As opioid overdose deaths claim the headlines, party drugs are making a stealthy comeback. Some of these substances tend to be less addictive than harder drugs like crack cocaine and heroin. As such, they tend to fly under the radar. Teens use them because they’re easy to conceal and are discreet, unlike alcohol, which is not. But, as we’ll see, party drugs can be extremely dangerous.
What’s more, if you’re already struggling with addiction, experimenting with any party drug can trigger you to relapse.
In this post, we’ll provide you with a detailed list of the most common party drugs, including slang terms for them and descriptions, where possible. You’ll learn how to identify them at parties so you can avoid them. You’ll learn why these drugs are so dangerous. We’ll provide you with solid reasoning that goes beyond the typical ‘because drugs are bad’ reasoning.
Let’s get started.
What Are Party Drugs?
‘Party drug’ is an umbrella term for a number of drugs that people use in social situations, such as raves or parties. You may also hear these drugs referred to as ‘designer drugs.’ Their danger stems from very specific causes, which we’ll get into shortly. These drugs can kill you. If you’re undergoing addiction treatment, you’ll want to be especially careful to avoid these drugs as they can stimulate your brain’s reward pathway.
But these substances can pose a danger to anyone, regardless of their experience level with drugs. For instance, some of these drugs, such as Rohypnol, GHB and Ketamine, are casually passed around at raves and parties. But these compounds, which can act as sedatives or can cause immobilization or amnesia, are frequently used as date rape drugs. The victim can be male or female, and they may have a fragmented or hazy memory of the event. Ketamine, in particular, is used as a tool of sexual assault. Because it can cause amnesia, it can make identifying the perpetrator difficult.
What’s more, many of these drugs are colorless, tasteless and odorless, making their detection in food or drink next to impossible. These drugs are often used in conjunction with alcohol, and alcohol lowers inhibitions. Adding alcohol to the mix makes it possible for others to engage in a behavior known as ‘victim blaming,’ in which they insinuate that the victim of rape is partially at fault because they consumed alcohol or took other drugs. Shame heaped on the victim by others can make them hesitant to go to the police.
The Most Common Party Drugs
In this section, we’ll highlight the most common party drugs. If you’re recovering from addiction, you’ll definitely want to avoid people who are using these drugs.
As mentioned, alcohol lowers inhibitions and can make you more open to experimentation. It also happens to be one of the most common party drugs. Teens and young adults who can’t get access to harder drugs can often get access to alcohol. They may raid their parents’ liquor cabinet, or they might pay someone over 21 to buy it for them. Either way, alcohol abuse is common in this age group.
At parties, teens and young adults engage in drinking games that lead to inebriation, and, often, poor choices. Binge drinking in and of itself can have deadly consequences, but in this state, people are more likely to experiment with other drugs.
THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, mimics the brain’s own receptors, creating a flood of dopamine. It’s well known for the high it creates, and this makes a it a popular party drug. Among drug users, it is considered safer than other drugs on this list. But if you’re undergoing addiction treatment, you should absolutely avoid marijuana since it hijacks the brain’s reward pathway. Using any drug to get high can make you want to use other drugs.
If you’ve been struggling with withdrawal symptoms, the last thing you want to do is indulge in another type of drug. Unless, of course, you’re doing so under medical supervision. This would be in the form of a drug meant to reduce withdrawal in the first place, such as methadone for opioid addiction.
Because marijuana is relatively inexpensive, it’s commonly passed around at parties. In addition, laws covering marijuana possession in the U.S. have been relaxed in recent years, making this drug more common. Like alcohol, taking marijuana can lead to experimentation with other drugs. Note that marijuana can also be baked into brownies and other treats.
While marijuana is well known for its ability to promote a feeling of mellowness, it can also trigger paranoia in some people.
Hallucinogens are a class of drug that take users on a ‘trip’ in which they see, hear, taste or feel things that are not really there. The danger is that the user can quickly lose touch with reality, which makes them more likely to engage in risky behaviors. If you’re in addiction treatment, experimenting with hallucinogens will make you more likely to relapse as you may quite literally forget why you’re abstaining from other drugs.
LSD is a common party hallucinogen. If someone offers you a small strip of paper, they may be offering you LSD. LSD dealers create a single dose by dipping a strip of blotting paper into liquid LSD. Once the paper dries, the drug is ready for use. Users call these strips of paper ‘tabs.’
Users absorb the drug by holding these strips of paper under the tongue.
