Party people, places and drugs

Material Information

Party people, places and drugs a mixed method study of drug use among Denver club attendees
Ferraro, Aimee Elisabeth
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xii, 207 leaves : ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Drug utilization -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Drugs and popular music -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Youth -- Drug use -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Nightclubs -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Youth -- Social life and customs -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Drug utilization ( fast )
Drugs and popular music ( fast )
Nightclubs ( fast )
Youth -- Drug use ( fast )
Youth -- Social life and customs ( fast )
Colorado -- Denver ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 195-207).
General Note:
Department of Health and Behavioral Sciences
Statement of Responsibility:
by Aimee Elisabeth Ferraro.

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Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
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Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
123176978 ( OCLC )
LD1193.L566 2006d F47 ( lcc )

Full Text
Aimee Elisabeth Ferraro
B.A., Johns Hopkins University, 1999
M.P.H., George Washington University, 2000
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver/Health Sciences Center
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Health and Behavioral Sciences

2006 by Aimee Elisabeth Ferraro
All rights reserved.

This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
degree by
Aimee Elisabeth Ferraro
has been approved
Stephen Koester
David Tracer
f\ uaus-}" 3 £OOQ
J Date

Ferraro, Aimee Elisabeth (Ph.D., Health and Behavioral Sciences)
Party People, Places and Drugs: A Mixed Methods Study of Drug Use Among
Denver Club Attendees
Thesis directed by Professor Stephen Koester
Since 2001, the National Institute of Drug Abuse has focused research on a
category of drugs referred to as club drugs, including ecstasy (MDMA),
methamphetamine, ketamine, Rohypnol and GHB. These drugs are reportedly
being used extensively in rave, dance party, and nightclub settings; however, very
few studies have examined this phenomenon among a direct sample of club
attendees. To determine the patterns and prevalence of club drug use in Denver,
186 club attendees were recruited to complete a street intercept" survey in the
summer of 2005 according to time-location sampling. Survey respondents were
predominantly young (75.0% between 18 and 28 years), white (77.1%), male
(53.3%) and educated (77.1% with at least some college credit). While 81.9% of
respondents reported ever using drugs, only 39.0% reported ever using ecstasy,
7.9% methamphetamine, 6.0% ketamine, 3.1% GHB, and none of the sample
used Rohypnol. In-depth interviews with 20 club attendees suggest that patterns
of use may be due, in part, to the recent transition of raves into more mainstream
clubs and parties, which in turn affected the types of drugs and attendees
associated with the scene. Other factors related to Zinbergs theory of drug, set
and setting help to explain the substantially lower rates of club drug use in Denver
compared to club attendees in other parts of the country. Findings are also
situated within the theoretical debate of deviancy and normalization, showing that
some drugs are more normalized than others although, in general, drug use
among club attendees is better understood using Beckers subcultural deviance
theory. The results of this study indicate that use of the term club drugs is
limiting, as the drugs used by club attendees are varied and the scenes in which
they are consumed are not static. More attention should be paid to monitoring
current drug consumption patterns and informing dub attendees about the
dangers of combination drug use and the effects of other emerging drugs such as
Viagra, prescription drugs, and dietary supplements.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis,
recommend its publication.

I dedicate this dissertation to my family for their unwavering love and support
throughout this endeavor.

I would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Program in Health and
Behavioral Sciences. I would also like to thank a number of people who have
been integral to the completion of the Denver Club Health Study and this
dissertation. First of all, special thanks to the club attendees who participated in
my study and made data collection so much fun to conduct. Thanks to my
committee members Steve Koester, John Brett, Tobi Saidel, and David Tracer -
for their sage wisdom and advice. Thanks also to my survey reviewers Eric
Benotsch, Kathleen Crowley, and Brian Kelly for improving the quality of my
quantitative data collection tool. I am very grateful to all of my research assistants
- Rachel Foreman, Craig Kapral, Jen Lloyd, and my siblings for helping me
complete the survey portion of this study. I would especially like to thank Cohort
10 for making graduate school such an enjoyable experience. Finally, I want to
express my profound appreciation to my family and friends particularly Mom,
Dad, and Zach for keeping me relatively sane throughout this whole process.
This work would not have been possible without all of you.

1. INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND...................................1
Research Questions.....................................2
Epidemiology of Drug Use.................................2
Drug Use Among Club Attendees............................9
Bias of the Researcher...................................13
Structure of the Dissertation............................15
2. THEORY.......................................................17
Deviancy and Subculture..................................17
The Normalization of Drug Use.............................20
Drug, Set and Setting.....................................25
3. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS..................................27
Preliminary Research.................................... 27
Participant Observation.................................27
Survey Validation.......................................28
Study Design........................................... 34

Phase I: Formative Research.....................................35
Preliminary Sampling Frame...................................35
Informal Interviews..........................................36
Phase II: Quantitative Data.................................... 36
Time-Location Sampling.......................................36
Sample Size..................................................40
Street-Intercept Survey......................................41
Limitations................................................. 42
Quantitative Data Analysis...................................44
Phase III: Qualitative Data.....................................45
In-Depth Interviews..........................................45
Qualitative Data Analysis....................................47
Combining Quantitative and Qualitative Data.....................48
Human Subjects................................................. 48
4. PARTY PLACES...................................................... .49
Parties........................................................ 59
Outside the Scene...............................................63
Social Drug Use.................................................65
5. PARTY PEOPLE.......................................................66

Identity with the Scene...................................68
Types of Drug Users.......................................74
Weekend Warrior.........................................75
Opportunistic/Experimental Drug User....................77
Spiritual Drug User.....................................79
Non-Drug User...........................................80
Relationship to the Scene...................................82
Gay Community.............................................82
Club Staff, Deejays and Promoters.........................83
6. PARTY DRUGS........... ........................................86
Patterns and Prevalence of Drug Use.........................86
Legal Drugs.............................................90
Natural Drugs...........................................94
Club Drugs................................................98
Enhancement Drugs.......................................114
Emerging Drugs..........................................122
Hardcore Drugs......................................... 126
Additional Drugs.........................................131
Polydrug Use........................................... 132
7. DISCUSSION....................................................136

Study Findings........................................136
The Theoretical Debate................................152
Normalization...................................... 152
8. CONCLUSIONS..............................................159
Study Contributions...................................159
Study Implications....................................161
Future Research.......................................163
A. GLOSSARY OF TERMS.................................... 165
B. DENVER CLUB HEALTH SURVEY..'.............................178
C. INTERVIEW GUIDE..........................................183
D. HUMAN SUBJECTS CONSENT FORMS.............................187
E. INTERVIEW PARTICIPANT PROFILES...........................192

2.1 Framework of factors affecting drug use.........................25
3.1 Schematic of three-phase, mixed methods study design............34

1.1 Trends in lifetime prevalence of the use of various drugs.............3
3.1 Spearman Rho correlations of consumption measures by drug type.....32
3.2 Selection of a systematic random sample of PSUs......................39
3.3 Sample sizes for estimating a population proportion with specified absolute
3.4 Calculation of selection probabilities and sampling weights..........44
5.1 Participant demographics.............................................68
5.2 Types of drug users in the Denver club scene.........................75
6.1 Percentage of lifetime use and past month use for each drug..........87
6.2 Percentage of gender, race and sexual orientation by lifetime use of each
6.3 Frequency of use for each drug among drug users......................89
6.4 Emically-defined drug categories.....................................89
7.1 Percentage of total respondents reporting perceived risks of drug use...143
E. 1 Interview participant demographics..................................193

Over the past decade, anecdotal and empirical evidence has indicated that
a group of drugs were being used extensively in raves, dance parties, and
nightclubs. These so-called club drugs, as they were commonly (and sometimes
incorrectly) labeled, have included ecstasy (MDMA), methamphetamine (meth),
ketamine, Rohypnol, GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate), and LSD (lysergic acid
diethylamide).1 Several studies examined the prevalence of these drugs among
the general population (CEWG, 2004; Johnston et al., 2005; SAMHSA, 2004) and
certain subgroups in the United States (US) (Fendrich et al., 2003; Hopfer et al.,
2006; Mansergh et al., 2001; etc), suggesting that club drug use was increasing
among adolescents and young adults throughout the 1990s and early 2000s,
predominantly within the club culture. This phenomenon was not unique to the
US, and a multitude of studies documented high levels of drug use among club
attendees in other countries, particularly in the United Kingdom (UK) (Measham,
Aldridge & Parker, 2001) and Australia (Duff, 2004). However, only a handful of
studies have examined club drug use from a direct sample of club attendees in the
US (Arria et al., 2002; Weiser, Kelly & Parsons, 2006; Yacoubian et al., 2003), so
information regarding the extent of drug use within this supposedly high-risk
population and the influence of the scene is still lacking. For that reason, the goal
of this study was to answer the following research questions.
1 The drugs that constitute club drugs have changed over the past several years.
This issue will be discussed further in Chapter 6.

Research Questions
1. What are the patterns and prevalence of drug use among Denver club
2. How does the culture and context of the club scene influence such drug
This study sought to answer these questions through a combination of
quantitative and qualitative methods. Many of the empirical studies that have also
utilized epidemiologic and ethnographic approaches to better understand the use
of club drugs provide the background for this project's scope of inquiry.
Epidemiology of Drug Use
Epidemiologic studies of drug use have historically been used to
understand the nature and extent of drug use, abuse, and dependence2 in the
population (Compton et al., 2005). Drug use, in general, is endemic to populations
worldwide; however, the landscape of illicit drug use varies across time and space.
In the United States, data from the general population National Survey on Drug
Use and Health (formerly called the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse)
and the Monitoring the Future Studys survey of students indicate shifts in the
patterns of illicit drug use over the past 30 years (Johnston et al., 2005; SAMHSA,
2004). According to Compton et al. (2005: 1495):
Drug use peaked in the late 1970s, decreased in the 1980s,
increased in the 1990s, and has remained stable the past few
years. Within this broad pattern, specific epidemics of crack
cocaine, amphetamines, club drugs... and associated epidemics of
HIV and other infectious diseases have been identified and tracked.
2 In the US, the term drug use generally refers to the consumption of legal drugs.
Consumption of illegal (or illicit) drugs is regarded as drug abuse and addiction to
drugs is defined as dependence. In some countries, illegal drug consumption is
defined as drug misuse. Throughout this dissertation, the term drug use will be
utilized and refers to both legal and illegal drug consumption.

Table 1.1 details trends in lifetime prevalence of the use of various drugs
over the past decade. Prevalence rates for 12th graders from the Monitoring the
Future (MTF) study and 18-25 year olds from the National Survey on Drug Use
and Health (NSDUH) are reported. These two subsets were chosen because they
closely resemble the age demographic of club attendees surveyed in this study.
Table 1.1. Trends in lifetime prevalence of the use of various drugs
1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Any illicit dmg
MTF 50.8 54.3 54.1 54.7 54.0 53.9 53.0 51.1 51.1 50.4
NSDUH 45.4 48.1 52.6 51.2 55.6 59.8 60.5 59.2
MTF 79.2 81.7 81.4 80.0 80.3 79.7 78.4 76.6 76.8 75.1
NSDUH 83.5 83.2 83.9 84.0 85.0 86.7 87.1 86.2
MTF 63.5 65.4 65.3 64.6 62.5 61.0 57.2 53.7 52.8 50.0
NSDUH 67.7 68.8 68.9 67.3 69.0 71.2 70.2 68.7
MTF 44.9 49.6 49.1 49.7 48.8 49.0 47.8 46.1 45.7 44.8
NSDUH 41.5 44.6 46.8 45.7 50.0 53.8 53.9 52.8
MTF 12.6 13.6 12.6 12.2 11.1 10.9 8.4 5.9 4.6 3.5
NSDUH 13.2 14.0 14.7 14.0 15.3 15.9 14.0 12.1
MTF 6.1 6.9 5.8 8.0 11.0 11.7 10.5 8.3 7.5 5.4
NSDUH 9.7 13.1 15.1 14.8 13.8
MTF 7.1 8.7 9.3 9.8 8.6 8.2 7.8 7-7 8.1 8.0
NSDUH 8.9 10.0 11.9 10.9 13.0 15.4 15.0 15.2
MTF 8.2 7.9 6.9 6.7 6.2 6.2 6.5
NSDUH 5.2 4.1 5.1 5.7 5.2 5.2
MTF 1.8 2.1 2.0 2.0 2.4 1.8 1.7 1.5 1.5 1.5
NSDUH 1.0 1.1 1.8 1.4 1.6 1.6 1.6 1.6

While the trends identified in the two national studies seem similar, each
survey differs in methodology and populations surveyed so direct comparisons
should be done with caution. Monitoring the Future (MTF) is an ongoing study of
the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American high school students (Johnston et
al., 2005) and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) serves as
the primary source of information on the prevalence and incidence of drug use in
the civilian, noninstitutionalized population aged 12 and older (SAMHSA, 2004).
Both surveys have contributed to the epidemiological understanding of club drug
use in the United States; however, many of the club drugs are not included in
surveillance efforts (i.e., ketamine, Rohypnol and GHB are not measured by the
NSDUH) and some drugs have only recently been added (i.e., ecstasy was added
to the MTF in 1996 and NSDUH in 2000). Nonetheless, the overall trend for
ecstasy use can serve as a proxy indicator for these other drugs because it is the
most commonly used club drug. The next section will examine properties,
prevalence, and patterns of ecstasy consumption in further detail, followed by brief
explanations of the other club drugs.
The primary club drug used by young adults is 3,4-
methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), also known in its street form as
ecstasy. MDMA, in its intended pharmaceutical form, was initially used as an
adjunct to psychotherapy in the US in the 1970s (Shulgin, 1986). Recreational use
of ecstasy began in the 1980s, particularly within the underground rave scene
(Beck & Rosenbaum, 1994), and now its use has spread to a wide range of
settings and demographic subgroups (CEWG, 2004). Ecstasy has both stimulant
and psychedelic properties, and is often taken for the feelings of well-being,
stimulation, and distortions in time and sensory perceptions that it produces (NIDA,
2006). It is classified as an empathogen or entactogen because of the drugs

ability to increase feelings of empathy and enhance introspective states (Nichols,
1985). Ecstasy has been a Schedule I drug since 1985.3
Worldwide, ecstasy use is concentrated in a few regions: Western Europe,
North America, and Australia (Landry, 2002). In the US, over 11 million persons
aged 12 and older reported using ecstasy at least once in their lifetime, and the
heaviest use of ecstasy occurs between the ages of 19 and 25 according to the
2004 NSDUH (NIDA, 2006). The Monitoring the Future survey (Johnston et al.,
2005) has shown that the number of ^-graders who had used ecstasy in their
lifetime increased from 5.8% in 1998 to 11.7% in 2001 and declined back to 5.4%
by 2005. These changes in prevalence appear to be related to perceptions of risk
and availability. Exposure to ecstasy among high school seniors increased
progressively and nearly quadrupled over the past decade, and a substantial
proportion of young adults reported having friends who used ecstasy. The
perceived availability of ecstasy (i.e, ^-graders reporting that ecstasy is fairly
easy or very easy to get) rose steadily from 22% in 1989 to 61.5% in 2001, and
then declined to 40.3% in 2005. Ecstasy is now characterized as one of the most
available drugs for youth (Landry, 2002). This claim is evidenced by the fact that
DEA seizures of MDMA tablets rose from 196 in 1993 to more than 3 million in
2000 (DEA, 2002).
3 In the US, Schedule I drugs (e.g., heroin, MDMA, and LSD) are those with a high
potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and a lack of
accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Schedule II drugs (e.g.,
morphine, cocaine, and methamphetamine) have a high potential for abuse, may
have a currently accepted use with severe restrictions, and abuse may lead to
severe psychological or physical dependence. Schedule III drugs have less
potential for abuse, have a currently accepted medical use in treatment, and abuse
may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological
dependence. Schedule IV and V drugs have low potential for abuse, have
currently accepted medical use in treatment, and may lead to limited dependence.

Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) data, which monitors drug-related
visits to a sample of the nations emergency departments, also noted a dramatic
increase in ecstasy use over the past decade. The number of mentions of ecstasy
in emergency rooms increased from 253 in 1994 to 5542 in 2001 before dropping
back to 4026 in 2002 (SAMHSA, 2003).
Ethnographic reports from the Community Epidemiology Work Group
(2004) indicate that ecstasy continues to spread into more diverse populations,
including African American and Hispanic populations. In addition, several recent
studies have documented the diffusion of ecstasy outside the club scene (see
Fernandez et al., 2005 and Ompad et al., 2005). Several other populations in
which ecstasy use has been measured are middle school students (Goldsamt et
al., 2005), college students (Boyd, McCabe & dArcy, 2003; Simons et al., 2005;
Strote, Lee & Wechsler, 2002), delinquents (Krebs & Steffey, 2005), and men who
have sex with men (Clatts, Goldsamt & Yi, 2005; Klitzman et al., 2002; Mansergh
et al., 2001). Each of these studies examined the prevalence and predictors of
ecstasy (and other club drug) use, among other issues.
Other Club Drugs
Methamphetamine. Methamphetamine (meth) is a central nervous system
stimulant that is structurally similar but more powerful than amphetamine. Meth
comes in different forms with different names (including speed, crystal meth,
ice," and glass) based on the method of manufacture and resulting product. It
can be taken intranasally, intravenously, orally or smoked. The desired effects of
meth include well-being, alertness, increased activity, excitement, and decreased
appetite. Withdrawal happens after cessation of regular use and is characterized
by depressive symptoms, fatigue, insomnia, agitation and anergia. Paranoia and
aggression may also occur (Freese et al., 2002). Meth is a Schedule II drug in the
Unlike the other club drugs, meth use is one of the largest problems in the
US. Meth has spread from the Western states eastward. It is used in both the

urban club scene and rural areas (Maxwell, 2004), which is one of the reasons
why meth is often mislabeled as a club drug (as is the case in Colorado). The
MTF survey showed that lifetime meth use among high school seniors peaked at
8:2% in 1999 (Johnston et al., 2005). The NSDUH reported that between 1999
and 2004 approximately 4-5% of 18-25 year olds had ever used meth (SAMHSA,
2004) . DAWN data revealed that meth-related emergency room visits has varied
but has increased since 1999, reaching its highest level of 17696 in 2002
(SAMHSA, 2003).
Ketamine. Ketamine is a potent anesthetic that has been used for trauma
and emergency surgery in both animals and humans. The drug is abused
primarily for its dissociative effects. It causes hallucinations, perceived out-of-body
experiences, slowed time perception, and changes in perception of environmental
stimuli (Koesters et al., 2002). Ketamine users try to attain a k-hole, which is
described as physical immobilization and social detachment lasting up to an hour.
Ketamine is a Schedule III controlled substance and is available in powder, tablet,
and injectable forms (Maxwell, 2005).
The MTF survey reported a steady decline in past year use of ketamine
among high school seniors, from 2.5% in 2000 to 1.6% in 2005 (Johnston et al.,
2005) . The NSDUH did not survey for ketamine. The number of ketamine-related
emergency department mentions from DAWN data increased from 19 in 1994 to
679 in 2001 and dropped to 260 in 2002 (SAMHSA, 2003).
Rohypnol. Rohypnol (flunitrazepam), often known by its street name
roofies, is a benzodiazepine originally formulated for preoperative anesthesia and
treatment of insomnia. At low doses it acts as a muscle relaxant and sedative-
hypnotic. At high doses it can cause lack of muscle control and loss of
consciousness. The drug received attention when it began to be used to commit
sexual assault and gained popularity among youths as a cheap drunk (Maxwell,
2005). Rohypnol is a Schedule IV drug as of 1984.
The MTF survey consistently reported low rates of past year Rohypnol use
among 12th-graders, ranging from 0.8% in 2000 to 1.6% in 2004 (Johnston et al.,

2005). DAWN emergency department mentions peaked in 1996 and have
decreased since (SAMHSA, 2003).
GHB. Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is a central nervous system
depressant that has intoxicating effects and, at sufficiently high doses, anesthetic
properties (Nicholson & Balster, 2001). It was originally available in the US as a
consumer product, sold for its sedative and body-building effects. Both its use as
a dietary supplement and its abuse for recreational purposes resulted in an
outbreak of adverse events, prompting the US Food and Drug Administration to
ban GHB in 1990 (Dyer et al., 1990). Furthermore, because of its use to commit
assault and its use as a club drug, GHB is now a Schedule I drug in the US
(Maxwell, 2005). GHB is sold in powder or liquid form (Koesters et al., 2002).
The MTF survey showed that between 2000 and 2005, past year
prevalence of GHB among ^''-graders varied between 1 and 2% (Johnston et al,
2005). The NSDUH did not survey for use of GHB. Although GHB remains an
uncommon cause for emergency room visits in the US, DAWN mentions of GHB
increased from 56 in 1994 to a high of 4969 in 2000, and then declined thereafter.
GHB use is highest among teens and young adults, comprising 59% of GHB-
related emergency department visits (SAMHSA, 2003).
LSD. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), or acid, is a potent mood-
changing chemical of the hallucinogenic class. It is manufactured from lysergic
acid, which is found in ergot, a fungus that grows on rye and other grains. The
drug is odorless and colorless and, in addition to hallucinations, causes the
physical effects of dilated pupils, higher body temperature, increased heart rate
and blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, dry mouth and
tremors. LSD is sold in tablet, capsule and liquid forms as well as on pieces of
blotter paper that have absorbed the drug (Maxwell, 2004). It is a Schedule l
controlled substance. LSD is often not included as a club drug because of its use
in settings outside of the club scene.
The MTF survey reported rates of lifetime LSD use among ^-graders that
peaked in 1997 at 13.6% and have steadily declined since then to 3.5% in 2005

(Johnston et al., 2005). The prevalence of LSD among 18-25 year olds has been
fairly steady according to the NSDUH. Lifetime rates of use increased from 13.2%
in 1997 to 15.9% in 2002 and then decreased to 12.1% in 2004 (SAMHSA, 2004).
DAWN data showed that the number of mentions of LSD in emergency
departments decreased from 5158 in 1994 to 891 in 2002 (SAMHSA, 2003).
Club Drug Use in Denver
A recent study by Hopfer and colleagues (2006) reported the prevalence of
club drug use among adolescents and young adults in treatment for substance
abuse in Denver. Lifetime rates of club drug use for clients under 18 (N=486) was
48.6% for LSD, 32.3% for MDMA, 30.2% for meth, 18.3% for ketamine, and 7.0%
for GHB. For clients between 18 and 32 years of age (N=289), lifetime prevalence
was 42.9% for LSD, 37.0% for MDMA, 31.5% for meth, 17.0% for ketamine, and
, 13.1% for GHB. Clients reported using club drugs both in and out of rave settings.
The majority of study clients reported using MDMA at clubs, parties or raves
(68%), however most of the other club drugs were reportedly used at home,
suggesting that club drug use has expanded beyond the club culture in Denver.
While comparisons of this data to the general population of club attendees would
be problematic due to sampling differences, this study provides the only available
estimates of club drug use in Denver to date.
Drug Use Among Club Attendees
Nightclubs and raves have been associated with high levels of club drug
use, particularly ecstasy, in the UK (Parker et al., 1998; Hammersley et al., 1999),
Europe (EMCDDA, 1996; Soellner, 2005; Ter Bogt & Engels, 2005), Australia
(Lenton, Boys & Norcross, 1997; Duff, 2004; Topp et al., 1999) and the US (Arria
et al., 2002, Yacoubian et al., 2003). Lifetime use statistics consistently show that
those attending clubs and raves have a higher prevalence of drug use in
comparison with the general population. For example, the 1998 British Crime
Survey (Home Office, 1999) reported that 52% of the general population had ever

used an illicit drug, in comparison to the 80% of club attendees reported by
Branigan and colleagues (1997). Club attendees have been a difficult population
for researchers to access. Consequently, studies examining the drug use of club
attendees are relatively limited. Nonetheless, a number of studies have been
undertaken both nationally and internationally that range from on-site surveys to
Internet or specialized magazine surveys to small-scale qualitative studies of club
On-Site Surveys
A survey of 210 rave attendees in Montreal, Canada in 2000 found lifetime
use of cannabis at 91%, 90% for alcohol, 75% for MDMA, 35% for cocaine, 19%
for GHB, and 14% for ketamine (Gross et al., 2002). A survey of 122 people at
three dance events in Edinburgh in 1998-1999 who had reported past year
substance use reported that 82% had used ecstasy, 81% amphetamines, 48%
cannabis, 39% cocaine, and 30% LSD. Two-thirds of the sample reported mixing
drugs, particularly ecstasy and amphetamines (Riley et al., 2001). In 2003,
another survey of 124 club attendees in Edinburgh showed similar rates of drug
use. Prevalence rates for alcohol, cannabis, and ecstasy were over 80%; 63%
reported cocaine and 53% amphetamine use; 15%-43% used ketamine, psilocybin
(mushrooms), LSD and nitrites (Riley & Hayward, 2004). A study of 760 British
club attendees at six mainstream clubs and events" in southeast England in 2000
found slightly lower rates of lifetime drug use, potentially due to the differences in
methodology employed between studies. Nearly three-quarters of respondents
(73%) reported ever using cannabis, 52% ecstasy, 46% amphetamines and
cocaine, and 31% LSD (Deehan & Saville, 2003). Two more seminal studies
conducted by Measham, Aldridge and Parker (2001) in the UK and Duff (2004) in
Australia reported high rates of club drug use among club attendees and will be
discussed further in the next chapter because they are integral to the
understanding of the normalization theory.

Only a handful of studies have collected drug use information directly from
club attendees in the US, reflecting the need for further research on this particular
population. Arria et al. (2002) surveyed 96 rave attendees in the Baltimore-
Washington corridor in 2000 and collected saliva specimens to verify presence of
MDMA. Eighty-nine percent of the sample self-reported lifetime use of ecstasy,
70% marijuana, 42% cocaine, and 21% meth. A study of 70 rave attendees in the
same area conducted one year later found 86% lifetime ecstasy use and 30%
reported use in the two days preceding the interview (Yacoubian et al., 2003). In a
sample of predominantly homosexual females surveyed at one club in 2003,
Yacoubian and colleagues (2004) showed drug use rates that were much lower
(41% reported lifetime use of ecstasy or other club drugs). Banta-Green et al.
(2005) conducted a study of club drug use in Seattle that utilized seven sources of
data. The survey of 310 rave attendees showed that 74% had ever used ecstasy.
Of these respondents, lifetime prevalence of marijuana use was 96%, mushrooms
80%, LSD 67%, cocaine 58%, meth 50%, ketamine 40%, and GHB 37%. These
rates were significantly lower among respondents who had never used ecstasy.
Only 52% reported ever using marijuana and 10% mushrooms; all other drugs had
less than 10% prevalence. Parsons and colleagues recently completed data
collection from a cohort of 400 club drug users in New York City. Preliminary
results suggested that cocaine and ecstasy were the primary club drugs, as rates
of lifetime use were 95% and 89% respectively (Weiser, Kelly & Parsons, 2006).
Demographic analysis has revealed that US club attendees are largely
young adults. Seventy-six percent of Arria et al.s sample of club attendees were
between 18 and 21 years of age, 89% of respondents in Yacoubian et al.s study
one year later were between 18 and 20 years, and the median age was 20 in
Banta-Green et al.s survey. All of these studies showed an approximately equal
proportion of male and female club attendees, with 53-65% male respondents. In
addition, studies showed that club attendees are predominantly white, educated,
and employed. Arria et al. (2002) found that 94% of rave attendees were white,
84% were employed at least part-time, and 88% had completed 12th grade. The

study by Yacoubian et al. (2003) reported similar demographics, with 82% of
participants white, 69% employed at least part-time, and 80% had completed 12th
grade. International surveys also reflected these demographic trends.
Qualitative, Internet, and Magazine Studies
Qualitative and media-based studies of club attendees have provided in-
depth information regarding patterns and perceptions of club drug use. Polydrug
use has been described as characteristic of drug use among club attendees
(Barrett et al., 2005; Forsyth, 1996; Mulland et al., 1996; Parker et al., 1998; Riley
et al, 2001; Scholey et al., 2004) and is associated with increased risk. Because
of MDMAs stimulant properties, when used in the club setting (and in concert with
other club drugs such as methamphetamine, ketamine and GHB), it can enable
users to dance vigorously for extended periods but can also lead to severe rises in
body temperature (hyperthermia) as well as dehydration, hypertension, and even
heart or kidney failure in particularly susceptible people (Iravani et al., 2000;
Leshner, 2001). Depression and impaired brain function have also been
associated with ecstasy use (Rodgers et al., 2001; Topp et al., 1999; Verheyden,
Henry & Curran, 2003). Such risks were often not perceived as potentially harmful
by ecstasy users compared to non-users (Duff, 2004; Yacoubian, 2003; Smith et
al., 2002). However, other studies (Gamma et al., 2004; Riley & Hayward, 2004;
Kelly, 2005; Levy et al., 2005; Murphy, Wareing & Fisk, 2006; White et al., 2006)
have reported that users do perceive risks to their health some of which are
exaggerated like beliefs that ecstasy causes holes in the brain or drains
cerebrospinal fluid (Carlson et al., 2004) and take steps to reduce drug-related
harm (Shewan, Delgarno & Reith, 2000; Hansen, Maycock & Lower, 2001).
Panagopoulos and Ricciardelli (2005) detailed preventative, immediate, and
restorative strategies that ecstasy users employ before, during, and after taking
the drug. Many of these strategies influence drug-taking behaviors, such as
pacing dosage or foregoing use of ecstasy when hungover. According to Allott
and Redman (2006), other strategies that ecstasy users make use of to reduce

negative consequences, "comedown, or neurotoxicity include drinking water,
limiting or reducing ecstasy use, and taking vitamins.
Qualitative research has also explored the differences in drug-taking
behaviors between novice and experienced club drug users, as well as according
to musical preferences. A web-based study by Scholey et al. (2004) explored
whether drug consumption patterns change with greater experience of ecstasy
use. Results showed that the increased use of ecstasy was associated with more
intensive patterns of ecstasy intake, and the greater use of cocaine, amphetamine,
LSD, and mushrooms, but not of alcohol, cigarettes, or cannabis. Work by Forsyth
(1997,1998) among Glasgow ravers indicated that musical preference may be
ope of the best indicators of lifetime drug use. In an ethnographic study of 200
London club attendees in which respondents were recruited from two different
types of clubs in the British dance culture (i.e, techno and garage), OHagan
(1999) found that lifetime drug experiences of the techno group were significantly
greater than the garage group. These studies emphasize the importance of
obtaining both the breadth and depth of information regarding the patterns and
prevalence of drug use among club attendees. Consequently, this research
project used a mixed methods approach to better understand the extent of drug
use observed in the Denver club scene.
Bias of the Researcher
It is important to note that my examination of drug use in the rave and club
scenes began long before the inception of this study. I attended my first rave in
1996 and began formulating impressions of the people, places and drugs involved
long before I decided to formally study these issues. My rave and club
experiences were predominantly in Baltimore, Washington, DC, and New York
City, all cities with relatively large raving communities. Having only attended two
rave venues in Denver in 1999, my knowledge of the scene that is the focus of this
study was limited. Therefore, I spent several months conducting preliminary

