“Club drug” is the umbrella term used to classify a variety of psychoactive drugs that are primarily abused by young adults and teens at parties, bars, concerts, and yes, nightclubs. While the idea of club drugs might bring to mind mid-90s raves, they have, in fact, been a constant for decades, from cocaine in disco clubs to the synthetic designer drugs that have become ubiquitous at many of today’s popular music festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo. The question is, are the club drug withdrawal symptoms and, if so, how can they be managed?
While “club drug” can refer to many different substances, the most commonly abused are:
- MDMA: More widely known as ecstasy, MDMA is classified as a hallucinogen, although it has properties of both a hallucinogen and a stimulant, altering a person’s mood and perception with feelings of euphoria and heightened sensitivity.
- GHB: A neurotransmitter that occurs naturally in the body, GHB is a central nervous system depressant that is prescribed to treat narcolepsy. In small doses, it acts as a stimulant and an aphrodisiac.
- Ketamine: A dissociative anesthetic, Ketamine is mostly used in veterinary practice as anesthesia during surgery. While the full effects of this drug are not well understood, it puts the user in a trance-like, almost comatose state.
- Methamphetamine: Commonly known as crystal meth, methamphetamine is a potent stimulant drug that provokes an intense state of alertness and euphoria by flooding the brain with dopamine. Unlike most other club drugs, it is highly addictive and easily abused.
- LSD: A powerful hallucinogen, LSD causes vivid hallucinations and altered perceptions, often lasting as long as eight or nine hours. While not considered addictive, continued use increases the chances of a negative hallucinogenic experience or “bad trip,” which can put the user in dangerous situations.
- Rohypnol: A notorious date rape drug, Rohypnol is a benzodiazepine similar to sedatives like Xanax or Valium, but 10 times more powerful, with its sedative effects lasting anywhere from 18 to 26 hours.
Unfortunately, the main user base of club drugs is largely unaware of their dangers, including addiction, overdose, and other serious health issues. A common misconception of club drugs is that since they are only used in specific social situations or for a “night out” as opposed to regular use, they are safer.
The reality is that they can be just as dangerous, especially when mixed with alcohol, as club drugs frequently are. In fact, in 2012, Ketamine was involved in more than 1,500 drug-related emergency room visits, GHB in more than 2,000, MDMA in over 22,000, and methamphetamine in nearly 103,000.
And while many club drugs may not have the risk of addiction, their synthetic nature means that there’s no way to know precisely what is in them, how potent they are, or if they’ve been “cut” with a whole host of toxic substances. What all this means is that it doesn’t matter whether a club drug is addictive, because all it takes is one bad dose to kill you.
What Are the Club Drug Withdrawal Symptoms?
Depending on the drug, someone going through medical detoxification for club drugs will have wildly different withdrawal experiences ranging from nonexistent to nearly agonizing. Also, because we can’t be sure what exactly is in many of them, the withdrawal symptoms can be difficult to predict, which is why it is imperative that you detox in the safety of a professional medical detox center, where you can be closely monitored and cared for.
Because LSD is not physically addictive and therefore does not promote uncontrollable drug-seeking behavior in the way that methamphetamine does, there are no documented withdrawal symptoms associated with it. However, a small percentage of people do sometimes feel mild symptoms of depression upon discontinuing LSD.
Similarly, discontinuation of Ketamine is not associated with any major withdrawal symptoms, though some psychological symptoms like depression and lack of motivation may sometimes occur.
MDMA is a slightly different case, as there are some consistent, though mild, withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of appetite
In addition, many people who stop taking MDMA after abusing it for a prolonged period suffer from Antidepressant Discontinuation Syndrome, or, as it is commonly referred to, “brain zaps.” Because MDMA affects many of the same parts of the brain as antidepressants, suddenly stopping regular use of it can lead to uncomfortable electric-shock-like experiences in the brain.
Rohypnol withdrawal symptoms are much like those of other benzodiazepines, veering towards the severe end of the spectrum, especially in the case of anxiety, as it will be rebounding after being suppressed by the drug’s effects. Other withdrawal symptoms include:
- Flu-like symptoms (chills, fever, etc.)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Seizures (although this is a relatively rare symptom)
When detoxing from GHB, the GHB withdrawal symptoms can be especially intense, because it is a substance naturally found in the body. So when you abuse GHB, your body quickly adjusts to the increased GHB levels, building a dangerously fast tolerance that requires higher doses to get a significant high, developing rapidly into a serious addiction.
GHB withdrawal fatalities are extremely rare, but they have happened. Some of the common GHB withdrawal symptoms include severe versions of:
- Hallucinations and delirium
- Muscle tissue breakdown
Methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms are markedly different from not just club drug withdrawal symptoms but many other substances as well. The majority of the symptoms are psychological rather than physical, based on how significantly meth can alter a person’s brain chemistry. These symptoms typically include:
- Severe depression
- Moods swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Extreme fatigue
Methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms will vary in severity and length based on how long the individual has been abusing methamphetamine and how much they have been taking.
