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Club Drugs Facts & Figures

Club drugs are a pharmacologically heterogeneous group of psychoactive compounds that tend to be abused by teens and young adults at a nightclub, bar, rave, or trance scene. Gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), Rohypnol, ketamine, MDMA (ecstasy) and methamphetamine are some of the drugs in this group.

MDMA is a synthetic, psychoactive drug chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and the hallucinogen mescaline.

The tasteless and odorless depressants Rohypnol and GHB are often used in the commission of sexual assaults due to their ability to sedate and intoxicate unsuspecting victims. Rohypnol, a sedative/tranquilizer, is legally available for prescription in over 50 countries outside of the U.S. and is widely available in Mexico, Colombia, and Europe. Although usually taken orally in pill form, reports have shown that some users grind Rohypnol into a powder and snort the drug.

GHB, available in an odorless, colorless liquid form or as a white powder material, is taken orally, and is frequently combined with alcohol. In addition to being used to incapacitate individuals for the commission of sexual assault/rape, GHB is also sometimes used by body builders for its alleged anabolic effects.

The abuse of ketamine, a tranquilizer most often used on animals, became popular in the 1980s, when it was realized that large doses cause reactions similar to those associated with the use of PCP, such as dream-like states and hallucinations. The liquid form of ketamine can be injected, consumed in drinks, or added to smokable materials. The powder form can also be added to drinks, smoked, or dissolved and then injected. In some cases, ketamine is being injected intramuscularly.

Extent of Use

According to the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 12.9 million Americans aged 12 or older tried ecstasy at least once in their lifetimes, representing 5.2% of the U.S. population in that age group. The estimated number of past year ecstasy users in 2008 was approximately 2.1 million (0.9% of the population aged 12 or older) and the number of past month ecstasy users was 555,000 (0.2%).

Among 12-17 year olds surveyed as part of the 2008 NSDUH, 0.4% reported past month ecstasy use. Additional NSDUH results indicate that 0.9% of 18-25 year olds and 0.1% of those aged 26 or older reported past month use of ecstasy.

Results of the 2008 Monitoring the Future survey indicate that 2.4% of eighth graders, 4.3% of tenth graders, and 6.2% of twelfth graders reported lifetime use of MDMA. In 2007, these percentages were 2.3%, 5.2%, and 6.5%, respectively.

Percent of Students Reporting MDMA Use, 2007-2008

8th Grade10thGrade12thGrade
Past Month0.6%0.6%1.2%1.1%1.6%1.8%
Past Year1.

Approximately 28.6% of eighth graders, 43.2% of tenth graders, and 57.0% of twelfth graders surveyed in 2008 reported that trying MDMA once or twice was a "great risk."

Percent of Students Reporting Risk of Using MDMA, 2008

Say "great risk" to:8th Grade 10th Grade12th Grade
Try MDMA once/twice28.6%43.2%57.0%
Use MDMA occasionally46.8%66.4%N/A

Approximately 0.7% of eighth graders and 0.9% of tenth graders surveyed in 2008 reported lifetime use of Rohypnol (twelfth grade data are not available for Rohypnol).

Percent of Students Reporting Rohypnol Use, 2007-2008

8th Grade10thGrade12thGrade
Past Month0.3%0.1%0.2%0.2%N/AN/A
Past Year0.

Additional Monitoring the Future results for 2008 indicate that 1.1% of eighth graders, 0.5% of tenth graders, and 1.2% of twelfth graders reported past year use of GHB. Data showing past month and lifetime use of GHB and ketamine were not captured in the study.

Percent of Students Reporting Past Year GHB/Ketamine Use, 2007-2008

8th Grade10thGrade12thGrade

The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveys high school students on several risk factors including drug and alcohol use. Results of the 2007 survey indicate that 5.8% of high school students reported using ecstasy at some point in their lifetimes. During 2005, 6.3% of high school students reported lifetime use of ecstasy.

Percent of Students Reporting Lifetime MDMA Use, 2003-2007

2003 20052007
9th Grade10.9%5.8%4.6%
10th Grade9.06.05.3
11th Grade11.46.55.6
12th Grade12.86.77.6

Health Effects

In high doses, MDMA can interfere with the body's ability to regulate temperature, sometimes leading to a sharp increase in body temperature (hyperthermia), resulting in liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system failure, and death. MDMA users also risk increases in heart rate and blood pressure, and symptoms such as muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching, nausea, blurred vision, faintness, and chills or sweating. Psychological effects of MDMA use can include confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and severe anxiety. Additionally, these problems can occur during as well as sometimes days or weeks after using the drug.

Rohypnol, GHB, and ketamine are all central nervous system depressants. Lower doses of Rohypnol can cause muscle relaxation and can produce general sedative and hypnotic effects. In higher doses, Rohypnol causes a loss of muscle control, loss of consciousness, and partial amnesia. When combined with alcohol, the toxic effects of Rohypnol can be aggravated.

The sedative effects of GHB may result in sleep, coma, or death. Other effects of GHB use can include seizures, along with nausea and breathing difficulties when combined with alcohol. GHB has increasingly become involved in poisonings, overdoses, date rapes, and fatalities.

The use of ketamine produces effects similar to PCP and LSD, causing distorted perceptions of sight and sound and making the user feel disconnected and out of control. The overt hallucinatory effects of ketamine are relatively short-acting, lasting approximately one hour or less. However, the user's senses, judgment, and coordination may be affected for up to 24 hours after the initial use of the drug. Use of this drug can also bring about respiratory depression, heart rate abnormalities, and a withdrawal syndrome.

Of an estimated 113 million emergency department (ED) visits in the U.S. during 2006, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) estimates that 1,742,887 were drug-related. DAWN data indicate that MDMA was involved in 16,749 ED visits; GHB was involved in 1,084 visits; and ketamine was involved in 270 visits.