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HOT TOPICS: Drug and Alcohol Treatment  Heroin

30-Somethings Overdo It on "Club Drugs"

Patients at London's leading club-drug clinic are older than you might expect.


Is the party over? Photo via

By Victoria Kim


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A clinic in London reports that most patients being treated for the long-term health effects of club drugs and "legal highs" aren't teens and 20-somethings as you might expect, but adults in their thirties. According to the Club Drug Clinic—a free NHS service specialized in treating substance abuse among "adult clubbers and LGBT people"—the average age of people admitted for treatment is 30 to 35. “Many users aren’t stereotypical teenage revellers, but older people with jobs and responsibilities," says Dr. Owen Bowden-Jones, who founded the clinic in response to rising use and abuse of "legal highs" and so-called club drugs like the "big four"—ketamine, mephedrone, GHB/GBL, and methamphetamine. The clinic's doctors are concerned that their older clients are more "experienced partiers" who started out in the heyday of house music and are now feeling the long-term impact of their drug use. “These are people who have used club drugs recreationally, often without a problem, for years," says Bowden-Jones. "Slowly their problems have escalated to the point they have run into significant difficulty. The harms we are now seeing, you wouldn’t normally associate with club drugs." One of the most severe side effects is "ketamine bladder"—which causes pain and frequent urination and has sent three patients to surgery. Since the club drug clinic first opened in 2011, about 800 people have been referred, with 500 receiving treatment—currently about 50 per month. Demand is so high that the service opened a second location, also in London.

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