A History of Club Drugs

A history of club drugs has been around for many years. Club drugs are a category of drugs that tend to be abused by young people while in bars, nightclubs, at concerts, “raves”, or parties. Club drugs have different effects and originated in different laboratories. While they all have a shared history of abuse, many club drugs were created in hopes of discovering a medical breakthrough. Here is a brief description and history of some of these drugs:

Gamma-hydoxybutyrate (GHB)

Street names: Bedtime Scoop, Easy Lay, Energy Drink, Grievous Bodily Harm, G, Liquid Ecstasy, Gamma 10, Georgia Home Boy, Gook, Great Hormones, Soap, Somatomax, Vita-G.

GHB is known as a “date rape drug” and is prescribed medically on a very limited basis to treat a sleep disorder called narcolepsy. It has a sedative effect that can cause one to feel euphoric, have an increased sex drive, and have poor judgment. It can also cause unconsciousness, amnesia, addiction, coma or death.

Synthesized in the 1920’s, GHB hit the medical community in the 1960’s and became a popular sedative. In the 1970’s, doctors prescribed GHB for narcolepsy. Later, in the 1980’s, manufacturers of GHB changed the chemicals they were using and marketed a modified version of the drug as a weight loss and muscle-building drug. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed this modified version (called GBL) from shelves as it was never approved for human consumption. GHB remains available with a prescription.


Street names: Circles, Forget-me-pill, La Rocha, Lunch Money Drug, Mexican Valium, Rib, Roach, Roofies, Rope, Ropies, Ruffies, Wolfies.

Rohypnol is a benzodiazepine, which means it has a similar chemical structure to anti-anxiety medications like Valium and Xanax. Unlike many other benzodiazepines, Rohypnol is illegal in the U.S. and cannot be obtained with a prescription here. However, it is legal with a prescription in 64 countries around the world including Mexico and is the third most prescribed sleeping medication worldwide.

In the United States, Rohypnol is best known as a date-rape drug because it can cause a user to feel completely paralyzed while still being conscious of what is happening around him or her. Other effects of Rohypnol include a feeling of euphoria, weakness, confusion, aggression, sedation, amnesia, addiction, coma, and death.

Benzodiazepines were first developed in the 1950’s by a company called Hoffman-La Roche and Rohypnol was released in 1975. Reports from all around the world on Rohypnol’s abuse and misuse as a date-rape drug have existed since its release. In the 1980’s, Rohypnol showed up in the United States. Heroin addicts apparently used Rohypnol to extend their high, while alcoholics began taking the maximum dosage of Rohypnol to mimic the effect of an alcohol-induced blackout. It was also found that Rohypnol or “roofies” were being used by rapists around the U.S.

In response to the use of Rohypnol in rape, the United States Congress passed the Drug Induced Rape Prevention Act, which gives harsh penalties to those distributing controlled substances without the user’s consent with the intent to later commit a crime of violence or sexual assault. The punishment for importing Rohypnol also went up with this act.


Street names: Cat Tranquilizer, Cat Valium, Green, Honey Oil, Special K, K, Kit Kat, Super Acid, Super C.

This anesthetic is commonly used in veterinary medicine and rarely in human medicine. Ketamine causes immobility, vivid dreams, hallucinations, amnesia, and has painkilling effects. It also makes users feel disconnected from reality and unable to control their own body.

Ketamine can cause an experience called a “K-hole”, described as a psychedelic out-of-body experience where one can feel extreme pain, or as though they are near death or are indeed dead. This experience can last for over an hour, during which users report feeling no control over their own body. Other effects of ketamine include flashbacks, increased heart rate, violent behavior, and death.

Ketamine is a derivative of PCP and was developed in 1962 as a general anesthetic. The first known account of ketamine abuse was in 1965 when a professor tested the drug recreationally. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, ketamine became a popular hallucinogen. This drug was linked to club and dance culture in the 1980’s.