fieldwork throughout the Denver club scene before generating any hypotheses or
research questions. Nonetheless, my history and former identity as a raver
inevitably influenced my approach to data collection, my analytical perspective, my
interactions with club attendees, and their response to my inquiry. In general, I
tried to use my knowledge of the scene to my advantage, namely to blend in
whenever possible, without letting it contaminate the information revealed by study
I believe it is imperative to acknowledge the sources of bias that may color
the results of this study. To that end, my role as a young, white, female researcher
may have affected the data obtained through participant observation, surveys, and
interviews of club attendees. On the one hand, my age, ethnic, or gender status
may have dissuaded some club attendees from participating in the study. Cultural
sensitivity is crucial to many groups, and my membership in a different group could
have unavoidably influenced their desire to participate in a research study or
comfort level in reporting illegal drug behavior. This may have been the case with
Asian club attendees, who disproportionately refused to complete the survey.
Strategies used to overcome this potential bias in recruitment are described further
in the methods chapter. On the other hand, because my demographic profile is
similar to the majority of club attendees in Denver (see Chapter 5), my personal
attributes could have contributed to the successful completion of this study.
During survey implementation, it was noticeable that my female research
assistants had an easier time recruiting participants than my male research
assistants. This was evident with both male and female participants, as female
club attendees appeared less intimidated by another female approaching them for
the study, and male club attendees seemed to enjoy being solicited by a female.
As such, I typically made the most of my gender and led recruitment efforts to
increase the response rate of the survey. Similarly, my characteristically youthful
(and naive) appearance may have aided in disclosure of illicit activities among
study participants. At the time of data collection I was 28 years old, although
typically judged to be in my early 20s. Many of the interview participants assumed

that I had little knowledge of drug use and the club scene because I looked so
young (and innocent), so I allowed them to continue with elaborate descriptions of
various drugs and their experiences taking them because I wanted to learn about
these issues from their perspective. I indulged my experiences in the scene only
when it supported further probing during interviews or to build rapport with a study
participant who seemed anxious disclosing personal information. Study
participants often remarked that they appreciated having one of their own
conduct research on their drug-taking behaviors because I could better understand
where they were coming from.
While my insiders viewpoint may have had a positive impact on the quality
of data collected, it could have equally affected my interpretation of the findings.
Because of this, I relied on my multidisciplinary background in biology, psychology,
epidemiology, and medical anthropology to refocus my perspective during analysis
and write up of this dissertation. My training has trended towards increasingly
interpretivist approaches to intellectual inquiry, however my recent completion of
studies in a transdisciplinary behavioral science graduate program encouraged me
to utilize many different lenses and techniques in my examination of the club drug
phenomenon. For this reason, I chose to use a set of sociological theories to
ground my research, even though they were out of my disciplinary range of
experience. The theories discussed in the next chapter offered the most relevant
means to understand club drug use at a local level, while also being able to situate
these findings on a broader scale. Thus, it is my hope that despite the personal
biases I have acknowledged here, this study will contribute to the understanding of
drug use among (my fellow) dub attendees and how the nature of the club scene
influences their behavior.
Structure of the Dissertation
This study draws on the strengths of mixed methods research and the
diverse perspectives of various disciplines to understand the phenomenon of drug

use among club attendees. Chapter 1 introduces the research questions and
explores previous research in the area of club drugs. This chapter concludes with
a discussion of potential biases introduced by the researchers experiences in the
scene. Chapter 2 examines the historical development of sociological theories
used to describe the patterns and prevalence of drug use. The results of this
study will be situated within the dialectic of two theories deviancy and
normalization that have dominated much of the recent research on drug use
among young adults and club attendees. The chapter ends with a discussion of
Zinbergs (1984) theory of drug, set and setting, which is used to frame the results
of this study in Chapters 4-7. Chapter 3 describes the design of the study as well
as the quantitative and qualitative methods. Chapter 4 looks at the party places"
that club attendees frequent in the Denver scene. Chapter 5 examines the types
of party people that make up the population of club attendees. Chapter 6 details
the patterns and prevalence of party drugs reportedly used by the study
population. Chapter 7 provides a summary of results and explores the dynamic
interaction of factors related to the places, people and drugs in the Denver club
scene. Finally, Chapter 8 concludes with a discussion of study contributions and
implications as well as future directions for research. For clarification purposes,
the appendices include a glossary of terms followed by the data collection forms,
consent forms, and profiles of interview participants.

Early research of drug use suggested that it occurred primarily in deviant
subcultures (Gourley, 2004). Consequently, subcultural theories of deviance
became the dominant theoretical framework within which drug use was examined
and understood. As research began to suggest that drug use was developing
beyond deviant subcultures, theories evolved to reflect these changes. This
chapter summarizes the predominant sociological theories regarding drug use that
will be used as the theoretical framework for this study. The final section of this
chapter details Zinbergs (1984) theory of drug, set and setting that will be used to
organize the results chapters of this dissertation.
Deviancy and Subculture
Since the 1950s, studies of deviant populations such as drug users have
been dominated by sociologists interested in the formation of youth or popular
culture, and more specifically, in the phenomenon of subcultures. During the early
twentieth century, subculture a term used to denote a group of people with
distinct behavior and beliefs that differentiate them from the larger culture -
became a key conceptual framework for the famous urban sociology of the
Chicago School.
Challenging the then dominant psychological interpretations of
deviance which suggested the existence of a criminal personality,"
the Chicago School theorists argued that deviance, when studied in
its socio-cultural context, could be shown to be a normal response
determined by cultural norms, and not a symptom of psychological
deficiency (Bennett & Kahn-Harris, 2004: 3).
In his pioneering work on marijuana users, Howard Becker (1963) set forth
some of the first conceptions of subcultural drug use as deviant behavior.

Beckers work reflected the prevailing theoretical ideas of the Chicago School at
the time, with its attention to symbolic interactions involving race, status, and
power, particularly in urban settings. Key to Beckers view of deviance was the
idea that the deviant is one to whom that label has successfully been applied;
deviant behavior is behavior that people so label" (Becker, 1963: 9). Thus,
deviance or the infraction of some agreed-upon rule is created by the
dominant society that labels a given act committed by an outsider as deviant.
Becker proposed a labeling theory to discriminate different kinds of deviance that
combined the commission or noncommission of a given act and the definition of
that act as deviant or not. The result was four types of deviants: the pure deviant,
the secret deviant, the falsely accused, and the conformer. While Beckers
labeling theory has received criticisms for being causal and deterministic (see
Pfohl, 1994), it nonetheless offered a means to conceptualize the creation of
subcultural social groups around deviant behavior such as drug use.
The next generation of subcultural theory was put forward by the
Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS). The CCCS
reworked the Chicago School model of subcultural deviance a means to
interpret the stylistic responses of working-class youth in post-war Britain which, it
was argued, represented a series of collective reactions to structural changes
taking place in British post-war society (Bennett & Kahn-Harris, 2004: 5). Relating
Gramscis model of hegemony to post-war British youth (see Gramsci, 1971), the
CCCS asserted that the process of creating subcultural solutions to material
problems involved simultaneously the winning of space, cultural space in the
neighborhood and institutions, real time for leisure and recreation, actual room on
the street comer (Hall & Jefferson, 1976: 45). Specific examples of subcultural
strategies of resistance were examined in a series of case studies, including
Clarkes (1976) and Cohens (1972) work on skinhead culture, Jeffersons (1976)
examination of teddy boys, and Hebdiges (1979) book on the meaning of style
within the punk scene.

Problems identified with subcultural theory (e.g., lack of consideration of
females and local variations in musical and stylistic responses), combined with the
apparently increasing fragmentation of youth style since the 1980s, gave rise to an
emerging analytical approach to the study of deviant cultures that can loosely be
termed post-subcultural theory. Introduced by Redhead (1990) and developed
by Muggleton (1997, 2000), this approach argued that the structurally grounded
concept of subculture was becoming increasingly redundant in relation to
contemporary youth culture because the relationship between style, musical taste
and identity had become progressively weaker and articulated more fluidly
(Bennett & Kahn-Harris, 2004: 11). In his study of the early British rave scene,
Redhead noted that the rave was ...notorious for mixing all kinds of styles on the
same dance floor and attracting a range of previously opposed subcultures (1993:
3). Some researchers utilized the concept of neo-tribalism to explain the
contemporary cultures of youth that, in direct contrast to the class-based youth
cultures of the past, were more fleeting, transitional and organized around
individual and lifestyle consumption choices (Bennett, 1999, 2000). Bennett and
Kahn-Harris reasoned that the combined effects of post-industrialization and the
increasing amounts of unstructured free time available to young people gave rise
to a new clubbing culture which dissolved structural divisions such as class, race
and gender as the dance floor crowd became collectively immersed in the club
Important to the perspective of post-subcultural theory and the club culture
was the work of Sarah Thornton (1996), who is best known for her adaptation of
Pierre Bourdieus cultural capital" concept (see Bourdieu, 1984) as a means of
theorizing the cultural knowledge and commodities acquired by members of the
rave scene that raises their status and helps differentiate them from mainstream
society. Thornton defined club culture as ...the colloquial expression given to
youth cultures for whom dance clubs and their 80s offshoot, raves, are the
symbolic axis and working social hub (1996: 3). Furthermore, club cultures were
taste cultures, meaning:

Crowds congregate on the basis of their shared taste in music, their
consumption of common media and, most importantly, their
preference for people with similar tastes to themselves. Taking part
in club cultures builds, in turn, further affinities, socializing
participants into a knowledge of (and frequently a belief in) the likes
and dislikes, meanings and values of the culture (Thornton, 1996:
Included in the ethos of club culture was the prevalence of stimulant drugs
such as ecstasy and amphetamines. In Thorntons work, however, club drug use
was not seen as a deviant act, rather as another form of consumption and a
means of asserting ones subcultural capital. Thornton coined this term in
relation to Bourdieus system, relating it as a subcategory of capital that operates
in a particular domain. In this case, being hip, or possessing the second nature"
of clubber knowledge regarding clothes, music, dance styles and drugs, is a form
of subcultural capital that allows young people to negotiate and accumulate status
within their own social worlds. Of particular concern to this study, the notion of
club culture and subcultural capital is important because it illuminates the
possibility that certain risky behaviors may be deemed positive within the club
scene, although they are labeled dangerous or illegal to others. Since Thorntons
examination of club culture, some have argued that a blending of the hip and
mainstream has occurred, justifying the need for a new way to interpret youth
The Normalization of Drug Use
[It] is about stigmatized or deviant individuals or groups (and to
some degree their social behavior) becoming included in as many
features of conventional everyday normal life as possible (Nirje,
1980 cited in Parker et al., 2002: 942).
During the 1990s and early 2000, it was noted that industrialized nations
like the UK and US ...have seen the emergence of something quite
unprecedented widespread drug use among very large numbers of ordinary,
conventional young people (Parker et al., 1998: 1). Recognizing that this trend

differed from the previous studies of drug using populations like the speeding
mods in the sixties or the tripping hippies during the seventies that involved
atypical minority groups and essentially subcultural drug scenes, another school of
UK sociologists have recently interpreted youth drug use from a different
perspective. Based on a five-year longitudinal study of a cohort of young people
aged 14-25 years living in the north of England, Parker and his colleagues tracked
the attitudes and behavior of approximately 2500 young people as they began
encountering and experimenting with a range of both legal and illegal substances
(Aldridge et al., 1999; Parker et al., 1995). It was on the basis of the widespread
experimentation of drugs, as well as the significant change towards more liberal
attitudes regarding drug use, that Parker suggested a "normalization of drug use
among young adults.
Parker and his colleagues viewed normalization as a ...multidimensional
tool, a barometer of changes in social behavior and cultural perspectives (Parker
et al., 2002: 943). Through a decade of defining the concept, Parker developed
five key components of the normalization theory: availability/access, drug trying,
usage rates, accommodating attitudes to sensible recreational drug use
(especially by non-users), and degree of cultural accommodation of illegal drug
use. Results of the North West England Longitudinal Study appeared to
substantiate each aspect of the normalization theory. Over 90% of the sample had
been in drug offer situations, confirming the availability of illegal drugs.
Respondents reported high rates of accessibility for cannabis, dance drugs (i.e.,
ecstasy and amphetamines) and cocaine. Drug trying and usage rates indicated
extensive recent and lifetime use. For 22 year olds, 76% had used an illegal drug
at least once in their lifetime, 52% reported past year use, and 32% reported past
month use. As two-thirds of abstainers held tolerant or approving attitudes of
drug-takers, the accommodating attitudes component was considered verified.
Finally, the favorable nature of public opinion and government strategy regarding
youth drug use, as well as the customary coverage of drug use on TV and within
magazines, Parker claimed, provided evidence of the cultural accommodation of

recreational drug use. Ultimately, Parker asserted that these statistics were all
consistent with the move towards normalization.
In-depth interviews with a subsample of the study population led Parker to
the conclusion that most recreational drug use takes place as part of a consumer
lifestyle, not a deviant one (Parker et al., 1998: 21). Furthermore, Parkers
research revealed that while many young adults continue to use drugs in
problematic and irresponsible ways," contemporary contexts of youth culture have
also produced a very different type of drug user the well-adjusted and
successful goal-oriented, non-risk taking young persons, who see drug taking as
part of their repertoire of life (Parker, 1997: 25). Parker and his colleagues
claimed that recreational drug use among young people in the UK moved from the
margins of youth subcultures in to the mainstream of youth lifestyles and
identities. Parkers main conclusion was that a comprehensive cultural shift
occurred in the past decade, and this shift has rendered existing theories and
understandings of youth drug use in need of revision. When over half of a
generation has tried an illegal drug and a quarter is considered regular
recreational drug users, Parker contended we could no longer use pathologizing
Opponents of Parkers normalization theory have argued that it
exaggerates the extent of drug use by young people, simplifies the choices that
young people make, and pays inadequate attention to the meaning that drug use
has for them (Shiner & Newbum, 1997: 511). In addition, Shiner and Newburn
(1999) asserted that Parkers reliance on large-scale survey data from one region
of England to substantiate his normalization thesis might not be generalizable to
other populations. Shildrick, another critic, contended that normalization is a too
rigid concept, and as such it does not allow for particularities or idiosyncrasies of
youthful drug use to be revealed (2002:45). She went on to argue that:

A concept of differentiated normalization, which allows for the
ways in which different types of drugs and different types of drug
use may be normalized for different groups of young people, may
be a more appropriate tool for understanding contemporary youthful
drug use (2002:36).
Despite these criticisms, Parkers work has been well received by other
researchers and a number of his findings have been confirmed in other studies
(South, 1999; Taylor, 2000). Moreover, results from a large-scale survey of British
club attendees conducted by Measham, Aldridge and Parker (2001) appeared to
support the normalization theory within the club subculture at least in terms of
cannabis, ecstasy and amphetamine use which were the drugs that Parker
contended were already normalized (cannabis) or moving towards normalization
(ecstasy and amphetamines). A recent study conducted by Duff (2004, 2005) has
provided some evidence in support of Parkers normalization thesis in another
subcultural context, among club attendees in Melbourne, Australia. In his study,
Duff took the conceptualization of drug taking as a normal aspect of young
peoples lives back into the subcultural setting by proposing different drugs carry a
different meaning for young people, and in many instances whole youth
subcultures are emerging around the consumption of particular substances... A
good example is the youth culture that has emerged around dance music and the
culture of raving" (Duff, 2003: 442). Duff suggested that the subculture of
nightclubs and raves offered a unique opportunity to investigate the normalization
of youth drug use, particularly in regards to ecstasy use. However, Duffs study
was different from previous, deviance-focused investigations of youth drug-taking
populations because his findings revealed the mutually complacent knowledge,
attitudes and beliefs of both drug users and non-users regarding drug use in the
club scene.
In Duffs study, 380 surveys were completed across three inner-city
nightclubs in Melbourne. The survey instrument sought to operationalize Parkers
theory through questions pertaining to drug use prevalence and availability,
acceptability of drug use and users, as well as levels of awareness concerning the

risks and harms associated with club drug use. The sample reported high levels of
both recent and lifetime prevalence of illicit drug use (63% of respondents), and
polydrug use was common. Ecstasy had been tried by 40% of the sample, the
same proportion as had tried cannabis. Almost as many had tried speed, 30% had
used cocaine and almost 20% had used ketamine. Surprisingly, more of the
respondents were worried about their alcohol consumption than their use of club
drugs. In addition, more than three-quarters of the sample knew regular club drug
users, and drug users and non-users both considered club drugs to be at least
somewhat safe. Duff contended that Australia is ...starting to see drug use
spread from an underground subculture very much into the mainstream (Duff,
While Duff argued that his findings provided support for the notion of
normalization of drug use among young people, the contextual environments in his
study of club attendees in Australia, as well as Parkers study of youth in the UK,
varied significantly from one another, and may vary even more from the contexts
of drug use exhibited in the US. Moreover, in a subcultural study of recreational
ecstasy use, Gourley contended ...deviance needs to be understood as normal
behavior in specific social circumstances (2004: 70). Therefore, a debate still
exists as to whether widespread drug use within the club scene can be explained
according to subcultural theories of deviance or the theory of normalization applied
at a subcultural level. Regardless of this distinction, the spectrum of theories, from
deviance and subculture to neo-tribalism and normalization, all provide
perspectives that help us to better understand club drug use in contemporary
society. This study will attempt to situate results from mixed methods research of
drug use among Denver club attendees into the dialectic of deviance and
normalization theories.

