What are Party Drugs?

“Party Drug” is an umbrella term referring to many different kinds of narcotics taken in group settings. These drugs are recreational substances used to enhance the experience of a party, concert, or dance. They include illegal drugs or prescription pharmaceuticals with illegal use. The term “Party Drug” was born in the 1980s when MDMA/Ecstasy became popular at dance clubs and raves. 

Drugs we now think of as “Party Drugs” or “Club Drugs” include: 

  • MDMA/Ecstasy/Molly
  • LSD/Acid
  • Marijuana/Weed
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines/Speed

There are a variety of reasons why people use these drugs in groups or around other people. They may want to feel relaxation and at ease, more in tune to an experience, or have more energy. Some also want to feel closer emotionally to the people around them or to enhance sexual experiences. 

There are three categories of party drugs: stimulants, depressants, and hallucinogens. Stimulants, such as amphetamines and cocaine, often increase energy and confidence. Depressants sometimes have a calming or mood-altering effect. Hallucinogens/psychedelics create changes in a person’s perceptions, emotions, energy, and sexual arousal. Generally, people often use party drugs to enhance a single experience. However, they can have many long-term negative effects and lead to addiction. This is especially a risk with continual misuse and abuse.

party drugs


The drugs most commonly known as “party drugs” include 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA). MDMA is an illegal synthetic drug that affects mood and perception. A type of amphetamine, it is usually taken as a pill or tablet. Although it is possible to ingest as a powder or mix into a liquid. MDMA tablets or tabs are usually have a bright color and a stamp with a design. This uniform appearance is highly misleading, since there is no guarantee of what the tablets actually contain. 

Other names for drugs containing MDMA:

  • Ecstasy
  • Molly
  • E
  • X

MDMA party drugs gained popularity in the 1980s at raves and dance clubs, where they were used as a mood and energy enhancers. Millions of Americans still use MDMA/Ecstasy, and it is especially common among teenagers and young adults. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 18 million people in the United States have tried MDMA at least once.

MDMA/Ecstasy Effects and Risks

Because Ecstasy tablets are uncontrolled and frequently include a cocktail of different drugs, the effects can be hard to accurately predict. Doses differ dramatically from one pill to the next, even if the two look exactly the same. At a party, rave, or concert, Ecstasy is frequently taken along with alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs which change the effect it has on the brain. 

The MDMA high usually sets in within an hour and lasts for 3-6 hours. It often heightens perceptions, energy, emotions, and feelings of trust and closeness to others. In high doses, it also causes hallucinations. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, MDMA increases the activity of three brain chemicals: Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and Serotonin. Dopamine releases naturally as part of the brain’s reward system, increasing energy and feelings of pleasure and happiness. Norepinephrine increases the heart rate and blood pressure. Serotonin controls mood, appetite, sleep, and sexual arousal. In the large quantities that release with MDMA use, it potentially increases trust and feelings of empathy and bonding. 

Negative effects include muscle cramping, involuntary jaw and teeth clenching, blurred vision, sweating, and nausea. The feelings of trust that MDMA use promotes can also lead to users putting themselves in unsafe social or sexual situations. 

Other Common Party Drugs


Also known as Acid, Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is a synthetic hallucinogen which alters the senses. People taking LSD experience reality differently while high. In large doses, LSD users often hallucinate –  see, hear, and feel things that are not real – as well as perceiving time differently. Most common use of LSD is ingestion as a pill, a liquid, or a liquid-soaked paper. However, it is possible to smoke or inject. It begins to take effect between 30-45 minutes after ingestion. It’s possible for this to last up to 12 hours, according to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation

High doses of LSD come with a myriad of negative physical and mental effects, both short and long-term. In addition to nausea, irregular heartbeat, quicker breathing, and anxiety, people on LSD trips are more likely to take irrational risks and put themselves in harm’s way. Since the drug changes their perceptions of the world around them, they often fail to recognize physical hazards such as heights or busy streets. 

