All drugs considered to be party drugs are controlled substances listed in the control schedules maintained by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). A few drugs are most common at dance parties:
- Amyl nitrates (butyl nitrate, poppers, rush, hardware, locker room, aroma of man)
- Ketamine hydrochloride (Ketalar, special K, vitamin K, cat Valium)
- MDMA (mehthylenedioxy-methamphetamine, ecstasy, XTC, X, STP, clarity)
Psychologically, these drugs cause general feelings of pleasure and empathy, increased energy, and acute awareness to emotion (a "rush"). Many cause the user to dissociate from the environment, allowing him or her to stay awake or dance for several hours without feeling fatigue. A dissociative state is often accompanied by the following:
- Ignorance to danger
- Impaired judgment
- Loss of inhibition
- Lost sense of time
Amyl nitrate was originally developed as a treatment for angina; it directly affects the heart and cardiovascular system. The most popular street name for amyl nitrate, "poppers," comes from its initial packaging in thin glass vials, which were crushed or popped to release the vapors. When inhaled, this yellowish fishy-smelling synthetic liquid enters the bloodstream, lowers blood pressure, and increases pulse rate within seconds. It is also a muscle relaxant and causes feelings of well-being and tranquility. Because its muscle-relaxing effects affect the anal sphincter muscles, some use it prior to anal sex. Some people experience blackouts, dizziness, and respiratory problems; overuse can cause vascular collapse and death.
Amyl nitrate is sold in small brown bottles by head shops and smoke shops as "room odorizer," "head cleaner," "liquid incense," or "rave."
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that was developed for human and animal use, thus, its street name "cat Valium." It is still used to sedate children and animals for minor procedures. A controlled dosage causes increased heart rate and separation between perception and sensation, similar to nitrous oxide, or "laughing gas." In large doses (100 mg), it causes an intensely dreamy feeling or a deeply detached, hallucinogenic state. This state is known as a "K-hole," in which the user may find it difficult to move or talk. Large doses may also cause respiratory depression, which, when mixed with the "downer" effects of alcohol, can be deadly. Many take the drug for its short-acting hallucinogenic effects. Though the drug is not addictive, many find it to be highly seductive and will increase the dose to intensify the experience. Prolonged use can lead to dependence and significant neurological disruption.
Ketamine begins as a clear liquid that can be swallowed or injected into muscle, though it is most commonly cooked into a white powder and snorted in small doses, or "bumps." Its effects can be felt in about 10 minutes. If injected into muscle, its effects begin sooner.
MDMA, or ecstasy , affects the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which is responsible for mood. Users tout it for its peaceful effects, which include acceptance of oneself and other people (empathogenesis), tolerance, and the desire to seek beauty and express love (entactogenesis). For these reasons, it is referred to as a "hug drug." It is associated with intimacy and commonly taken before sex to intensify both the psychological and physical aspects of arousal and orgasm. Smaller doses of ecstasy (60-80 mg) cause elevated heart rate and pulse, flushing, and the psychological effects above. Larger doses may cause severe nausea, seizures, and unconsciousness.
Ecstasy is usually taken orally, either in capsule or pill form. It can also be snorted, smoked, and injected, all of which cause its effects to occur sooner.