Drug, Set and Setting
In order to understand the patterns of drug use exhibited among Denver
club attendees, three determinants the people, places and drugs will be
considered within a dynamic, interactive framework. These factors reflect the
notion of drug, set, and setting proposed by Zinberg (1984) in his studies of
controlled intoxicant use. Drug (the pharmacologic action of the substance itself),
set (the attitude of the person at the time of use, including his personality
structure), and setting (the influence of the physical and social setting within which
the use occurs)" are used to understand what compels someone to use a drug and
how that drug affects a user (Weil, 1972; Zinberg & Robertson, 1972; Zinberg,
Harding & Winkeller, 1981). The three determinants provide a logical framework
to discuss the results of this study (see Figure 2.1 below).
Figure 2.1. Framework of factors affecting drug use

These features can also be utilized to build insight into the debate between
drug use as a normalized versus deviant behavior. Along with the drug trying and
usage rates (discussed in Chapter 6), several of the other key features of Parkers
normalization theory, namely drug availability and attitudes towards sensible"
recreational drug use, are subsumed within the dimensions of drug and set that
will be examined in the discussion chapter (Chapter 7). The methods used to
obtain the appropriate quantitative and qualitative data to begin this exploration will
be discussed next.

Preliminary Research
Several forms of preliminary research were conducted before the specific
aims of this study were developed. Participant observation was used to refine the
scope of this study and delineate the population of interest. Survey validation
provided baseline prevalence rates for sample size estimation and determined the
appropriateness of the survey instrument for implementation in Denver. Each
method contributed to the conceptualization of the Denver Club Health Study
(DCHS), as this research was eventually termed, and is discussed in the temporal
order in which it occurred.
Participant Observation
Participant observation was conducted in a variety of nightclubs throughout
Denver between August 2003 and March 2005. Descriptions of activities,
behaviors, actions, conversations, interpersonal interactions, and the context
within which observations were made (Patton, 2002) were collected as field notes.
These detailed descriptions helped generate a preliminary sampling frame for the
study, revealed contextual factors of interest, and provided data regarding the
general patterns and behaviors of young adults that frequent clubs in Denver.
Informal conversations with club attendees and monitoring of promotional
clubbing websites suggested that Denver might be experiencing a return of one-
time underground electronic music events that resemble raves. Anecdotal
evidence suggested that illicit drug use was even more common than in the
mainstream club venues, which is a cause for particular concern for public health
practitioners who find it hard to monitor these clandestine events and provide

health support or interventions for those that attend. These observations were
considered further before finalizing the sampling frame of the study.
Discussions with club staff revealed information concerning contextual
factors that could be examined in greater depth in this study. For instance, one
bouncer described a situation where he was forced to resuscitate a girl who had
potentially overdosed on ecstasy. He explained that the club staff did not call the
paramedics because this could have alerted the authorities to drug use in their
venue. The bouncer identified this decision as a direct response to the Rave Act,
which caused the club owner to become highly cognizant of the potential legal
ramifications of allowing drugs within his premises. This example illustrates the
concept of a risk environment (Rhodes, 2002) in which individual risk behaviors
are shaped by ecological factors, including policy change, criminal law
enforcement, and structural conditions of the club scene itself. While it is just one
data point, such an incident shows the importance of context on the extent of drug
use as well as its consequences.
Of particular interest to this study were several instances when 1 was
offered drugs like ecstasy and cocaine within minutes of entering a venue. Such
blatant drug offers in some of the most popular Denver nightclubs indicated the
potential degree of drug availability and use within this context. These
occurrences contributed to the hypothesis that drug use in the Denver club scene
is much more extensive than in the youth population at-large and may take on a
normative nature.
Survey Validation
The survey used in this study (referred to as the DCHS throughout this
section) was based on a questionnaire developed by the Australian Drug
Foundation (Duff, 2004, 2005) to assess the normalization of drug use among
young adults. The original version of the survey was administered to nearly 400
club attendees in Melbourne, Australia; however, the instrument was not tested for

reliability or validity. Before using a modified version of the survey4 on a large-
scale, content and criterion validity as well as internal reliability of measures
regarding drug use in the club scene were determined.
First, content validity was assessed through an organized review of the
surveys items. Three experts a principal investigator in club drug research in
New York City, a survey methodologist in the substance abuse field, and a
psychologist who studies drug use among gay men were asked to rate each
question and the survey as a whole for appropriateness and relevance to the issue
of normalization of club drug use. Experts were provided with an evaluation table
in which they ranked each item on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being totally
inappropriate or irrelevant and 10 being totally appropriate and relevant.
Secondly, they were asked to list any areas that are pertinent to the normalization
of club drug use that may not be covered in the 40 items of the survey.
Next, the DCHS was administered with drug use measures from a well-
known survey, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH),5 on 28
conveniently sampled club attendees in March and April of 2005. Club attendees
(over age 18) were approached as they entered or exited two major nightclubs in
Denver and asked through interview format to answer the 40 items of the DCHS
as well as 26 pertinent questions from the NSDUH. The correlation coefficient
between the two tests was calculated to determine concurrent criterion validity.
Cronbachs alpha was also calculated to measure internal consistency reliability
among club drug use items of the DCHS.
4 The DCHS was translated for use in the US. For example, terms such as spirits
and fortnight were changed to alcohol and every other week.
5 The NSDUH is an annual survey that collects data by administering
questionnaires to a representative sample of the population, aged 12 and older,
through face-to-face interviews at their place of residence. Measures from the
NSDUH are similar to those used on the MTF survey of high school students.
Both surveys are considered to provide the best estimates of self-reported drug

Measurement Issues
Survey measures of delinquency and of drug use depend upon
respondents reporting what are, in many cases, illegal acts. Thus, a critical
question is whether such self-reports are likely to be valid. Like most studies
dealing with these areas, this study does not include direct, objective validation of
drug use measures; however, the considerable amount of existing inferential
evidence strongly suggests that self-report questions produce largely valid data
(Hser et al., 1992). A number of factors have provided reasonable confidence
about the validity of the responses to what are presumably among the most
sensitive questions in the study: a low non-response rate on the drug questions; a
large proportion admitting to some illicit drug use; a close match between these
data and the findings from other studies using other methods; and the findings
from this methodological study which used objective validation methods.
The analyses of criterion validity and internal consistency reliability
included 27 respondents who attend clubs in Denver. Due to evidence of false
reporting, data from one club attendee who claimed use of the fictitious drug
simeron were removed from analyses. Eighty-five percent of respondents
reported use of at least one illegal drug (i.e., marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine and LSD)
and only eleven percent reported going to clubs more than once a month.
In terms of the surveys that the DCHS were compared to, both the NSDUH
(Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, 1995a, 19955) and the MTF
study (Johnston et al., 1995) of high school students have demonstrated a high
amount of internal consistency. In the MTF survey, theoretically predicted
relationships among a number of deviant behaviors have been demonstrated;
estimates of friends drug use closely parallel cumulative estimates of overall drug
use (O'Malley et al., 1984). Analyses of NSDUH data showed consistent
relationships between self- reported friendship with users of specific drugs,
opportunity to use these drugs, and actual drug use (Harrell, 1985). Analyses of
the longitudinal follow-ups of the MTF data have also shown relationships among

variables to persist over time (O'Malley et al., 1984). Drug use in the years
following high school was highly consistent with and predictable from senior year
drug use. Analyses also showed that past-year marijuana and alcohol use were
more reliably measured than use in the past 30 days. Marijuana use was more
reliably measured than the use of other illicit drugs (O'Malley et al., 1984).
Furthermore, the more stigmatized the drug, the more prevalence rates were
suppressed. Marijuana use was reported more validly than cocaine use. This
finding has been replicated in several studies (Harrison, 1992,1995; Fendrich &
Xu, 1994; Mieczkowski etai., 1991).
Most studies on self-report of drug use have focused primarily on reliability
(e.g., test-retest or internal consistency), especially when external criteria were
absent. In general, most studies of the NSDUH and MTF showed a relatively high
level of reporting reliability regarding drug use (e.g., coefficients ranged between
0.80 and 0.95) (Hser et al., 1992).
Content Validity
Content experts rated the overall relevance and appropriateness of the
DCHS highly, with a mean score of 9. Ratings for individual items ranged from 1-
10, indicating that some questions may have been redundant or poorly worded,
and were therefore suspect items in the measurement of the normalization of club
drug use. Each expert had a few unique suggestions for items to be added or
deleted; yet the general consensus was that the survey was quite well done" and
nice looking overall. One expert emphasized the need for better questions
regarding attitudes and perceptions of club drug use and suggested pulling these
items from the NSDUH or MTF. Another expert recommended adding a question
about sexual orientation (because some drug use follows sexual behavior
patterns) and changing the perceived risks associated with club drugs question to
an open-ended question (rather than check all that apply).

Criterion Validity
Correlation was used to measure the association between equivalent drug
use variables from the DCHS and the NSDUH (the criterion). Measures for
alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine and LSD consumption were recoded
for comparable scales. Because some variables had non-normal distributions (i.e.,
skewness greater than 1 or less than -1), the Spearman Rho statistic the
nonparametric equivalent of the Pearson correlation coefficient was used. Drug
use measures of the DCHS were highly correlated with corresponding measures
of the NSDUH. Table 3.1 details rs scores, which ranged from .706 to .979. This
indicates that the six main drug use measures of the DCHS have good criterion
Table 3.1. Spearman Rho correlations of consumption measures by drug type
(N=27) ________________
DCHS NSDUH measure
measure Tobacco Alcohol Marijuana Ecstasy Cocaine LSD
Tobacco Alcohol Marijuana Ecstasy Cocaine LSD .706 .935 .725 .901 .854 .979
Internal Consistency Reliability
To assess whether the ten items that were summed to create the drug
consumption construct6 formed a reliable scale, Cronbachs alpha was computed.
Conditions necessary for this measure included that the items be related
systematically to one another in a linear manner and that errors (residual) for the
different measures were uncorrelated. The alpha for the ten items of the drug
6 Items regarding drug consumption (i.e., how often each of the drugs are taken)
formed the only summated scale within the 40-item survey. Most of the remaining
questions consisted of nominal or dichotomous variables or were considered
single-item measures not conceptually linked to other measures that formed
distinct constructs.

consumption scale was .86, which indicates that the items form a scale that has
good internal consistency reliability.
Based on the results of this validation study, drug use measures of the
DCHS appeared to exhibit sound validity and reliability. Evidence of criterion
validity could only be inferred for the six measures of drug consumption, including
alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine and LSD. Drug consumption
measures of the DCHS also showed evidence of good internal consistency;
therefore, it can be assumed that at least the prevalence of drug use considered
to be the most important measure of the survey can be judged both valid and
There were several limitations to this study that may threaten the internal
and external validity of its findings. Respondents to this study were not randomly
chosen, potentially affecting internal validity. The sample could be biased towards
respondents willing to discuss potentially sensitive information and thus, the
heaviest drug users may not be represented. Furthermore, findings can only be
generalized to a similar population of club attendees (i.e., limited external validity),
perhaps even only to club attendees in Denver.
At the time of survey validation, the theory of normalization was considered
a relatively new concept and had no valid criterion measure to test the entire
DCHS against. Initially, the theoretical drive of this study was to be deductive, in
which the normalization thesis would be tested in the Denver club scene.
However, it was decided that not enough information was known about the extent
of drug use among Denver club attendees to justify testing the theory in this
context, so the purpose of this study acquired a more exploratory nature. For this
reason, the questions regarding normalization in the DCHS were removed from
the final version. Drug consumption measures were maintained in the same
format that was tested for validity and reliability and expert suggestions regarding

demographics and measures of perceived risk were considered before the DCHS
was implemented in the field.
Study Design
To answer the research questions posed for this study, a three-phase,
mixed methods design was used. Qualitative and quantitative data collection and
analysis techniques were implemented in sequential phases (e.g., qual > QUAN
> QUAL) (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003). Qualitative interviews were used in
Phase I to inform sampling procedures and questionnaire development for the
quantitative phase of the study. Phase II constituted the implementation of a
street-intercept survey of club attendees using time-location sampling. The results
provided details of the prevalence of drug use among club attendees in Denver
and influenced the nature of questions asked in Phase 111. Finally, qualitative
interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of club attendees to better
understand the patterns of drug use among the study population and to provide
explanation of the results obtained from the street-intercept survey. Data was
integrated at the interpretation phase of the research process. Figure 3.1 details a
schematic of the study design.
Figure 3.1. Schematic of three-phase, mixed methods study design

Phase I: Formative Research
Preliminary Sampling Frame
A rave is defined as an all-night dance event where DJs and/or other
performers play electronic dance music and rave music (Wikipedia, 2005).
Preliminary fieldwork indicated that raves have not been held in Denver since
about 2001.7 Interviews with persons familiar with the rave scene revealed that
these events moved into established nightclubs following mainstream attention
and increased police activity several years ago. Aside from a few all-night, one-
time events that resemble the old raves, the electronic music scene exists entirely
within club venues in Denver. For this reason, when establishing a sampling
frame to conduct a survey of rave/dub attendees,8 the focus was placed upon
nightclubs that feature electronic music.
A preliminary sampling frame was established by referencing two well-
known sources for announcements of nighttime entertainment in Denver. The
Westword, a weekly newspaper, contains listings of venues featuring
DJ/Electronic music and Dance Clubs.9 First, these lists were cross-referenced
to determine venues and the nights in which they operate as dance clubs playing
electronic music. Using the two lists, a total of 13 clubs were identified. Nights of
the week in which electronic music is played at each club and hours of operation
were also noted. The second source, an Events Calendar on a popular website
focusing on the local electronic music scene (DU, 2005), was used to verify the
initial list of clubs. All of the clubs on the website were already identified from the
lists printed in The Westword.
7 In-depth interviews also suggest that the term rave is no longer used in the
scene. In fact, nearly every participant insisted on using the term party" instead of
rave because of the negative connotations associated with the latter.
8 Due to the fact that raves appear to be nonexistent in Denver, from here on out,
rave/club attendees will be referred to solely as club attendees.
9 Because one of the defining features of the old raves was dancing, lounges and
bars that play electronic music but do not have dance floors were not included in
the sampling frame.