LSD and similar hallucinogens sometimes produce withdrawal symptoms including depression, fatigue, and insomnia. Additionally, frequent LSD users have a risk of flashbacks, or re-experiencing a trip days, months, or years afterward. 


Amphetamines are typically prescription drugs (such as Adderall) used to treat ADHD and other cognitive issues. Prescribed to increase focus, they are frequently abused as recreational party drugs. This is especially common among students and teens, who often have easier access to amphetamines than other prescription pills.

Recreational amphetamine abuse can cause immediate and lasting harm to users. It not only contributes to sleep, mood, and anxiety disorders, but at times causes heart failure and other deadly cardiovascular issues. It is also highly addictive, and what begins as casual use at a party potentially leads to a long-term, destructive struggle. 


Cocaine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant often called Coke, Crack, Snow, and Blow, among other nicknames specific to the ways cocaine is used. A white crystalline powder made from the South American Coca plant; it increases the brain’s levels of dopamine. This can produce intense confidence and energy for a short period of time (usually less than an hour, and sometimes only a few minutes), but can also cause irritability, irrational behavior, severe paranoia, and outbursts of anger. Long-term health problems associated with cocaine use include serious infections (including Hepatitis and HIV) related to the way the drug is used. 

Most users snort cocaine, although it also possible to smoke or inject. It frequently includes other serious drugs such as methamphetamines or opioids like heroin and fentanyl, often without the cocaine user’s knowledge. 

Overdosing on Party Drugs

There is no risk-free way to use any party drug, as they all come with a high risk of accidental overdose. A deadly overdose is much less common on drugs like pure MDMA or prescription amphetamines than with more powerful narcotics such as cocaine or methamphetamines. However, the ambiguous ingredient list of many tablets and powders means users don’t truly know what they are taking.  Signs of overdose vary depending on the drug or drugs a person has used. Common indicators include vomiting, sweating, or other physical signs of illness, panic, psychosis (disordered thinking and behavior), and hallucinations. It is possible for severe overdose to result in breathing problems, heart attacks, seizures, and strokes. 

Risk factors that increase the chances of overdose include: 

The Party Atmosphere:

  • The social situation where party drugs usually show up can be chaotic. Especially at clubs, concerts, and dances, people are around strangers or people they don’t know well. The false sense of security MDMA and other drugs create often causes users to take higher doses and trust people they normally wouldn’t. Distracted by their surroundings, people can also lose track of time and take a second dose before the first has kicked in. Additionally, mixing party drugs with alcohol, marijuana, or other narcotics within a party setting is one of the leading causes of overdose. These combinations have the potential to drastically change the effect of the drug or create a toxic, life-threatening mixture.

Unknown Ingredients and Doses:

  • Without lab testing, there is no way to truly know a party drug’s ingredients or how strong they are. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a large amount of ecstasy/Molly found by police contains additives such as cocaine, ketamine, methamphetamine, over-the-counter cough medicine, or synthetic cathinones (“bath salts”). This is the case with many different kinds of party drugs. The dosage is also possibly much more powerful in one pill than another that looks exactly like it.

Addiction and Withdrawal

The party drugs seen above fall along a wide addiction spectrum. Some, such as cocaine and amphetamines, are highly addictive. The addictive properties of others are less well known. Still, in the same way that it is possible for someone to accidentally overdose on a deadly mix of drugs, it is possible for addiction to start with a user ingesting what they think is a non-addictive substance. 

Party drugs not known to be highly addictive still produce withdrawal symptoms. With MDMA use, for instance, it’s possible to cause feelings of withdrawal even if the drug is only taken once in a moderate dose. Common party drug withdrawal symptoms include problems with memory and attention, depression, decrease in interest in sex, irritability, insomnia and other sleep problems, decrease in appetite, and anxiety.  Whether these are signs of addiction or not, it is important to take them seriously. Contact us today for help.

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