 8th- and 10th-graders, and 1.0 percent of 12th-graders reported past-year use, also down from peak use in 1996 for 8th-graders (1.0 percent), 1997 for 10th-graders (1.3 percent), and 2002 and 2004 for 12th-graders (1.6 percent).

If you or a loved one needs help or want more information on treatment options for club drugs, contact Jeff at (941) 586-0929

This information is from the National Institute on Drug Abuse website.