Informal Interviews
To confirm the list of clubs in the preliminary sampling frame, informal
interviews were conducted in June 2005 with 14 club attendees within five
nightclubs in Denver. Club attendees were asked which clubs they typically
frequent as well as which nights they attend, what kinds of music is played, and
what types of people go to each club. Information obtained validated the initial list
of clubs and revealed what could be considered the most popular venues in
Interviews were also conducted with 8 key informants bouncers, cashiers
at the entrance to clubs, promoters, and deejays to obtain information on the
types of people that frequent their clubs, which nights they feature electronic
music, which nights they consider to be their most popular, and how many people
come on each night. Key informants helped provide estimates of numbers of
potential eligible respondents needed for time-location sampling.
Phase'll: Quantitative Data
Time-Location Sampling
To obtain a representative sample of club attendees for the street
intercept survey, time-location sampling methodology a probability, two-stage
cluster design was utilized. By using a flexible definition of a cluster, this
method is used to survey difficult-to-enumerate population subgroups. A cluster,
or more precisely a primary sampling unit (PSU), is any aggregation of elements of
interest (such as persons, households, or target group members, or in this case
club attendees) that can be unambiguously defined and used as a sampling unit
from which to select a sample of elements of interest (FHI, 2000). PSUs may be
defined as any identifiable site or location where target group members
congregate or may be found. In this study, PSUs were defined as the clubs that
feature electronic music at the times in which these clubs were open for business.
Therefore, one club may be associated with multiple PSUs at different times.

Because club attendees may visit different clubs at different times, and because
they may visit multiple clubs, time-location sampling was considered a particularly
appropriate method for studying this mobile group.
To determine the total number of possible PSUs, each club was listed
separately for each night of the week that it played electronic music. Because
there may be a difference in drug use between club attendees entering clubs
earlier as opposed to later in the night, these 19 different locations were then split
in half according to the hours of operation for each club. So, for example, a club
called Spice10 only featured electronic music on Friday nights from 10 pm to 2 am
(other nights featured salsa music). Therefore, Spice was listed for one night of
the week and then divided to represent two PSUs by splitting Friday night into 10
pm 12 am and 12 am 2 am time intervals for sampling. This process resulted
in a total of 38 PSUs, ordered according to geographic location in the city.
Statistically, the most efficient procedure is one in which PSUs are selected
using systematic sampling with probability-proportional-to-size (PPS) at the first
stage and a constant number of target group members chosen from each PSU at
the second stage (FHI, 2000). Such a design results in a self-weighted sample in
which each target group member has the same overall probability of selection.
However, it is important to note that when a population is mobile it is not possible
to have a fixed measure of size (MOS), and therefore it is not strictly possible to do
PPS sampling. Nonetheless, this procedure was used in an attempt to be
relatively efficient in terms of sampling precision, and the following steps were
1. A sampling frame was developed with estimated measures of size (MOS)
obtained through key informant interviews (of club staff who typically track
attendance for financial purposes) and participant observation. (See MOS
column in Table 3.2 below.)
10 Please note that the names of clubs have been changed to protect the
confidentiality of venue owners, staff and patrons.

2. The cumulative MOS (11700) was calculated and divided by the planned
number of PSUs (10) to determine the sampling interval (1170).
3. A random start number (742) was determined and placed to the closest
cumulative MOS number. (See Selection # column in Table 3.2 below.)
4. Subsequent PSUs were selected by adding the sampling interval to the
random start number until selection numbers matched up to the cumulative
measure of size for 10 PSUs.11 The chosen PSUs, upon further
examination, appeared to represent a varied set of clubs in terms of size
(small, medium and large), genre of electronic music played (drum and
bass, house and trance), hours of operation (after-hours and normal
business hours) and sexual orientation of clientele (straight and gay).
Stated more simply, the following equations were used to calculate the
numbers presented in Table 3.2.
M = cumulative measure of size = 11700
a = planned # of PSUs = 10
SI = sampling interval: M/a = 1170
R! = random start number = 742
PSUs selected = 1, 3, 5, 7, 11, 16, 25, 27, 30, 36
Cluster size = 18
11 in selecting sample PSUs, it is important that the decimal points in the sampling
interval be retained. The rule to be followed is when the decimal part of the
sample selection number is less than .5, the lower numbered PSU is chosen, and
when the decimal part of the sample selection number is .5 or greater, the higher
numbered PSU is chosen. Because my sampling interval did not have a decimal, I
chose whichever PSU was closest to the sample selection number (FHI, 2000).

Table 3.2. Selection of a systematic random sample of PSUs
PSU Club Day Time MOS Cum MOS Selection # Selected PSU
1 The Carnival Thurs 10-12 700 700 742 X
2 The Carnival Thurs 12-2 700 1400
3 The Carnival Fri 10-12 500 1900 1912 X
4 The Carnival Fri 12-2 500 2400
5 Twilight Fri 10-12 500 2900 3082 X
6 Twilight Fri 12-2 500 3400
7 Twilight Sat 10-12 700 4100 4252 X
8 Twilight Sat 12-2 700 4800
9 Club Red Fri 10-12 250 5050
10 Club Red Fri 12-2 250 5300
11 Glow Fri 2-4 250 5550 5442 X
12 Glow Sat 2-4 250 5800
13 Nexus Fri 10-12 50 5850
14 Nexus Fri 12-2 50 5900
15 Spice Fri 10-12 250 6150
16 Spice Fri 12-2 250 6400 6592 X
17 The Hangar Fri 10-12 150 6550
18 The Hangar Fri 12-2 150 6700
19 Orpheus Fri 10-12 150 6850
20 Orpheus Fri 12-2 150 7000
21 Orpheus Sat 10-12 150 7150
22 Orpheus Sat 12-2 150 7300
23 Twisted Thurs 10-12 100 7400
24 Twisted Thurs 12-2 100 7500
25 Transit Thurs 10-12 400 7900 7762 X
26 Transit Thurs 12-2 400 8300
27 Transit Sat 10-12 600 8900 8932 X
28 Transit Sat 12-2 600 9500
29 Transit Sun 8-10 250 9750
30 Transit Sun 10-12 250 10000 10102 X
31 Enigma Fri 10-12 250 10250
32 Enigma Fri 12-2 250 10500
33 Enigma Sat 10-12 250 10750
34 Enigma Sat 12-2 250 11000
35 The Hollow Sun 8-10 100 11100
36 The Hollow Sun 10-12 100 11200 11272 X
37 Decades Fri 10-12 250 11450
38 Decades Fri 12-2 250 11700

For the second stage of sampling, a constant number of club attendees
(approximately 18) were chosen from each location. An attempt was made to
select a representative sample of club attendees from each PSU throughout a
fixed, 1-hour, time interval. When arriving at a PSU, the research team would first
get an estimate of the flow of club attendees. For instance, some club entrances
were almost indiscernible because so few people attended them, whereas the
biggest club in the city often had hundreds of people waiting in line. Notes were
also made regarding the gender and racial/ethnic mix of potential participants.
Then, a research assistant or the principal investigator approached club attendees
entering each club at a random pace based on the expected MOS: Therefore, a
club with an expected MOS of 100 required about every 3rd person to be
approached throughout the 1-hour time interval while a club with an expected
MOS of 500 only required every 10th person to be solicited for participation.
Sample Size
Sample size parameters were determined according to: (1) the initial level
of measures of interest, particularly the prevalence of drug use; (2) a high level of
significance (1- a) to ensure that the estimate of population-level drug use is close
to the true value; and (3) an adequate level of power (P). Estimates of the initial
levels of drug use in the Denver club scene were measured during the validation
survey conducted in March 2005. The majority (85%) of a convenience sample of
28 club attendees reported lifetime use of at least one illegal drug. Furthermore,
74% of the sample reported club drug use and 64% reported ever using ecstasy,
the most common of the club drugs. These prevalence rates were entered into the
WHO Sample Size Calculator (Version 2, 1998) along with varying significance
and power levels. Table 3.3 details the calculated sample sizes for a range of

Table 3.3. Sample sizes for estimating a population proportion with specified
absolute precision__________________________________________________________
Prevalence from validation survey 1-a/p 95/.05 1-a/£ 95/. 10 1-a/p 90/. 10 1-a/p 80/. 10
Ecstasy 64% 350 88 62 38
Club 74% 289 73 51 31
Drugs Any Drug 85% 196 49 35 21
The desired confidence level was 95% with 90% power, which indicated
that a sample size of 88 was needed. The sample size was increased (to
approximately 176) to account for the cluster design effect.
The decision to sample 10 PSUs was actually determined after calculating
the desired sample size. Early on, it was uncertain as to the number of club
attendees that would agree to fill out a survey at some of the smaller clubs. After
observation at several venues, it appeared reasonable to assume that somewhere
between 16 and 20 club attendees could be surveyed in a 1-hour period, no matter
what the size of the club. With a projected sample size of about 180 and only 38
PSUs to select from, it seemed appropriate to sample approximately 18 club
attendees at 10 different PSUs. Survey sampling was carried out across more
than one week, and due to an excellent response rate 186 surveys were
Street-Intercept Survey
Club attendees were eligible to participate in the street-intercept survey if
they were over 18 years of age and did not appear too intoxicated to give informed
consent and complete the survey. As stated earlier, club attendees were
approached upon their entrance into a club. Club attendees were not approached
upon exit from the club because it was expected that a large number of potential
respondents might be too intoxicated to complete the survey after drinking or
12 Only 16 fully completed questionnaires were obtained at one club while several
others yielded more than 18.

ingesting drugs throughout the night. In addition, soliciting participation at both
entry to and exit from the club may have resulted in an increased number of
duplicate participants.
The introduction by someone on the research team included the purpose of
the study and verbal informed consent provisions. Respondents were assured
that their participation was voluntary, responses were anonymous, and that they
could receive bottled water as an incentive for participation. The DCHS survey
(see Appendix B), which took about 5 minutes to complete, was self-administered
in paper-and-pencil format on clipboards. Up to five clipboards were dispersed at
one time so that the research team could be available for questions and to ensure
that all 23 questions of the survey were answered sufficiently. One member of the
research team was typically responsible for soliciting participation and the other
tracked numbers for participation rates and to calculate selection probabilities for
weighting purposes. The total number of club attendees entering the club, gender
and race/ethnicity of club attendees, the number of club attendees who agreed to
participate, the number of non-respondents (i.e., those who disagreed to
participate or were too intoxicated to participate), as well as duplicates (i.e., those
who may be selected more than once) were recorded. When possible, the official
number of entrants was also obtained from the bouncer of the club.
Two noteworthy changes to time-location sampling procedures were made
during this phase of the study and created limitations to the data collected. Firstly,
one of the clubs originally selected as a PSU (Enigma) experienced a shooting the
week before it was supposed to be surveyed. This resulted in a near complete
loss of club attendees by the following week, and the club closed down a few
months later.13 Because this cluster was unavailable, it was replaced with
13 This is only one example of the unstable nature of the club scene. Since the
survey was conducted, two clubs have already shut down or changed names and
four new venues have opened for business in Denver.

convenience by another club (The Hollow) in close geographic proximity. Surveys
completed at this PSU were removed from analyses because they were collected
without respect to probability sampling methods.
A second compromise was made during the attempt to collect data at the
after-hours venue called Glow. This club opens up when other venues in the area
shut down for the night, which means that most of its attendees are likely under
the influence of some substance. Upon arrival for data collection at 1:45 am, I was
shocked at the level of intoxication I witnessed. There were young men throwing
up in the adjacent parking lot, groups of people dragging each other to the venue,
and one young man was literally passed out in the middle of the alleyway entrance
to the club. When I got to the line waiting to enter the club, I could not help but
think that the twitching faces and grinding teeth were indications that I had no right
to even ask these people to participate in my study. I felt like I would have violated
human subjects provisions because it was obvious no one was in a clear mental
state. However, I did not want to miss measuring drug use among this population
of club attendees. My observations suggested that these were the club attendees
with most experience in the scene and related drug use. Therefore, I returned the
following week to the two clubs (Twilight and The Carnival) that Glow attendees
typically come from and asked people entering these clubs if they had been to
Glow recently or were planning on going there that night. From this sub-sample,
everyone I asked was willing to complete the survey. In fact, this population was
probably the most responsive and excited about the contents of the questionnaire.
It took me a little more than an hour, but I was able to obtain the requisite number
of club attendees for this PSU while respondents were more sober. However,
because there is no way to calculate the selection probability for these
respondents, data from this PSU were removed from analyses in order to maintain
a probability sample.

Quantitative Data Analysis
After removing data from the two clusters discussed above, 160 surveys
were included in quantitative data analysis.14 Data were entered in SPSS version
13.0 (SPSS Inc., 2004) and Excel spreadsheet files and analyzed in SPSS.
Sampling weights were applied to the survey data to correct for unequal
probabilities of selection. Sampling probabilities (Pi) for each sample cluster were
calculated according to the following equation:
Pi= (n/N)*(nj/Ni)
Pj = probability that a club attendee from cluster i was chosen for the survey
n = expected cluster size
N = total cluster size
Oj = number selected
Nj = observed cluster size
Sampling weights were then calculated according to the inverse of the sampling
probability for each cluster (Weight = 1/P(). Table 3.4 details the sampling weights
assigned to club attendees within each cluster.
Table 3.4, Calculation of selection probabilities and sampling weights
Cluster n N, ni Pi = (n/N)*(nj/Ni) Weight (1/ P
1 700 360 20 0.00997151 100.2857143
2 500 308 19 0.0079Q8758 126.4421053
3 500 300 21 0.008974359 111.4285714
4 700 350 22 0.011282051 88.63636364
5 250 400 16 0.002564103 390
6 400 400 20 0.005128205 195
7 600 200 22 0.016923077 59.09090909
8 Total (N) 250 3900 300 20 0.004273504 234
The DCHS survey collected data regarding demographics (age, gender,
race/ethnicity, employment status, highest level of education, relationship status,
and sexual orientation), frequency of club attendance, lifetime drug use, frequency
14 Data values varied only slightly (in many cases less than 1%) between the full
(N=186) and partial (N=160) sample of surveys.

