Skip to main content

Prevalence and Predictors of Club Drug Use among Club-Going Young Adults in New York City


“Club drugs” encompass a diverse range of substances. Although efforts have been made to determine the extent of club drug use among the general population, it is equally important to assess patterns of use among key target populations from which drug trends typically diffuse. This paper describes the results of a survey focused upon club drug use among club-going young adults in NYC. Time-space sampling generated a sample of 1,914 club-going young adults (ages 18–29) who provided data on their use of six key club drugs: ecstasy, ketamine, cocaine, methamphetamine, GHB, and LSD, as well as data on their gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, and other demographic variables. Club-going young adults report drug use at high rates—70% report lifetime illicit drug use and 22% report recent club drug use. Rates of club drug use differ by gender, sexual orientation and race/ethnicity. Male gender is predictive of ketamine, GHB, and methamphetamine use, while female gender is predictive of cocaine use. Gay/bisexual orientation and White race are predictive of the use of several club drugs. Greater health promotion efforts are warranted among this population. Intervention programs and campaigns should tailor specific drug messages to differentially target various segments of dance club patrons.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    Leshner AI. A club drug alert. NIDA Notes. 2000;14.

  2. 2.

    Maxwell J. Party drugs: Properties, prevalence, patterns, and problems. Subst Use Misuse. 2005;40:1203–1240.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Kelly BC. Conceptions of risk in the lives of club drug-using youth. Subst Use Misuse. 2005;40:1443–1459.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Johnston LD, O'Malley PM, Bachman JG, Schulenberg JE. Monitoring the Future National Results on Adolescent Drug Use: Overview of Key Findings, 2004 (NIH Publication No. 05-5726). Bethesda, Maryland: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2005; 66 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Kelly BC. Initiation narratives of club drug-using ‘Bridge and Tunnel’ youth. Paper presented at American Public Health Association Annual Meeting 2004; Washington, District of Columbia.

  6. 6.

    Office of Applied Studies (OAS). Results from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings (DHHS Publication No. SMA 04-3964, NSDUH Series H-25). Rockville, Maryland: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; 2005.

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Campbell C. Migrancy, masculine identities and AIDS: the psychosocial context of HIV transmission on the South African gold mines. Soc Sci Med. 1997;45:273–281.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Hunter M. Cultural politics and masculinities: multiple-partners in historical perspective in KwaZulu-Natal. Cult Health Sex. 2005;7:389–403.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    van Etten ML, Neumark YD, Anthony JC. Male–female differences in the earliest stages of drug involvement. Addiction. 1999;94:1413–1419.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Akram G, Galt M. A profile of harm reduction practices and co-use of illicit and licit drugs amongst users of dance drugs. Drugs: Educ Prev Policy. 1999;6:215–225.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Boyd CJ, McCabe SE, d'Arcy H. Ecstasy use among college undergraduates: gender, race and sexual identity. J Subst Abuse Treat. 2003;24:209–215.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Boys A, Marsden J, Griffiths P, Fountain J, Stillwell G, Strang J. Substance use among young people: the relationship between perceived functions and intentions. Addiction. 1999;94:1043–1050.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Hammersley R, Ditton J, Smith I, Short E. Patterns of ecstasy use by drug users. Brit J Criminol. 1999;39:625–647.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Measham F, Aldridge J, Parker H. Dancing on Drugs: Risk, Health, and Hedonism in the British Club Scene. London: Free Association; 2001.

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Milani RM, Parrott AC, Turner JD, Fox HC. Gender differences in self-reported anxiety, depression, and somatization among ecstasy/MDMA polydrug users, alcohol/tobacco users, and nondrug users. Addict Behav. 2004;29:965–971.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Topp L, Hando J, Dillon P, Roche A, Solowij N. Ecstasy use in Australia: Patterns of use associated with harm. Drug Alcohol Depend. 1999;55:105–115.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Liechti ME, Gamma A, Vollenweider FX. Gender differences in the subjective effects of MDMA. Psychopharmacol. 2001;154:161–168.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Beatty RL, Geckle MO, Huggins J, Kapner C, Lewis K, Sandstrom DJ. Gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals. In: McCrady BS, Epstein EE, eds. Addictions: A Comprehensive Guidebook. New York: Oxford University Press; 1999:542–551.

