Methamphetamines and Raves: A Dangerous Combination

By Joyce Beaverton, Addiction Counselor

The rave scene is making a comeback, and all parents need to understand what's going on before their children get hurt. Parents may not be familiar with rave terminology, and the following should serve as an explanation about this disturbing facet of youth culture.

A rave is an all night dance party that may last for one night or carry on for several days. They are akin to the night club experience, but usually do not take place in a controlled environment. Some night clubs feature "rave rooms" that are designed to recreate the genuine article, but real raves typically take place in larger venues. Size and seclusion are considered important to avoid overcrowding as well as local authorities. As such, raves are held in abandoned buildings, old warehouses, or in isolated areas such as the forest or the middle of the desert. Loud music is always involved, which is one reason why ravers prefer to be away from law enforcement officials. Another more troubling reason stems from the association between raves and illicit drugs.

When examined closely, it becomes clear that whole raving phenomenon is built around enhancing the effects of club drugs otherwise known as designer drugs. Almost every rave has a DJ blasting repetitive techno music known as trance, jungle, house, or happy hardcore. This music is meant to sound energetic and put listeners in a kind of euphoric state. Flashing lights that may or may not be colored as well as fog machines are also staples at raves. These light shows augment visual hallucinations brought on by drugs such as LSD, psilocybin, and GHB. These types of lighting tricks are also appealing to those under the influence of marijuana. Raves are not usually advertised in the same way as night clubs, although rave "fliers" may be passed around at clubs or parties. Most of the time, teens learn about rave locations by word of mouth from their peers or via online social networks, including Facebook and Twitter.

As a result of media attention, people commonly associate the drug ecstasy with raves. Teens ingest "e" at raves because it gives them the energy to dance for long periods of time and raises the intensity of the lights/sounds. Ecstasy or "e" is classified as a designer drug because it is a derivative of the synthetic chemical MDMA. Ecstasy may be taken in pill form or ground up and snorted as a powder. An ecstasy high or trip lasts for several hours. The drug produces a variety of physical and psychological changes that range from feelings of elation to excessive sweating, jaw clenching, heart palpitations, dehydration, heightened bodily sensations, blurred vision, and increased energy. Complications can arise from any of these symptoms, though problems stem from the higher body temperature most of the time. Users feel hotter, which is exacerbated by dancing, sweating, and dry mouth. Sometimes people pass out for lack of hydration whereas others drink too much water in an effort to overcompensate. Having an over abundance of liquid in the body makes people sick, too, and many teens do not understand this fact. The long term effects of ecstasy use are not well known, though researchers believe that brain damage is among them. Teens coined the term "e-tard" to describe individuals that indulged in a very large amount of ecstasy and now suffer from impaired mental function.

Parents may not be aware that another highly addictive substance is extremely popular in the rave scene: methamphetamine. Crystal meth does not get discussed very much in this context, but it's become a part of raves due to its stimulant properties. Meth gives people boundless energy with which to dance or stay awake while taking additional substances. Meth is not new to rave culture, but at one point in time it was less popular than it is at the present time. It's not uncommon for meth addicts to go without sleep for literally days at a time. Methamphetamine causes the libido to run wild, and engaging in promiscuous sex becomes commonplace for addicts. This drug is considerably more habit forming than the previously mentioned substances, which means parents should be extra cautious with respect to this issue.

Unsuspecting teens may be unaware of its addictive propensities and under the false impression that they can try it just once for fun. Unfortunately, meth is not a social drug that can be taken recreationally. The vast majority of individuals that sample it end up hooked. Since meth is sold at raves, teens may believe it's harmless or will simply wear off in a day or so. Parents need to educate their children about meth more so than any of the illicit drugs mentioned above. Be honest with them about the difference between methamphetamine and non-lethal drugs such as LSD. Make it clear that while no drug use is acceptable, a meth overdose can be fatal. Telling the truth is critical because they will eventually learn the facts either way. When that time comes, you don't want them to feel that they have been lied to. This breaks the bond of trust between parent and child. Once you've breeched their trust, it's nearly impossible to regain it until they're fully grown adults. Teens tend to sever the lines of communication when they believe that their parents are giving them false information. Do not risk damaging your relationship with your child.

If you think they are already in the midst of a meth addiction, that's no reason to give up. As long as they are not totally absorbed in the obsession, they might be willing to talk about their problems. Start checking their Facebook pages and Twitter timelines for any references to amphetamines, raves, or odd sounding sentences that may have been typed while high. Twitter is a better guide because you'll be able to see when they were sent. Online activity in the middle of the night might indicate methamphetamine addiction. Crystal meth users are known for taking things apart and not putting them back together again. Look for this kind of strange behavior as well as spare parts lying around. Electronics in particular are dismantled and cars. Searching their rooms for glass pipes, razor blades, q-tips, torch lighters, rubbing alcohol, small plastic bags, mirrors, needles, or other pieces of paraphernalia is a good idea. With a watchful eye, you will be able to gather enough evidence to confront your children about possible drug abuse.

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