of drug use (including alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, ecstasy, etc), age of first use,
perceptions of risk, perceived availability, knowledge of common drugs in the
scene, and drug offers.
Due to the exploratory nature of the study aims, descriptive statistics were
calculated to get a better understanding of baseline group-level (prevalence) and
individual-level (perceptions of risk and availability) measures. Frequency tables
were produced and reported as percentages for categorical variables. Means and
standard deviations (SD) were calculated for continuous variables. Cross-
tabulations of drug consumption measures and demographic variables were also
Phase III: Qualitative Data
In-Depth Interviews
Before beginning the qualitative component of the study, basic descriptive
statistics of the survey data were used to better inform the development of a
question guide for in-depth interviews. Demographics of the survey sample were
as expected (see Chapter 5), however the prevalence of ecstasy and other club
drug use was substantially lower than anticipated (i.e., lower than rates reported in
the validation survey as well as other surveys of club attendees conducted in
Washington, DC and New York City). Because of this, it was decided to use the
interviews as a tool to make sense of the frequency and types of drug use reported
in the street-intercept survey. Thus, the question guide focused on gamering
information about drugs associated with the club scene versus those used outside
of nightclubs. In other words, what exactly are the club drugs" in Denver?
The semi-structured interview guide was developed (see Appendix C) and
pilot tested on two club attendees. Questions revolved around the last night at a
club, a typical night at a club, perceptions about the Denver club scene, and
personal drug history. In addition, freelist and pilesort techniques were used to
elicit information regarding drug preferences, drug knowledge, and perceptions of

risk. In the freelisting exercise, interview participants were asked to list all of the
drugs they know of and then to indicate which drugs they had used. This was
used to obtain any additional information regarding drug history that may not have
been recalled throughout the interview. In the pilesorting exercise, interview
participants were given notecards with names of the 13 most used drugs from the
survey results. If requested, additional drugs were included, namely nitrous oxide
(laughing gas, also known as whippets) and Viagra. Interview participants were
asked to sort the drugs according to how similar they are. Their groupings were
used to develop an indigenous model of drug categories discussed further in
Chapter 6.
Originally, I had intended on purposively recruiting respondents through the
quantitative phase of the study so that I could obtain a criterion sample within the
time-location sampling methodology. However, this approach was impossible
because I needed to focus all of my attention on obtaining complete surveys or
monitoring participation rates. I attempted to return to the clubs in November 2005
for direct recruitment, however I received no response from club attendees I tried
to enlist in the study. I therefore settled on posting flyers and announcements of
the study in non-threatening locations that club attendees frequent, including
record/music shops, cafes, and college/university student unions. The flyers
stated: Have you been to a nightclub or rave in the past 3 months? You could be
eligible for a confidential research study. You will be reimbursed for your time.
Contact Aimee at the Denver Club Health Study. [Phone number and email
address provided.] The flyer was also posted on the Denver Underground
website. This approach received an immediate response.
Club attendees responded via phone and email. Respondents were
provided with information regarding the nature of the study and confidentiality
issues. Respondents were identified by first name or pseudonym only, and all
identifying information used to set up interviews was kept separate from data
collected through the interview process. Respondents were eligible for an
interview if they were 18 years or older and had been to a nightclub or rave (i.e',

party) at least three times in the past three months. Information was also
obtained regarding gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and drug use status
(i.e., non-user, former, current). This data was used to ensure that interview
participants were representative of the survey population. In general, the 20 club
attendees that volunteered and completed interviews resembled survey
respondents on all demographics except sexual orientation (see Table 5.1). Even
though saturation in study findings was reached (Patton, 2002), additional
interviews (partial) were conducted with two homosexual men to validate
information obtained from interview participants about the gay community.
Most interviews were conducted in an office at the university; two were
conducted in a private room at a record store, and one at a residence throughout
December 2005. Interviews lasted approximately 60- to 90- minutes. Notes were
recorded and interviews were taped with permission. Respondents were
encouraged to go beyond the subject area of the research instrument when
appropriate. The strength of using semi-structured interviews lies in the fact that
the same set of questions were asked of all respondents, but open-ended answers
were allowed for unique trends to emerge (Brett et al., 2002). Study participants
were given $20 upon completion of the interview.
Qualitative Data Analysis
Transcribed interviews were transferred to the Atlas.ti qualitative data
analysis program for coding (Muhr, 2000). Theoretical and methodological notes
or memos on the text were used to create preliminary categories of information
and capture salient dimensions that framed the qualitative analysis (Glaser, 1978).
Codes were derived from two sources: those identified from the literature
concerning drug use statistics and theory, and de novo, context-specific codes that
emerged inductively from interviews. These codes and their associated text were
aggregated into code families" based on internal similarities that were then
labeled to describe their content (Brett et al., 2002). These labels were used to

illustrate and inform the patterns and prevalence of drug use estimated by the
DCHS survey among club attendees in Denver.
Combining Quantitative and Qualitative Data
The mixed methods design of this study was used for several purposes.
The formative, qualitative phase was used to develop the sampling frame for the
street-intercept survey. Results of the survey were used to develop a question
guide for in-depth interviews. Field notes were collected throughout the duration of
the study. For example, notes regarding comments made outside the street-
intercept survey, interest in the study, exchanges between participants and other
club attendees, and observations while recruiting participants were recorded and
used to inform and triangulate findings from both the quantitative and qualitative
phases of the study.
Analysis proceeded with the intent to seek triangulation and
complementarity of results. Quantitative data provided baseline measures of drug
use in the Denver club scene that could be replicated and may be generalizable to
other populations. Qualitative data helped describe measures of drug use that
were unique to this study population and/or similar to other studies, as well as
identify contextual and setting factors that relate to drug use in the club scene.
Finally, results were incorporated into the theoretical debate regarding drug use in
the club scene as a deviant or normalized behavior. Due to the inductive nature of
this study, findings were used to either support or challenge each of these
Human Subjects
The protocol for this study was approved by the University of Colorado
Human Subjects Research Committee (Protocol #2005-098). Verbal consent was
obtained from all survey participants and written consent from interview
participants. All consent forms are included in Appendix D.

In Denver, electronic music events take place in three types of settings -
raves, clubs, and parties. To an outsider there is probably very little difference
between them, but to the club attendee these settings represent very unique social
spaces. This chapter examines the subcultural party places frequented by club
attendees in Denver. They are discussed in chronological order of existence,
beginning with raves that were prevalent in the late 1990s, then moving to clubs
that gained popularity around 2001, and ending with parties that began to appear
on the scene in the past few years.
The rave scene began in the UK and the US in the 1980s with acid house
parties and transitioned into large-scale warehouse parties in the 1990s (Collin,
1997; Saunders, 1995). The subculture centered on people who gathered to
engage in trance-like dancing to electronic music (i.e., house, techno and jungle),
experience light shows and other special effects, and take drugs (Golub et al.,
2001). Rave events were famous for their semi-spontaneous and underground
nature. As one interview participant recalls:
The scene was underground. Wherever they could find a place a
bowling alley, the old Pepsi warehouse. It was cool because it was
mystical you know like that movie Groove where they would pull
in the sound system at the last minute. (Kevin)
It was common for a rave to be advertised covertly through flyers that had
a phone number to call to obtain a map point for the party. Raves happened just
about everywhere in Denver.
I was going to warehouse parties mostly because I was under-age.
There were parties outdoors, in the mountains... house parties,

peoples basements, and all kinds of weird places. A paint-ball
place, an old bowling alley, all over the place wherever. I
remember the old Sweat Box, under the Colfax bridge. It used to
be an old recycling center, but they just tore it down. We used to
have a lot of parties in there. We did a lot of parties in LoDo like
where all the bars are now but it used to be so run down. There
used to be the Future warehouse Future Productions had parties
there. That was down by the silos. Some of the warehouses would
be used over and over. (Carrie)
The hallmark of the raves was the sense of community that focused around
music, dancing, and having a good time. Several of the interview participants said
this was the main reason why they started going to raves.
I like the community thing about raves. And thats why I stopped
going because it got rather commercialized. I liked the sense of
energy it was high energy music, everyone was together, they
would rock out and have a good time, everybody was taking care of
each other. And what I liked about the raves was people were
there for the music. Okay, the drugs are there and add flavor.
It used to be PLUR you know peace, love, unity, respect and
thats why I started going, because everybody loved each other
there. It felt really good. But then they started shutting them down
and it got really mainstream -1 mean like cheerleaders and football
players would go and fights would break out. (Jennifer)
One of the key aspects of the raves was that they were places where just
about anyone could go to escape from the stifling doldrums of conventional
society (Golub et al., 2001). As the above quote suggests, not everyone was
appreciated at raves. Interview participants spoke a lot about the annoying people
that started showing up in the scene as raves received more media attention.
However, raves appeared to offer a space that cut across social structures such as
gender, class and sexual orientation (Dorn et al., 1991). The rave scene became
almost synonymous with the gay scene in the 1990s because it was an accepting
community for people to express their sexuality (Thornton, 1996). One interview
participant commented on the range of people she was acquainted with through

Theyre outcasts that go to raves for companionship, drugs,
survival. My ex-boyfriend used to go to raves just to find people to
stay with. There are a lot of homeless kids in the scene and they
survive because of it. The raves take in a lot of people. Its easy to
find a group of people thats always partying, that you can stay with,
you can get food through -1 met a lot of homeless kids. (Came)
Another important feature of the raves was its other worldly culture.
Whole books have been written on the rave scene (see Collin, 1997 and Thornton,
1996) but it has been minimally described as a culture of loud music, flashing
lights, wild flowing colors, and frenzied all-night dancing (Nencini, 2002).
The raves were good in a different way. The production behind--------------
them the lasers, the massive screens initially got me going to
the scene. You know, the stuff was crazy and its what I wanted to
do. (Andrew)
The people who frequented raves were also known for their over-the-top
expression. They will be discussed more in the next chapter. Eventually this
unique underworld caught the attention of media and law enforcement. Then
Channel 4 did a story on raves where they portrayed sex and drugs as rampant In
the scene. (Jeff) This is the point somewhere between 1999 and 2001 in
Denver which the scene began to change. The following details two different
interview participants accounts of the demise of the raves in Denver.
Id say the rave scene started falling apart in 2000. It was from our
own doing and from the authorities. I think the corporate world
started grabbing onto the rave brand, and more of these massive
parties were trying to be produced on a regular basis, and they
started failing because they were being marketed to the utmost
extreme where you would get 4,000 people in a big party and all of
a sudden it would lose that vibe and all those elements from the
beginning. You know when I started going to raves, there would be
people in individual costumes. All of a sudden it became these
cookie cutter rave kids these little candy kids where all of a
sudden they were all the same because its a fad now. Before, all
of us had different ways to look; we all had our different expression.
Then it turned into corporate events, cookie cutter kids. Because
they were big events, more drug dealers from bad areas started
coming in they knew they could make a lot of money. It started
going down hill. It was the cause of greedy promoters. (Trevor)

But then it became about money. The promoters started
advertising to college kids and they didnt care about who was
coming. Before it was exclusive and now they were posting these
huge flyers, it was on the radio and internet. I dont know if those
kids brought the E or if the E just came into the scene and everyone
just adopted it right away, but the people throwing the parties were
definitely controlling the drug flow. Anyone that was selling drugs
that wasnt with the production company was getting jacked or
kicked out. So there was this monopoly and ecstasy was definitely
selling. Kids started dying and then you had these parties getting
too big, too out of control, and you couldnt keep them secret
anymore. Then the cops started breaking them up. The scene got
ran out of Denver and Boulder. There were no venues that we
could throw a party after 2 am. I think it happened at the Temple -
the cops would come in at 2 am, turn on all the lights and make
everyone line up along the wall. They would check your ID for
curfew. Then the cops started being militant and I have a lot of
respect for Denver Police because they do a good job and this city
is safe because of them but they would come in in riot gear and
flush everyone out. That was in 1999. The scene was still cool
enough that you could still take a party to another place and move it
to finish up the night. I remember the breaking point there was a
party in a tent in Boulder and the cops came on the basis of a noise
violation. They wanted us to keep the decibel level at 40 so you
couldnt even hear the music. That was the point of no return.
Then we couldnt find places so the scene moved to Colorado
Springs, which accepted it for a while until the city council ran us
out. I remember dancing in a farmers field in Erie. We had 15
pounds of mud on each foot. Even the kids who were really down
in the scene had sold out and werent bringing in good deejays, so
the scene died off. The way I see it, the scene will come back but it
will be slightly more legit you will have to have the cooperation of
the police, and fire department, and city officials and you need to
treat your people better. I remember being at a party where you
couldnt find water. (Kevin)
In her study of British club cultures, Thornton noted that the
commercialization of the rave scene contributed to its eventual demise. Thornton
asserted that, subcultural capital maintains its currency (or cultural worth) as long
as it flows through channels of communication which are subject to varying
degrees of restriction (1996: 161). So as images of the rave scene entered into
mainstream forms of media, the underground nature of the culture was

compromised. In turn, the assumed shared values of the original members of the
club culture were lost upon new members who did not exhibit the same
subcultural capital and hipness. The same process appears to have occurred
in the Denver rave scene.
One of the main reasons media became interested in the rave scene was
because of the ecstasy-related death of a 16-year-old girl in Boulder, Colorado on
February 2, 2001 (Regensberg, 2001). According to interview participants, drugs
were not a big problem at raves until after the media made a big deal about it and
then the police responded with punitive action.
The [original ravers] had the drugs already they were the ones
that brought the drugs they didnt go to the party to get the drugs,
they had the drugs and were going to do them anyway. The party
provided them a safe atmosphere to do the drugs in and it gave
them enough time to party all night long and to come down. Most of
the time when we got to 6 or 7 am, we were coming down; we were
ready to go home. Today its like they want to kick you out on the
street when youre all fucked up, when youre at your peak. I
remember at Laserium there was a party that got broken up by the
police and they booted about 4,000 peaking ravers out onto the
streets of Denver. They funneled them right out. I couldnt believe
how fucked up we all were and they let us drive away. (Jeff)
The rave scene was dealt another blow when Senator Joe Biden
Introduced a piece of legislation called the Rave Act in June 2002. The bill
(S.2633) was an attempt by legislators to reduce the illegal use of MDMA (ecstasy)
and other drugs by expanding Section 416(a) of the Controlled Substances Act,
also known as the crack house statute. It targeted promoters, venue managers,
and land or club owners who knowingly and intentionally allow drug use on their
premises by adding a civil liability clause of $250,000+ to the existing criminal
penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment and possible $500,000 fine. The bill
implied that bottled water, glow sticks and chill rooms were drug paraphernalia and
considered evidence of rampant drug use in the rave scene, leaving venue owners
and promoters wary of subjective interpretation of the law. Even though civil
libertarian groups claimed the Rave Act threatened First Amendment rights, the bill

was re-introduced and passed into law on April 30, 2003. According to interview
participants, raves were already on the decline due to local drug enforcement
efforts, but the Rave Act helped secure their end. Following enactment of the law,
the only venues that could afford to risk holding events that even resembled a rave
were the established nightclubs. Interview participants recall a distinct break in the
scene and reluctantly followed electronic music into the only setting that continued
to play it in Denver.
There was about a two year lull in the scene where events rarely
happened and then when they started happening again they were
18-plus with bars. There never used to be alcohol associated with
the raves. Also during that lull, the club scene got really big they
started pulling in headlining talent at clubs instead of at one-off
events. (Andrew)
Interview participants were noticeably unimpressed with the clubs in
Denver. They talked about going to many of the clubs as if they had no other
choice which is partially true because only a handful of clubs have brought in the
world-renowned deejays that raves used to attract.
Clubs now are really glorified. They have good deejays and sound
systems, they throw great nights, and its steady. But its not like a
rave. (Paul)
The nightclubs that I pick will be for the music. I enjoy the
opportunity to dance if I want to. The clubs that are more S&M -
Stand and Model arent for me. (Travis)
[Tracks 2000] was the last of the clubs for the real music. The only
thing thats kind of comparable now a days is Twilight, and its not
even that close. The only thing is they bring the same big deejays
but they dont bring the right crowd. (Evan)
During interviews, it became apparent that club attendees could not talk
about the current club scene without framing it in the spectrum of how great it used
to be. Clubs were around during the hey-day of the raves, but it appears that
interview participants regard the "old clubs much like they do the old raves.