Phencyclidine (PCP)

Street names: Angel Dust, Dust, Embalming Fluid, Killer Weed, Rocket Fuel, Shermans, Boat, Tic Tac, Zoom.

PCP was originally intended for use as an anesthetic. It causes both painkilling and dissociative effects on users. PCP can cause hallucinations, paranoia, disordered thinking, addiction, seizures, catatonia, and death. Even though this drug is an anesthetic, it may induce extremely violent or suicidal reactions in users. When individuals are taken to the emergency room due to PCP use or overdose, they are usually placed on a 24-hour watch in order to prevent them from harming themselves or others.

Developed in Detroit in 1956, PCP was originally intended for veterinary use. The drug became popular as an illicit substance in the 1960’s. PCP use and related violence increased through the 1970’s and 1980’s. Around that time, it was estimated that at least 7 million Americans had used PCP at least once. With the advent of crack cocaine in the 1980’s, PCP use saw a decline.


Street names: Adam, Clarity Bean Roll, E, Ecstasy, Love Drug, Molly, Scooby Snacks, X, XTC.

MDMA is an abbreviation for 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine and has stimulant and hallucinogenic effects including euphoria, sexual arousal, confusion, depression, and memory problems. MDMA can also cause a dangerously high body temperature, organ damage, seizures, and death. Some studies show that ecstasy may cause depression and brain damage on a long-term basis.

MDMA was developed in 1912 by the pharmaceutical company, Merck. In the mid 1960’s, a chemist working for another drug company synthesized MDMA and both he and his students tried the drug. By the late 1970’s, a number of psychotherapists were experimenting with using the drug on their patients during therapy sessions. Ecstasy became popular as a club drug in the 1980’s and was made illegal in 1988.

Club Drug Popularity Today

While many of the above drugs were used during the 1960’s and 1970’s to create psychedelic experiences, they became popular as party drugs in the 1980’s. This “club drug” status has remained up to the present.

One of the most talked about club drugs is MDMA, aka ecstasy or Molly. “Molly” is short for “molecular”, indicating the drug is “pure” MDMA. This is actually a re-branding strategy done by drug dealers due to the fact that what was sold as “ecstasy” was usually mixed with other drugs and toxins or wasn’t MDMA at all.

In truth, Molly is no “purer” than ecstasy has ever been. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), only 13% of the Molly seized in New York State between 2009 and 2013 contained any MDMA – and much of that was mixed with other drugs. Not that pure MDMA is safe – it just points to the fact that one never knows what is really in an illicit drug, whether in tablet or crystalized powder form or anything else.

The mixing of club drugs with other drugs by manufacturers and dealers is extremely common. Drugs like methamphetamine, “bath salts” (synthetic stimulants similar to meth), caffeine, aspirin, methylone (similar to MDMA), ketamine, as well as toxins like rat poison can all be used to “cut” MDMA or sold in place of the drug.

Despite all these facts and the hospitalizations and deaths, some rather irresponsible pop and rap artists have chosen to glamorize club drugs and Molly. While blaming music is not a productive road to go down, it remains that this cultural influence may have contributed to the recent resurgence in the use of club drugs amongst young people.

In 2013, 12.8% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 25 had tried ecstasy at least once. MDMA isn’t the only club drug experiencing an increase in popularity. In 2013, 3% of Americans 26 years or older had tried PCP and 9.2% of Americans in that same group had tried tranquilizers.

Get the Truth Out

Club drugs are dangerous and addictive substances. The way to prevent injuries, assaults and casualties is to get the truth out. It is important that youth and adults understand that club drugs are almost never what they seem, and they are certainly not what the drug pushers make them out to be. The user has no idea what the real dosage is from one pill, snort, etc. to the next. It is no exaggeration to say that the next dose could be their last.

Teenagers and young people must be educated on the fact that these drugs are distributed at raves and house parties to unwitting girls and partygoers and they could wake up having been drugged and raped without any memory of what happened – or they could not wake up at all.

Talk to your kids and friends. Make sure they get the truth. You might just prevent a rape or save a life.






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