When the Party’s Over: Getting Off Club Drugs

When the Party’s Over: Getting Off Club Drugs




How it starts is fairly predictable. At an all-night rave or trance, where the dance scene is frenetic and the music is loud and non-stop, someone passes around brightly colored pills or tabs of E (ecstasy), or hands you a drink containing Rohypnol, GHB or ketamine. With the heat, the intoxicating energy of dancing bodies, strobe lights and your own excitement, you take the pill or drink.

Within minutes, you begin to feel the effects of these so-called club drugs. At first, the euphoria feels wonderful, but when it starts to wind down, you may start to stack or bump additional quantities of the substances. You want to sustain the high and keep the party going. But eventually the drug wears off, leaving you with depression and confusion. So you take more, just to get rid of the anxiety and jitters. Stacking is especially risky for the body, which can’t keep up with the amount of the drug in the system.

Club Drugs Are Dangerous

Sometimes these effects last for hours, but the greater danger is long-term consequences that may persist for weeks, months or years – or even be permanent. Chronic use can produce tolerance and dependence. Before you know it, you’re hooked on club drugs. Sooner or later, your mind and body begin to suffer. The results can be serious, even fatal.

·         GHB, a sedative, can cause sleepiness, coma or death.

·         Rohypnol, a benzodiazepine, can result in memory loss of events or actions committed while under the influence of the drug. When mixed with alcohol or other drugs, Rohypnol can be fatal.

·         Ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic, produces effects similar to PCP – distortions in perceptions, sight and sound. You may feel detached from reality, experience hallucinations, vomiting, and convulsion, be aware of what’s happening but unable to move, and not remember what happened afterwards. The drug may also cause high blood pressure and respiratory problems that may prove lethal.

·         Ecstasy, or MDMA, can cause confusion, insomnia, intense fear, anxiety and depression, symptoms which, in regular abusers, can last for weeks after taking the drug. Many of the effects are similar to those in cocaine and amphetamine abuse. In high doses, ecstasy can also cause the body’s temperature to increase rapidly, called hyperthermia, and dehydration. Hyperthermia can lead to heart problems, liver failure, seizures and death.

All of the club drugs and ecstasy have been associated with unwanted sexual assaults and have been referred to as “date-rape drugs.”

How You Know When You’ve Had Enough

Your everyday existence turns into a blur. You can’t remember what happened yesterday, let alone last week. You start to neglect your appearance. Your skin turns pasty and pale. Your weight drops dramatically and you have little or no appetite. You start stealing from family and friends to support your habit. Pretty soon, your family may disown you and you may wind up on the street.

Is this when you know you’ve had enough? When your friends call you a drug addict or a lowlife and refuse to have anything to do with you – is this when you decide to call it quits? Do you look in the mirror in shock and horror at the gaunt, crazed-looking person staring back at you?

If you’re really lucky, you’re able to recognize when your casual use of club drugs has become dependence. If you have the strength and willingness to admit your problem and seek help for it, you have a chance to beat it.

But it won’t be easy.

Getting Off Club Drugs

When club drugs hit the scene, there was little if any treatment protocol in place to handle people who exhibited classic dependence or addiction to the various substances. Compounding the problem is the fact that club drugs are not pure substances. They are laced with numerous other chemicals, impurities and toxins. Treating someone for dependence on Rohypnol or Ecstasy, for example, often meant treating them for multiple addictions, including alcohol.

With GHB, there are no standard tests for use by emergency room physicians to detect for the drug. Many cases of GHB overdose are therefore undetected. When a GHB-dependent individual goes into treatment, they often have a mixed bag of severe problems. But they do generally respond well to treatment, which is best accomplished in a residential treatment setting. Anti-seizure medications, sedatives and benzodiazepines may be used to help manage severe withdrawal symptoms during detoxification. Medicine to help control blood pressure is also warranted. Some studies have found that using antipsychotic medications helps make detoxification safer for the patient. Detox for GHB dependence requires a gradual tapering off the drug, as abruptly stopping can be fatal. An addiction specialist assists the patient during the approximate 10 to 14 days of detoxification. Following detoxification, the patient is encouraged to enroll or participate in counseling and additional treatment to help ward off relapse and to help with sleeping difficulties, anxiety and depression.

Rohypnol treatment follows the standard protocol for benzodiazepine dependence. A 3- to 5-day inpatient detoxification with 24-hour intensive medical supervision to monitor and manage withdrawal symptoms may be warranted, since coming off benzodiazepine dependence can be life threatening. Certified addiction counseling or treatment at a specialized residential drug treatment center should follow. The type of treatment to use depends on the extent of the addiction and other factors.

Ketamine overdose requires hospitalization to provide care for acute symptoms, including problems with the heart and respiratory system. There are currently no medications to combat ketamine addiction. Treatment after overdose or detoxification involves psychotherapy and behavior modification, followed by recommended attendance at drug abuse recovery support meetings.

Overcoming dependence on Ecstasy is a little different. There are no medicines currently approved or available for MDMA addiction. Long-term users experience severe withdrawal symptoms and abruptly quitting may pose serious medical consequences. But inpatient and outpatient detoxification programs are available, with some of the withdrawal symptoms managed with sedatives. The best solution for quitting MDMA addiction is through residential treatment programs consisting of intervention and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help the patient modify their thinking, expectancies and behavior related to the drug.

In all cases, abusers of club drugs need to learn new coping skills to be able to deal with the stresses of life, and the triggers that cause them to use drugs. Many club drug-dependent individuals have positive outcomes by attending drug abuse recovery support group meetings, in addition to CBT.

How To Find A Club Drug Treatment Center

You need to do a little research and ask a lot of questions. The best place to start is to call the referral hotline at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at (800) 662-HELP or find a treatment facility near you by using their facility locator at http://www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov/about.htm.

See your family physician or personal doctor and ask for a referral. With a list of potential treatment centers or facilities, call and ask questions. Then go check it out yourself. See if the treatment facility or center customizes treatment to patients. Make sure the facility/center is licensed by the state and all the staff is fully credentialed. You definitely want a treatment program in a facility or center that has expertise and a track record in successfully treating your type of addiction or dependence.

Don’t put off seeking treatment due to cost considerations. There are resources available that include insurance coverage, sliding scale or ability to pay programs, scholarships, and loans. The important thing is to get into treatment. Go get an assessment. See what it’s going to take. Then, do it. Life after club drugs will be so much richer and more enjoyable than the gloomy and self-destructive path you’ve been on. Don’t wait. Get help today. You can get off club drugs


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