Im not that impressed with the club scene here anymore. There
was a day when the scene was pretty hopping probably from
about 1994 to 2000. Tracks 2000 was a big place. Club Proteus
was around. There used to be a really cool club above Diamond
Cabaret it had 3 different dance floors and they would do a fetish
show that was a regular thing. I used to hit the after-hours clubs
quite a bit. Like Amsterdam... I used to be blacked out there a lot.
It was the place to be for a long time... especially if you were gay
and in the club scene. Synergy happened earlier than Amsterdam
but it never took off. I used to hang out at The Hollow a lot too,
especially in the summer. Sundays were the big day. (Travis)
I can personally attest to the difference in the clubs between 2000 and
2006. While visiting for Christmas break in 1999,1 visited Tracks 2000 with a
friend and was stunned by the dramatic costumes and blatant show of drug use.
One club attendee wore a gas mask filled with menthol because it was supposed
to enhance physical sensations from ecstasy. What was also noticeable that night
was the sense of community at the club. Nearly everyone was engaged in the
music, dancing or chatting with friends. Jump forward to 2006 where a typical
night of participant observation leaves me completely aggravated with the opposite
sex and disgusted by the drunkards that now frequent clubs. Alcohol is probably
the greatest contributor to the cultural change in the club scene. Drinking was rare
in the rave scene because most attendees were using drugs. Yet alcohol is
endemic in the clubs and in turn it creates a different vibe. Interview participants
perceive this difference as a change in focus from the music to sex. The following
quote best illustrates why club attendees regard clubs so poorly compared to the
raves and even the old clubs. When asked what he disliked about clubs, one
interview participant responded:
Oh god, where do I start? The bouncers are really out of control
lately. They break up the break [dance] circles we get into because
theyre afraid someones going to get kicked or hurt. The Carnival
is notorious for doing that. The whole dress code thing -1
understand there are gangs and everything but the fact that I cant
where a baseball cap is kinda weird. Sometimes the lights are in
your eyes no matter where youre at the Carnival has gotten
better about that. All the drunk fools, all the fights -1 hate the

fights. Ive never been to a rave where theres been a fight. And
almost every night at the clubs somebody is starting shit. Then I
hate how my female friends get harassed. They get grinded and
they try to tell the guy but sometimes they have to be belligerent to
get the idea. Most of the time its just a bunch of people trying to
impregnate themselves on the dance floor. It's a different vibe too,
because alcohol changes the energy. Its a different crowd too.
Theres a collection of minds at a party sometimes everybody is
feeling the same thing and Ive rarely seen that at a club. (Kev|n)
Despite the general distaste for many aspects of the clubs in Denver,
interview participants still frequent them regularly. Some of the clubs that they
mentioned attending include the Carnival, Twilight, Club Red, Spice, The Hangar,
Transit, Glow and Decades. All of these clubs feature electronic music and were
included in the survey sampling frame. Some interview participants also
mentioned going to clubs that feature hip hop or goth music, but these clubs were
attended less frequently.
The club scene in Denver, as in any city, has a constant flux of nightclubs
that come and go. Some clubs like the Carnival have been mainstays in the
Denver scene; but many venues shut down for a period of time only to reopen
under a new name with the same management. This was the case with Tracks,
which went by a different name right before the survey was conducted, and is run
by the same people that managed Tracks 2000 in the late 90s. Similarly, Club
Red changed its name just after the survey was completed, and the ownership
created a second entrance to its basement level, which features different types of
electronic music. The following offers a basic description of each of the clubs
included in this study's sampling frame.
Surveyed Clubs
Spice. Spice is typically known for its salsa nights, but one night a week it
caters to an older, white crowd that loves to dance to indie pop and retro electronic
music. Motor scooters tend to envelope the front door and attendees sport a

range of looks from Mohawks to piercings. The club is only one floor and holds
approximately 500 people.
The Carnival. The Carnival is one of the mainstay electronic clubs in
Denver. Having two floors and three stages, the venue holds over 1200 people
and typically maintains a line outside. The Carnival is a promotional giant,
regularly changing the names and musical focus of the nights the club is open.
This venue brings many of the renowned electronic music deejays and attracts a
younger, ethnically mixed crowd because of its 18-and-older door policy.
Twilight. Twilight is currently the largest club featuring electronic music in
Denver. Owned by the same proprietor as The Carnival, Twilight appeals to a
slightly older crowd because attendees must be at least 21 years old. Depending
on the night of the week, Twilight can be busting at the seams, opening four lines
to allow hundreds of club attendees to filter off of the streets and into the four-story
venue, or it can attract a small crowd, content with filling only one or two floors of
the building. The size, gender, and ethnic mix of the attending population often
depends on the popularity of the visiting deejay.
Glow. Glow is known as an after-hours venue, only opening between 2
and 5 am on Friday and Saturday nights. The crowd tends to filter from The
Carnival and Twilight, a block away on either side, after closing time. The club
only serves non-alcoholic drinks such as water, orange juice, and Red Bull, and
therefore caters to a drug-taking crowd. Glow is located underground off an alley
entrance and can hold about 300 people.
Transit. Transit is one of the largest gay clubs in Denver. Located in a
large building in the warehouse district, Transit can hold over a 1000 people but
seems to rarely fill the club to capacity. The venue attracts a slightly different
crowd each night, ranging from predominantly white, homosexual men to African
American, bisexual women.
The Hollow. The Hollow is located west of Lower Downtown in an area set
away from other club venues. Known for its Sunday night parties in the
summertime, the club attracts a predominantly older, gay crowd. The building is

much smaller than other clubs featuring electronic music, holding only several
hundred people.
Non-Surveyed Clubs
Club Red. During survey implementation, Club Red featured electronic
music one night a week and catered to a gay crowd. Recently, the club changed
names and seems to draw a mixed crowd, often filling up with more African
Americans. The club also created a separate entrance to its basement level,
charges a separate cover charge and uses a different promotion company to
advertise their mostly electronic lineup. The club has three levels and can hold
approximately 800 people.
Nexus. Nexus would probably pass as only a bar except for the fact that
the owners are strong proponents of electronic music and draw a steady
contingent of club attendees who like to dance. The venue is small and interview
participants claim it probably draws its largest crowds on the Sunday mornings
when they open early to take in the weekend warriors leaving other after-hours
The Hangar. The Hangar is a long-standing and popular venue for the gay
community. It features an eclectic mix of music and daily drink specials that cater
to a drinking crowd.
Orpheus. A new addition to the gay scene in Denver, Orpheus featured
two nights of electronic music during the months of survey implementation. The
club is set off from other venues in town and tends to draw a slightly older crowd.
Twisted. Twisted is a small club that seemed to draw a committed set of
drum-and-bass enthusiasts one night a week. At first glance, it appeared that the
club was never open. In actuality, it just didnt keep a steady flow of club
attendees. It was one of the smallest clubs in Denver, drawing only about 200 on
its best night.
Decades. Decades is a large club that draws the more occasional club
attendee due to its location in Lower Downtown. The venue featured electronic

music one night a week during the summer months and brought in about a 1000
people. Some of the interview participants mentioned going to Decades, but few
considered it a regular venue to attend.
Enigma. Enigma portrayed itself as a club for the chic crowd in Denver.
Being only one floor, it often filled to capacity, holding approximately 500 people.
During survey implementation, Enigma experienced a shooting and closed several
months later after struggling to bring in business.
Many of the same people that promote for the above mentioned clubs also
began throwing one-offs over the past few years. The scene has been trying to
come back. The older ravers are trying to get back what they used to have.
(Bridget) These parties," as interview participants insisted on calling them, are
arguably better than clubs but they are still not like the old raves.
There are a lot of these little underground parties now. Its a lot of
the old faces, with some new faces as well. There are people
throwing these parties again like Reverb Entertainment and David
Smith they have the money to do it and theyre keeping that
element going... But its a completely different element. Now when
you go to these raves, its a lot of gangster, thug kids that are hip
hop kids getting into this kind of music. (Trevor)
After a lull in the scene in which clubs were the only venues bringing in
electronic music deejays, parties began to show up again in Denver. I had noted
the existence of these one-time events during my first year of participant
observation and attended several to get a sense of what they added to the scene.
One interview participant defined the difference between a rave and a party as
I would very seldom call them raves. We call them parties because
in my eyes, the definition of a party is that its legal its sanctioned,
we have police, its at a legal venue, we dont have to worry about it
getting shut down. But it's such a blurry line between the two. We
also seem to classify the raves as the events that are 16-plus.

Reverb Entertainment have been throwing those at the Temple
lately. Theres a lot more kids there. (Mark)
Thus, the distinction between a rave and a party is largely in its legal
status. Following enactment of the Rave Act, venue owners and promoters
became highly cognizant of the risks of holding an event that appeared like an
illegitimate rave. It took a few years, but eventually they figured out how to throw
events that attempted to recreate the feel of the old raves within the confines of the
Things are much more commercialized and people are getting
permits to do parties now. Theyre bigger and they can charge
more money. Its definitely more controlled now, its not like it was
before. (Carrie)
As pointed out previously, one of the differences between clubs and raves
was the presence of alcohol. Parties seem to represent a middle point between
these other settings, combining all-night events (a trademark of the raves) with the
option of alcohol (a sign of the club influence). One promotion group found a
savvy way of holding parties after-hours while also being able to serve alcohol.
Nocturnal Productions parties are really social gatherings."
Theyre invite-only to satisfy a clause in their contract. It's
essentially the same thing as a social club. Its open bar and you
just pay to get in. it means their not serving anyone illegally
because theyre very strict about IDing people. If anyone underage
was in there theyd all go to jail in a heartbeat. (Andrew)
While parties may look more like the clubs than raves used to, there is still
a distinction between the culture of one-time events (raves and parties) as
compared to established venues (clubs). Parties, like the raves, are known for
being family affairs in Denver. Most of the time you have to hear about these
events through friends.
I wouldnt call it a rave. But it was an after-hours kind of party. It
was small, maybe 150-200 people. Nothing like the old-fashioned
ones. Parties these days if theyre underground parties are
going to be intimate, small, not so mainstream or publicized. Its

going to be more or less people that we talk to and small flyers.
Because of the underground nature of parties, they are better able to allow
for freedom of expression, as noted by the following interview participant:
Someone that throws a party is going to know how to run their
sound better. The bouncers are gonna let things be for the most
part, unless things are completely out of control. Its easier to find a
place to chiii if you want to kick it. It seems iike less judgmental
people. Youre kind of free to do your own thing. Theres more
freaks and expression of yourself. I love the costumes and the
colors and the dancing. I love seeing good dancers at a party. I
think the deejays feel it too that whole collection of energy, it's like
at a spiritual level and the deejay is going to spin something better
if hes feeiing it too. Theyve been serving alcohoi at parties
recently and youre going to have your drugs but everyones on the
same level for the most part. (Kevin)
Only a handful of venues accommodate parties and even fewer promotion
companies attempt to hold them.15 Some of the places in Denver where parties
have been held in the last two years include the Temple Theater and Colfax
Events Center. These venues were not included in the sampling frame because
parties were too irregular to determine an estimated measure of size, let alone
when and where they would happen. Some of the parties that occur on a fairly
regular basis include Caffeine (one of the only 16-and-older events in town), the
Global Dance Festival (an all-day event held at Red Rocks that was formerly
known as Rave on the Rocks), Nocturnal Productions, and Full Moon parties.
One of the interview participants who refused to go to clubs detailed some of the
parties he has been to recently.
Just a few clubs typically throws parties. Like The Hollow throws
parties, the Full Moon parties are in the mountains they change it
up every month during the warmer months. I usually hear about
those parties through a friend. Theyve had some sketchy people
show up at their parties as well as the cops so they went back to
the info-line. You have to have a password to log on and get the
15 Many of these venues and promotion companies have been renamed for
confidentiality purposes.

directions on the phone... Ive been to a few parties at the
Planetarium in Boulder. Its pretty cool theyve got this million
dollar light show so kids are just running around having a good
time. I went to one many years ago and then one happened last
year. I also go to this art gallery on Brighton Blvd. The Colfax
Center is another good venue. (Kevin)
One of the distinctions that was hard to make in interviews was whether a
club attendee was talking about a party, like the ones described above, or a house
party when they described places where they have done drugs. Oftentimes house
parties blend naturally from the scene as evidenced by the following quotes.
The house parties would flow from the club scene. I remember
being at a club all night and somebody would say, Okay, after-
party at my house. And then wed all move on and add another
drug to keep things going. It's more like the people would move the
scene when a club shut down. (Travis)
After the clubs well usually break off and go home or go to an
intimate party with someone. (Tiffany)
i used to have huge after-parties at my house, i would be at Tracks
2000 on Thursday and I would go home and have tons of people
come over. (Trevor)
The fact that the settings in which club attendees partake in drugs and
music blends between the scene and home lends credence to the importance of
understanding not only the reasons why they use drugs, but also when and where
they use them.
To summarize, the settings of interest in this study represent slightly
different party places. The club culture stems from raves, which were all-night
dance parties held in underground locations and characterized by the PLUR
atmosphere. Due to attention from the media and law enforcement efforts (such
as the Rave Act), raves were essentially abolished throughout the US. Several
years later, after a brief lull in the scene, parties began to occur in Denver that
resembled more legitimate forms of raves. Throughout this period, clubs provided
a more mainstream venue for club attendees to appreciate electronic music. The

evolution of the club scene in Denver appears to have affected both the types of
people who attend and the types of drugs used in each of these settings. This is a
great example of why Zinbergs theory of drug, set and setting is most useful when
it is applied as a comprehensive explanatory framework. Additionally, the
connotation of the term club drugs implies that these drugs are only used in
raves, parties and clubs. However, interview participants revealed use of drugs,
even the so-called club drugs" like ecstasy, in settings outside of the club scene.
It is important that they also be considered in order to understand the patterns of
drug use in the study population.
Outside the Scene
Interview participants described several settings outside of the club scene
where they use drugs. Beck and Rosenbaum (1994) noted that ravers are often
avid followers of bands like the Grateful Dead. In a manner similar to their raver
counterparts, Deadheads thrive on the group spirit evident at concerts the
exhilarating sense of being part of a supportive community" (p.49). So too did
several of the interview participants depict drug-taking sessions at concerts that
were as memorable as the ones in the club scene.
The first time I used acid was at a friends house on 4th of July. The
second time was at Phish show that was insane. They had
people run out in costumes from the Wizard of Oz. That was fun -
we camped out too. Ive pretty much just used it at a concert -1
had to be outdoors. I just wanted to walk and listen to good music.
I was at the Eugene Country Fair and I did some [opium] there. Its
not one of those things where I have opium sitting around. Its
usually at Phish shows or Widespread shows where somebody will
walk by and say Opium" and Ill be like What? You have opium?!
Interview participants also talked about the preference for using certain
drugs when they went camping or hiking. Some favored using one of the natural

drugs (to be discussed in Chapter 6) in nature, while others used whatever was
I just did acid for the first time about two years ago. I loved it. I did
it with my husband and we went hiking near Red Rocks. It was
more in nature. (Tiffany)
I have used stuff when camping. Anything, whatever. Its not like I
ever put one drug with one sort of event. Id do whatever I felt like
doing at the time I was doing it. (Andrew)
An obvious location that club attendees use drugs is in their home. My
husband and I smoke weed when we watch the Simpsons. We dont smoke a lot
of weed at parties. Its a downer. (Tiffany) Some use drugs like muscle relaxants
or marijuana to chill out. Some even use stimulants to relax and hang out at
Sometimes I do drugs just to do 'em. Like if 1 have some coke left
over from the past night Ill just do some and clean the house or
chill out. Its like having a beer or something. (Michelle)
Several of the interview participants also said that they had used drugs at
school. While most ascribed it to being crazy kids," this sort of drug use is
indicative of the novelty-seeking attitude of many club attendees that will be
discussed more in the next chapter.
Yeah, there was a period in high school where I did meth. I hear its
still really big and I just dont understand that. Anyways, in high
school, my junior year, for some reason every body did meth. So I
just used meth basically to write papers. (David)
Ive tried speed. In the pill form [Ritalin]. My friend got it from some
guy, and I trusted my best friend. He was a guy I went to school
with so... We did it at school in the 8th grade. I stayed awake during
math tutoring! (Stacy)
It is important to distinguish the multiple settings that club attendees use
drugs. Some drugs are more strongly associated with certain scenes, a fact that
points to the significance of setting" that helps explain the patterns of drug use
within this population.

