The Social World of Club Drugs

Principal Investigator: Geoffrey Hunt
Co-Principal Investigator: Karen Joe-Laidler
Supported by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R01 DA014317)

In our first club drugs project, “The Social World of Club Drugs,” the initial and primary aim was to identify those social settings in which club drugs were taken and develop contact with and interview 300 club drugs users. To do this we used both an in-depth focused instrument and a quantitative instrument for collecting information on the social, gender and ethnic characteristics of the users of club drugs and the types and combinations of club drugs used. As a major feature of this project, we “mapped” the dance scene in San Francisco, which included gathering public information on venues, and formal organizations that are part San Francisco Bay Area nightlife, and also included field observations at licensed and underground rave and club events. We also examined the beliefs, expectations, motivations and perceived attractions for initial and subsequent use of different club drugs, as well as the perceived risks and benefits. Finally, we investigated the psychological, physical and social consequences experienced by those who used club drugs.

Overall, our aim was to explore the meaning of drugs for young people who attend raves, parties and clubs. This focus on youthful drug use within the social and cultural context of the dance scene meant that the focus of our work is very different from many other studies of this issue. With only a very few exceptions, social and cultural research on the dance scene has focused primarily on the culture of music and dancing in the scene and only in passing have these studies discussed the importance of illicit drugs within it.

Throughout this project, we have continually attempted to place our local analysis of young club-drug users in the San Francisco dance scene within the broader contexts in which they are embedded.  We have examined the emergence and evolution of the global dance/drugs scene, arguing for the importance of examining the ways in which global cultures are transformed in local contexts.  We have documented the local regulatory context of the nighttime economy of San Francisco, of which the rave/dance scene is one part, highlighting the shifting relationship between police, civil society, and corporate nightlife groups and have mapped the overall scene of raves and clubs locally.  However, the heart of our project has indisputably been our mixed-methods interviews with young club-drug users in the dance/club scene—our collection of quantitative demographic and drug-use data from these respondents, but also our analysis of the meaning that drug use has for them and the contexts in which they use and explore these drugs.

Papers from the Club Drugs, Dance Events and Asian American Youth Project

  • Hunt, G., and Evans, K. (2003). “Dancing and drugs: A cross-national perspective.” Journal of Contemporary Drug Problems, 30 (4): 779-814.
  • Hunt, G., Evans, K., and Wu, E. (2005). “Asian American youth, the dance scene, and club
    drugs.” Journal of Drug Issues, 35 (4): 695-732.
  • Joe-Laidler, K., Hunt, G., MacKenzie, K., and Evans, K. (2006). The Emergence of Clubs and Drugs in Hong Kong. In B. Sanders (ed.) Drugs, Clubs and Young People: Sociological and Public Health Perspectives (pp. 107-121) Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.
  • Hunt, G., Evans, K., and Kares, F. (2007). “Drug use and the meanings of risk and pleasure.” Journal of Youth Studies, 10 (1): 73-96.
  • Hunt, G., and Evans, K. (2008). “The great unmentionable: Exploring the pleasures and benefits of ecstasy from the perspectives of drug users.” Drugs: Education, Prevention, Policy, 15 (4): 329-349.
  • Moloney, M., Hunt, G., Bailey, N., and Erez, G. (2009). “Changes in the nighttime economy: The case of San Francisco.” In: P. Hadfield (Ed.), Nightlife and Crime, pp. 217-234. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Hunt, G., Bailey, N., Evans, K., and Moloney, M. (2009). “Combining different substances in the dance scene: Enhancing pleasure, managing risk and timing effects.” Journal of Drug Issues. 39 (3): 495-522.
  • Hunt, G., Moloney, M., and Evans, K. (2009). “Epidemiology meets cultural studies: Studying and understanding youth cultures, clubs and drugs.” Addiction, Research and Theory. 17 (6): 601-621.
  • Hunt, G., Moloney, M., and Evans, K. (2010). Youth, Drugs and Nightlife. London: Routledge.