LSD goes by many names. Here are but a few:
- Instant Zen
- Californian Sunshine
- Blue Sky
- Angles In The Sky
- Battery Acid
When LSD is mixed with strychnine, a potent poison, users call it ‘backbreaker.” More on this later. When it’s mixed with PCP, it’s called ‘black acid.’
Psychedelic mushrooms are another type of hallucinogen to be aware of. These mushrooms—the Psilocybins—are known to induce long episodes of distorted perception. Some people describe these events as spiritual in nature, while others report nightmare-like trips. Any amount of experimentation with these mushrooms can destroy your sobriety and will set your addiction treatment back.
Salvia is a member of the mint family, and it’s a mild hallucinogen. It’s used recreationally to generate a high, or trip, that lasts for around 30 minutes. Salvia itself is not particularly dangerous or habit forming, but it can at as a gateway to drugs that are.
The legitimate use of Ketamine is as an anesthetic for large animals. As a party drug, it’s used in small doses to trigger feelings of disassociation with the body. But, as mentioned, it’s also used as a date rape drug. As with all of these drugs, it’s difficult if not impossible to be confident about dose, meaning that what you think is a safe dose may not be. Anything larger than a very small dose of Ketamine can lead to memory loss and immobilization. Ketamine is most often found in liquid form and is usually kept in a vial.
These drugs are incredibly popular because they are easy to obtain. Inhalants such as nitrous oxide are found in household items such as whipped cream containers, cleaners and bleach. Users intentionally inhale these compounds, or ‘huff’ them.
These drugs—frequently referred to as ‘rush drugs’—provide a short-lived high, after which the user ‘comes down.’ If you’re in addiction treatment, experimenting with inhalants can be dangerous because they can make you crave a stronger high.
Cocaine is one of the oldest party drugs. Cocaine is a potent central nervous system stimulant, and it’s incredibly addictive because of the intense high it generates. It comes in powder form, and most users snort it.
While cocaine remains relatively expensive, crack cocaine is much cheaper, and it’s much more potent. Crack cocaine is often smoked, instead of snorted. However, crack cocaine is not used as frequently in social settings as there is a stigma attached to its use. Casual party drug users often distance themselves from frequent crack users.
# 7 Ecstasy
Ecstasy is another common party drug. One reason for its popularity among the party drug crowd is that it’s easy to store and transport as it comes in pill form. It’s much easier to keep away from prying eyes than alcohol, and it doesn’t have the potent odor of marijuana.
But ecstasy—or MDMA—is a potent drug. It promotes a sense of well-being and happiness, but it can also cause intense muscle spasms, loss of appetite, depersonalization, disorganized thinking, nausea, hot flashes, headache, profuse sweating and joint pain.
What’s more, street ecstasy is often not MDMA at all, and is instead a combination of other drugs, such as LSD and other hallucinogens.
Meth is another powerful stimulant, but it is more acutely harmful than cocaine. But like cocaine, it is extremely addictive. The drug gives users a feeling of euphoria and boundless energy, but that is countered by a ‘come down’ that is generally very unpleasant. This come down can drive users to seek more of the drug. If you’re undergoing addiction treatment, experimenting with meth is a very bad idea.
# 9 Adderall & Ritalin
Adderall is a prescription medication prescribed most often to individuals with ADHD. When used as intended, the drug can help users focus. However, Adderall is a stimulant, and teens often use it to help them party for extended periods without getting tired.
For this reason, Adderall can easily serve as a gateway to stronger stimulants such as meth or cocaine.
Ritalin is another ADHD medication that is abused in much the same way. Teens who abuse Ritalin often refer to it as “Vitamin R” or the “R-ball.”
Party Drug Dangers
Party drugs are dangerous because of the way they’re produced. These drugs are often made in homemade labs, and naturally, these labs receive no government oversight or regulation. This has a few implications:
- Dosages are inconsistent and imprecise, meaning overdose is possible
- Conditions are not sanitary
Let’s look at two examples.
Strychnine is an extremely potent poison. It’s colorless and has a mild, bitter flavor. You may think it unlikely that this poison would come into contact with party drugs such as LSD, but there is a vector for contamination. You see, strychnine is used in industrial strength rat poison.
Drug labs are often set up in homes or even in abandoned industrial buildings. These labs are far from sanitary. Rats frequently move into these labs because the people working there often bring food in with them. Rats are more than capable of getting onto counter tops, where they urinate and defecate. Some illicit drug labs may clean their countertops every day. Others? Perhaps not.