What Are the Stages of the Club Drug Withdrawal Timeline?
As before, in the case of LSD and Ketamine, there is no withdrawal timeline since neither drug has a withdrawal period. And while MDMA does have documented withdrawal symptoms, there is currently no formal, scientifically-validated timeline for MDMA withdrawal, as well as for many other club drug withdrawal timelines. This is in part due to how nearly impossible it is to know what is actually in any given dosage.
The Rohypnol withdrawal timeline can be separated into two major stages: Acute Withdrawal and Protracted Withdrawal that combine to last about 10 days.
- This first stage starts within three to four days of the drug’s last use and is dominated by the rebound anxiety symptom.
- As this phase progresses, the anxiety is joined by the rest of the major symptoms, hitting their peak around day four.
- The second stage covers the remainder of the withdrawal timeline, roughly four to 10 days.
- During this phase, the rebound anxiety will have significantly diminished.
- Some symptoms such as nausea, shaking, and depression will persist throughout the Protracted Withdrawal phase but will be much milder, eventually fading completely.
There are three major stages in the GHB withdrawal timeline: the early acute stage, the peak stage, and the final episodic symptoms phase, combining to last about two weeks.
- The entirety of GHB withdrawal symptoms can begin to appear anywhere from one hour to 24 hours after the last dose.
- These symptoms will persist and intensify over the course of about a week before finally hitting their peak and beginning to subside.
- The peak stage is followed by roughly another week of the same symptoms but much milder and intermittent, coming and going until they finally cease.
The timeline for methamphetamine withdrawal symptoms lasts typically around two weeks, although this can vary, sometimes even lasting months:
- Symptoms will begin to appear within 24 hours after the last dose and will rapidly increase in severity. This period is also marked by extreme fatigue as the body crashes without meth stimulant effects.
- Over the course of about four to 10 days, these symptoms will peak and begin to decline in intensity.
- After the majority of the withdrawal symptoms have subsided, psychological symptoms such as depression will most like persist for another couple of weeks, but may last up to several months.
When it comes to answering the question of how long club drug withdrawal symptoms last, there are even more variables than usual to keep in mind when detoxing. There are the usual reasons behind variations in symptom length, such as:
- Length of abuse
- The amount they were using and how often
- How they were taking it (injecting, snorting, etc.)
- If the dependency is psychological as well as physiological
In the specific case of methamphetamine, the withdrawal symptoms become much more severe and prolonged if someone has been snorting or injecting them.
For Rohypnol, approximately 10 percent of people detoxing experience what’s known as Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome that can last months or sometimes even years after someone has stopped using benzodiazepines.
Finally, as mentioned before, MDMA does not have a formalized timeline for its withdrawal symptoms, and there is still very little research on the “brain zap” phenomenon, though it has been reported to last anywhere between one and four weeks.
Why Should I Detox?
Because the length and severity and types of club drug withdrawal symptoms are so hard to predict, detoxing is always the safest option over stopping “cold turkey.” Not only is it needlessly uncomfortable with much higher chances of relapsing, but you’re also putting yourself at risk for potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
Cutting off Rohypnol all at once is incredibly dangerous since it is a benzodiazepine and going cold turkey from benzodiazepine use can lead to potentially fatal grand mal seizures. Stopping methamphetamine use without using a tapering detox method can induce feelings of hopelessness that can intensify into suicidal ideation and even psychosis.
And while there are some that advocate immediate GHB abstinence, this is perhaps the most dangerous of all, especially because it directly influences the central nervous system. As was mentioned before, because the body naturally produces GHB, it rapidly adjusts to higher levels of it. As a result, suddenly stopping it and causing those levels to plummet can throw the central nervous system into shock and even crash it, which will more than likely kill you.
All of these reasons and more highlight not only how critical a full detox is, but also why it is never recommended for you to try and detox on your own. A supervised medical detox at a professional treatment center ensures that you are well-taken care of no matter what withdrawal symptoms may occur.
What Is the Next Treatment Step?
Just as people might think that club drugs do not present a danger that requires a detox, they might also be under the impression that, since many of these drugs are considered non-addictive, that treatment ends at detoxification. However, without continuing forward with ongoing treatment, especially in the case of methamphetamines, GHB, and Rohypnol, relapse is almost guaranteed.
Another strong reason to seek residential or outpatient treatment after you complete detox is that even if the club drug you have been abusing is not addictive, there’s still a reason that you have been abusing it. The cognitive therapy involved in addiction treatment can help you understand what might be driving this behavior, including self-medicating as a coping mechanism for underlying mental health issues, which treatment can help you to learn to manage without substance abuse.
Get Club Drug Addiction Treatment in Florida
Addiction rehabilitation that begins with detox is significantly more likely to be successful and help you maintain a better, longer, and sober life. If you or someone you care about has been suffering from substance abuse and is ready to begin the recovery process, you can turn to Arete Recovery for help. Our admissions professionals are always available to answer your questions and get you the resources you need. Contact us online or call us now at 855-781-9939.