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Koh AS. Use of preventive health behaviors by lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women: questionnaire survey. West J Med. 2000;172:379–384.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Skinner WF, Otis MD. Drug and alcohol use among lesbian and gay people in a southern U.S. sample: epidemiological, comparative, and methodological findings from the Trilogy Project. J Homosex. 1996;30:59–92.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Stall R, Wiley J. A comparison of alcohol and drug use patterns of homosexual and heterosexual men: The San Francisco Men's Health Study. Drug Alcohol Depend. 1988;22:63–73.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Rosario M, Hunter J, Gwadz M. Exploration of substance use among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth: prevalence and correlates. J Adolesc Res. 1997;12:454–476.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Chilcoat HD, Schutz CG. Racial/ethnic and age differences in crack use within neighborhoods. Addict Res. 1995;3:103–111.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Wallace JM, Bachman JG. Explaining racial/ethnic differences in adolescent drug use: the impact of background and lifestyle. Soc Probl. 1991;38:333–357.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Wallace JM Jr, Bachman JG, O'Malley PM, Johnston LD, Schulenberg JE, Cooper SM. Tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use: Racial and ethnic differences among U.S. high school seniors, 1976–2000. Public Health Rep. 2002;117:S67–S75.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Fendrich M, Wislar JS, Johnson TP, Hubbell A. A contextual profile of club drug use among adults in Chicago. Addiction. 2003;98:1693–1703.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Yacoubian GS. Assessing the temporal relationship between rave and ecstasy use among high school seniors. J Drug Educ. 2002;32:213–225.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Barrett SP, Gross SR, Garand I, Pihk RO. Patterns of simultaneous polysubstance use in Canadian rave attendees. Subst Use Misuse. 2005;40:1525–1537.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Klitzman RL, Pope HG Jr, Hudson JI. MDMA (“ecstasy”) abuse and high-risk sexual behaviors among 169 gay and bisexual men. Am J Psychiatry. 2000;157:1162–1164.

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Ter Bogt TFM, Engels RCME. “Partying” hard: party style, motives for and effects of MDMA use at rave parties. Subst Use Misuse. 2005;40:1479–1502.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Yacoubian GS, Miller S, Pianim S, et al. Toward an ecstasy and other club drug (EOCD) prevention intervention for rave attendees. J Drug Educ. 2004;34:41–59.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Parsons JT, Halkitis PN, Bimbi DS. Club drug use among young adults frequenting dance clubs and other social venues in New York City. J Child Adolesc Subst Abuse. 2006;15:1–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    MacKellar DA, Valleroy L, Karon J, Lemp G, Janssen R. The Young Men's Survey: methods for estimating HIV seroprevelance and risk factors among young men who have sex with men. Public Health Rep. 1996;111:138–144.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Muhib FB, Lin LS, Steuve A, et al. A venue-based method for sampling hard-to-reach populations. Public Health Rep. 2001;116:216–222.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Steuve A, O'Donnell LN, Duran R, San Doval A, Blome J. Time-space sampling in minority communities: results with young Latino men who have sex with men. Am J Public Health. 2001;91:922–926.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Nanin J, Parsons JT. Club drug use and risky sex among gay and bisexual men in New York City. J Gay Lesbian Psych. 2006;10:111–122.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The Club Drugs and Health Project was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01-DA014925-02, Jeffrey T. Parsons, Principal Investigator). The authors recognize the contributions of the Club Drug and Health Project team—Anthony Bamonte, Lorelei Bonet, Justin Brown, Jessica Colon, Lauren DiMaria, Charles Edwards, Armando Fuentes, Christian Grov, Juline Koken, Julia Tomassilli, and Jon Weiser—as well as Jose Nanin. We thank Moira O'Brien for her continued support of the project. Thanks to David Bimbi, Rich Carpiano, and Joe Severino for helpful conversations about statistical analysis.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jeffrey T. Parsons PhD.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Kelly, B.C., Parsons, J.T. & Wells, B.E. Prevalence and Predictors of Club Drug Use among Club-Going Young Adults in New York City. JURH 83, 884 (2006).

Download citation


  • Club drugs
  • Cocaine
  • Crystal Meth
  • Ecstasy
  • GBH
  • Ketamine
  • LSD