What’s more, rodents can carry small amounts of strychnine-laced pellets in their fur and whiskers. Before they expire, they may inadvertently drop these particles onto the small strips of blotting paper that drug dealers use to distribute LSD. Frequent LSD users refer to this contaminated LSD as ‘backbreaker.’
Why? Because when ingested by humans, even small amounts of strychnine can cause intense convulsions. It isn’t hyperbole to say that people who use party drugs frequently are gambling with their lives. Backbreaker is but one example of how drug contamination can cause severe injury or death.
Fentanyl is another. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. As such, it is extremely addictive. Drug dealers may lace any party drug with fentanyl in order to make said drug more addictive. Even a very, very small amount of fentanyl can cause overdose and death.
What’s more, exposure to fentanyl can cause rapid chemical dependence. This may in turn lead you to try weaker opioids such as morphine or heroin. You can easily become addicted to these, too. Needless to say, if you’re undergoing addiction treatment, any exposure to a potent opioid is going to send you right back to square one.
Summary: Experimentation with party drugs is extremely dangerous. There is no standard dose, and you can’t be sure of the conditions in which the drug was produced. Overdose, poisoning and death are possible.
In addition, there are general dangers associated with recreational use of party drugs. These include:
- Increased likelihood of unsafe sex. Some drugs lower inhibitions, others make you lose touch with reality. Still others prevent you from remembering exactly what you did the night before.
- Increased risk of sexual or physical assault. As mentioned, some of these are common date rape drugs. The perpetrator can sneak a drug into a drink or food item.
- Physical injury. People under the influence of hallucinogens have been known to get behind the wheel or operate machinery. This is a recipe for disaster.
- Behavioral and mood problems. Some drugs, like marijuana and cocaine, can cause paranoia and other mental side effects.
- Legal problems. Some people become aggressive while under the influence of certain party drugs. This can easily lead to legal complications.
- Chemical dependence. Party drugs can act as a gateway to using harder, more addictive drugs.
Celebrities Can Make Party Drugs Seem Normal
It can sometimes be difficult to take these warnings seriously when more and more celebrities come out with stories of party drug abuse. Daniel Radcliffe, of Harry Potter fame, has been open about his struggles with alcohol. Miley Cyrus claims that her lyric ‘dancing with Molly’ in her hit song We Can’t Stop refers to ecstasy use. Demi Moore was hospitalized after huffing nitrous oxide.
But if you look deeper, these stories are often laced with regret. Daniel Radcliffe is open about his struggle with alcohol because he doesn’t want other young people to fall into the trap he did. Brad Pitt is open about his struggle with marijuana because he regrets using it as a crutch to help him cope with stress. Demi Moore wishes to raise awareness about the dangers of inhalants.
What’s more, drugs like marijuana are used for cheap laughs in comedies, but they can lead to serious consequences in real life. Alcohol is used copiously by characters on TV and in movies, but the darker underbelly of alcoholism is rarely explored.
If you’re currently in drug addiction treatment, it’s important to tune these stories and pop-culture references out. You should focus on yourself and on your own needs.
While party drugs can be extremely dangerous for the reasons detailed in the previous section, not all of them are habit forming. Intermittent party drug use doesn’t mean you’re an addict—not necessarily. But if you’ve tried to stop and were unable to, it may be time to face the possibility that you might have a problem. Additionally, there are several factors that can make you more susceptible to addiction.
In general, these are:
- Genetic predisposition
- Brain characteristics that can leave you more susceptible to developing addiction—these may be present from birth or may be sustained after an injury
- Psychological factors such as Impulsivity, poor stress management, sensation seeking, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and pre-existing psychiatric disorders
- Abusing drugs at a young age
- Environmental factors such as living under the poverty level, exposure to physical and sexual abuse, other traumas, easy access to an addictive substance and frequent exposure to pop-culture references that normalize drug use
- Immediate family members who struggle with addiction
If you’re already in an addiction treatment program, but are also experimenting with party drugs, you’ll have to decide on one or the other. The two are mutually exclusive.
The good news is that an accredited rehabilitation facility can help you detox in a safe environment. Highly trained staff will also help you learn coping mechanisms such as cognitive behavioral therapy. With CBT, you can work on recurrent, self-destructive thought patterns that drive you to use. Over time, you can retrain your brain to respond to these stressors in a new, more constructive way.
Addiction doesn’t have to be the end of your story. You can regain control of your life, but you must take the first step.
If you’re trying to get addiction treatment for yourself or for someone you love when it comes to using party drugs, reach out to The Hills for comprehensive and caring treatment that will help patients detox and learn the skills to cope with their triggers and their addiction.
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