Social Drug Use
This chapter has focused on the locations that club attendees use drugs,
however it is also essential to note the reason behind why people use drugs in
social settings. Drug use is a social phenomenon (Knipe, 1995) and interviews
with club attendees point to the fact that this population rarely uses drugs alone.
Once I was out of the social milieu I had no desire to use anything.
Even drinking. I dont drink unless Im out at the clubs or with
friends at a party. I dont even have alcohol at the house. (Travis)
I dont ever do drugs by myself. The only time Ill ever be doing
them by myself is if Ive taken them with somebody and then they
all leave. (Paul)
I only use drugs at home after a party. You wont see me doing
drugs during the week. I dont even drink during the week -1 dont
drink Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. So I guess its
more of a social thing. (Mark)
Thus, a large component of drug use is about the people with whom you
use them. The people who make up the population called club attendees in this
study are diverse and drug experienced. They will be considered further in the
next chapter.

The people who attend clubs in Denver are similar to club attendees that
have been surveyed in other parts of the country (Arria et al., 2002; Weiser, Kelly
& Parsons, 2006; Yacoubian et al., 2003) and in some ways are more varied than
the general population in Denver. Survey respondents were predominantly young
(75.0% between 18 and 28 years), white (77.1%), male (53.3%) and educated
(77.1% with at least some college credit). African Americans and Hispanic/Latinos
represent the largest minority groups among club attendees, and some clubs have
a more ethnically diverse crowd than others. Sexual orientation is perhaps the
most notable difference from general population trends. One-third of the clubs
surveyed tend to attract a gay crowd, and it follows that 41.9% of the survey
respondents were homosexual, bisexual or some other" sexual orientation.
Table 5.1 details the demographic characteristics of survey respondents
and interview participants. An attempt was made to obtain a similar representation
of interview participants as compared to survey respondents; however because
interviews were conducted with club attendees who volunteered to participate in
the study, a disproportionate number of persons were obtained for some of the
demographic categories. For instance, only one homosexual male responded to
advertisements for the interviews while participant observation and survey results
indicate that this group makes up a large proportion of club attendees in Denver. It
is unknown why so few homosexual and bisexual club attendees volunteered for
interviews. Recruitment flyers were posted in locations believed to be visible to a
wide range of demographics, including age, gender, race/ethnicity, and sexual
orientation. This limit was counteracted by purposeful recruitment of two
homosexual males for partial interviews after the formal qualitative phase of the

study was completed. One of these males was Asian and helped supplement the
lack of information regarding this racial group, which also did not respond to
recruitment ads. This additional interview participant suspects that Asian club
attendees are reluctant on the whole to participate in research studies like the
Denver Club Health Study, especially if a team of white researchers conducts
them. This group was the most unenthusiastic about completing the survey and
made up 21% of refusers (n=52). The potential lack of understanding regarding
Asian club attendees could be a limit to this study, however a considerable amount
of information was obtained about this group through participant observation and
perceptions of other interview participants. The final difference between survey
and interview demographics is in the level of education of club attendees. A large
proportion of interview participants were current college students who responded
to flyers on campus and found it easy to show up for an interview. Many of them
were within one year of completing a bachelors degree. Forty percent of interview
participants responded to flyers they had seen off-campus, but all of them had
completed an associates degree or some college credit and thus pushed up the
total number of interview participants with more than a high school diploma. Aside
from a few differences in demographics, interview participants seemed to
represent a broad range of characteristics indicative of Denver club attendees.
More extensive profiles of each interview participant are featured in Appendix E.

Table 5.1. Participant Demographics
Sample Size 160 20
MeanSD 25.837.15 26.404.94
Range 18-55 19-40
Male 53.3% 65%
Female 45.9% 35%
Transgender 0.8% 0%
Hispanic/Latino 15.1% 10%
White 77.1% 85%
African American 13.4% 15%
American Indian 5.6% 10%
Asian 5.4% 0%
Pacific Islander 2.3% 0%
Other 2.4% 0%
Unknown 0.7% 0%
Sexual Orientation
Heterosexual 58.1% 90%
Homosexual 20.5% 5%
Bisexual 19.5% 5%
Other 1.9% 0%
Highest Level Education
Less than HS Diploma 2.7% 0%
High School Diploma 20.2% 0%
Some College Credit 25.5% 55%
Associates Degree 10.8% 20%
Bachelors Degree 36.5% 20%
Masters Degree 3.6% 5%
Professional Degree 0.7% 0%
Doctoral Degree 0.4% 0%
Identity with the Scene
From a club attendees perspective, there are two kinds of people that
come to clubs: those that love the music and those that love sex or drugs. A club
attendees identity with the predominant feature of the scene electronic music 16
16 Does not add up to 100%. Participants were allowed to check more than
one race and Hispanic/Latino ethnicity was a separate question.

has a strong influence on who they associate with and, in turn, their frequency of
attending clubs and parties, their accessibility to drugs, as well as their knowledge,
attitudes and beliefs regarding drugs and other drug users.
The club attendee who loves electronic music almost certainly loves
dancing as well, and typically entered the scene back in the day when raves still
existed. Most of the interview participants would fall under this category, self-
identifying as ravers (at least formerly) and adamantly emphasizing their love of
electronic music both in and out of the clubs.
Clubs seem to get people who are more introduced to the party
scene because its been commercialized its like theyre little
escape. You see, the music, thats my love. They like the music,
but they like the atmosphere because it draws a large crowd of
people from different groups. I love that you can fit that many
different people from that many different scenes into a club. But its
not really part of their life; its just their escape. (Paul)
I love the music. I guess I have a biased opinion being a deejay.
You know there are people who can only listen to it when they go to
a club. I can wake up in the morning and listen to it -1 can listen to
it all day. (Evan)
There are times when I totally get fed up with the scene, but what
always brings me back is the music. Its not the drugs -1 basically
do them to stay awake. (Mark)
Music, thats what did it for me. The last two years I was raving -
so 1999 and 2000 -1 didnt do drugs at all. I was done with it all. I
had tried my ecstasy... So the parties I went to I went to sober.
The music was what got me off. I remember a 6-hour set by Sasha
and Digweed. (Jeff)
While many of the interview participants insisted on music as their
motivation for attending raves, parties and clubs, most of these club attendees had
a phase when drugs were a large part of their lives.
I dont like that clubs and raves get so much bad attention when in
reality it should be about appreciation of music. But I wouldnt be

the person I am today if I hadnt experienced the things I
experienced. I know people that have never done drugs and
theyre not as open theyre not as free-loving, understanding,
accepting as people who have used them. (Michelle)
I started doing drugs, I guess before I started partying. But once I
did go to the raves, I didnt do drugs at the raves for at least a year.
And I went every weekend, religiously. I didnt do any drugs and I
would be the last person dancing at like 8 oclock in the morning. I
stayed up because I loved it. I would nap for like an hour on the
floor. (Carrie)
Thus, drug use may be integral to the lifestyle of a raver but this group
does not place drug use as the foremost reason for attending raves, parties and
After years of partying and using drugs, most of the interview participants
described the difference between their patterns and prevalence of drug use back
in the day" as opposed to now.17 Even though many of the interview participants
had gone through periods of extensive drug use for some it even bordered on or
was diagnosed as dependence every one of the club attendees over the age of
22 who completed an interview has gone through an aging out process in which
they have reduced their frequency and extent of drug use.
My life when I was 19-23 was just stupid. I can imagine my life if I
had those years given back to me. But its a learning experience. It
made me who I am today... I began to taper off my drug use after
23. It used to be every weekend and it was readily available... It
just gets old. The novelty wears off. Its like being on vacation for 3
years its paradise but it gets old after a while. (Jack)
I rarely do drugs at all anymore thats not to say that I didnt used
to. Id say theyre most prevalent after-hours. You know, when
people stop drinking and want to stay awake... Ill party all night
long every once in a while but my body cant take it anymore. You
just grow up and respect your brain cells a little bit more. (Andrew)
17 A raver would typically have to be at least 22 years old to have experienced a
rave (i.e., been at least 16 in 2000), so most of this group represents an older
generation of club attendees.

I do take drugs but its few and far between. I used to a lot more
when I was younger. Now I like having my emotions the next day.
Now my drug use is definitely in moderation. I had a gradual
downturn of drinking and i stopped smoking for 6 months. I found a
medium. I don't drink, I dont black out, I dont throw up, I dont get
crazy and do coke. Im 25 years old. Im about to graduate and 1
have a whole bunch of other stuff going on that does not include all
those partying days with all the drugs that I hate. (Carrie)
Results from a longitudinal community study in Germany have also noted
this sort of discontinuation of drug use (von Sydow et al., 2002); however, this
evidence relied solely on quantitative data and gives little understanding of why
this phenomenon occurs. Based on the stories of interview participants, this study
indicates that drug use needs to be understood as a life phase and as part of the
identity development of dub attendees. It appears that aging-out transpires as
club attendees give up the values related to using drugs in the club subculture and
take on the responsibilities of dominant society. In general, club attendees seem
to moderate their drug use over time as priorities such as school, work and family
take precedence over partying.
Drug use is not the only thing that has modified overtime. Ravers identify
each other based on a distinct look. Much like hippies of the 60s or punks of the
70s who utilized fashion as a means of affirming counter-hegemony (Hebdige,
1979), ravers have typically been known for their baggy pants and colorful
accessories that embody the casual, fun-loving nature of the community.
However, with many years of experience in the scene, a majority of the interview
partidpants talked about their identities in the former rave scene as being different
from how they see things, and present themselves, now.
The difference was back then, if you saw a kid with baggy pants,
you could tell a party kid on the street. Even if they were working
you could tell-just by some piece of clothing or a backpack or
something that would associate them, even though they werent at
a party. You know, I used to hang out on 16th Street and look a little

more rad. Now you cant tell whos a party person. Theres still the
occasional kid with the baggy raver look. (Evan)
Raves died when you quit seeing drag queens at em. Thats my
whole philosophy. You know parties used to be full of freaks and
people who dressed up. I used to dress up crazy Id wear like
bright yellow suits and stuff. (Andrew)
Aside from the love of music, unique expression through fashion may be
the second most important characteristic of ravers. On the whole, the ravers that
showed up for interviews all looked very different from one another. Some sported
track pants and goggles, while others had dreadlocks and Celtic crosses around
their neck. The no two alike philosophy is integral to the raver mindset. Anything
mainstream or commercialized is considered counter to a ravers identity.
Each party is a completely different adventure. The clubs its the
same thing every time its so predictable. When I'm at a party,
everyone has their own flavor and character -1 can identify with
that. (Kevin)
The raver is in contrast to what interview participants perceive as the
other club attendee what I have termed a poser" or a person who comes to
the clubs because they think it is the cool thing to do, to hook up, or most
importantly for the drugs. This is counter to the motivation of ravers for attendance
in the scene.
[The scene] is not what it used to be its kind of heading back
towards the drug use again instead of the music... I see that
people are just trying to be trendy. Theyre trying to get either into
the drug use because it's cool or because that's what everyone
does at the club. (Evan)
You can separate the people who are there for the drugs and the
people who are there for the music. You can totally tell. (Jack)
I think people do drugs a little too excessively. They take away the
collective consciousness of the scene by having drugs be the main
thing. It's not Im going to go to a party and dance and maybe do

some drugs, its Im gonna go do drugs and then do all this other
stuff. (Bridget)
A second distinguishing factor between ravers and posers is dancing
ability. This factor follows closely behind fashion sense in presenting a club
attendees subcultural capital" (Thornton, 1996). Ravers tend to keep personal
distance but are often seen dancing within circles. A poser is discernible because
they try to dance with other club attendees and lack awareness of how to move to
the music. This is annoying to both female and male ravers females because
they dont like being hit on while they dance and males because they lose personal
Headliners brings out these huge college crowds and its just not
the same. Nobodys even really moving to the music. People know
how to dance at parties and you can build off of their moves.
The kids with the glow sticks that go a million miles an hour Ive
been seeing a lot more lately. I see a lot of people that are like 35
and up who are bringing the glow sticks and go for it. But some
times Im like Give me those! Let me show you how to do it. (Paul)
I went to The Carnival last Thursday to see Adam Byer from
Germany and thats the last time Im going to a club by myself.
Guys were all over me. I'm not there for that; I have a boyfriend
that I live with. I go to dance. When they get all over you I get, uh!
When they constantly try to talk to you Im like Im trying to dance!
I dont want to be rude, but... (Carrie)
Its like these days the deejay cant even get the crowd moving
anymore. It used to be that people were so synced up that the
deejay would get a hold of you and feed off of that it would go
back and forth. Now a days, it's like you cant even get through to
the crowd because they're so drunk theyre not even paying
attention. Theyre like macking a chick or something. (Jeff)
The differentiation between ravers and posers operates internally at the
subcultural level. It appears that ravers control most of the judgment as to who
identifies appropriately with the scene and who does not fit in. A club attendee
who is labeled a poser might not know he has been labeled, especially if he is only

an occasional visitor to the scene. In addition, a younger club attendee who
displays acceptable fashion sense and dancing ability may still be labeled a poser
by the older ravers, simply because he entered the scene after the peak of the old
raves. These classifications are similar to the hip" and mainstream" distinctions
made by Sarah Thornton (1996) in her study of club cultures" in Britain. Thornton
saw these divisions as a means for dub attendees to assert power in the social
hierarchy of the club scene. These distinctions also appear to affirm a club
attendees identity within a subculture, separate from general society, and often
relate to the frequency and extent of their drug use.
Types of Drug Users
Club attendees who completed the DCHS survey and interviews reported
high levels of legal and illegal drug use. Approximately 97% of survey
respondents had consumed alcohol at least once in their lifetime, 36.3%
considered themselves smokers, and 81.9% had ever used an illegal drug. The
patterns and prevalence of drug use among the study population will be explored
further in Chapter 6. In this section, the types of drug users that make up such a
drug experienced group will be examined as well as the non-drug users who also
frequent the scene. This typology (summarized in Table 5.2 on the next page) is
based on themes that emerged from participant observation and interviews.
Categories are not mutually exclusive, as club attendees exhibited signs of shifting
between the different motivations for use and related patterns of use throughout
their clubbing and drug careers. In addition, these types may not describe all club
attendees because they may simply reflect only those who responded to this

Table 5.2. Types of drug users in the Denver club scene
Type of Drug User Motivation for Use Pattern of Use
Weekend warrior Hedonism Weekend binges, extensive range of drugs
Opportunistic/ Experimental Novelty-seeking Try any drug within limits as opportunity arises
Spiritual Soul-searching, connection Preference for natural drugs, purposeful use
Non-user Chemical-free Anti-drug, might consume alcohol
Weekend Warrior
A considerable proportion of interview participants revealed a pattern of
drug use characterized by binge-like drug taking only on weekends. These club
attendees frequent clubs or parties at least every Friday and Saturday night,
consuming various drugs throughout the entire time period, and self-identify as
weekend warriors."
There were probably some times when we started out on Thursday
night and didn't end until Sunday. But what would be more typical
would be to start on Friday night and go all the way until Sunday -
crash Sunday midday and maybe Monday. I was working fulltime
so I would get up to work on Monday and probably look like hell.
Sometimes the weekend would start Thursday night you know
Thursday, Friday and Saturday. If youre doing meth you might stay
up all weekend. When the party ends you go to somebodys house.
Especially if youre a deejay, youll deejay all day until the night
comes and then go to the club again. (John)
Interview participants who fit the weekend warrior type had the most
extensive and varied lifetime drug use. Consistent with other studies that have
noted the concept of the big night out" (Duff, 2005; Measham, Aldridge & Parker,
2001; Riley & Hayward, 2004), interview participants reported staggering their drug
use over the course of the weekend, meaning polydrug use was common.

Weekend warriors often reported beginning the night with alcohol and moving on
to stimulants, hallucinogens, or other enhancement drugs (see Chapter 6) before
ending a party session with depressants like alcohol, marijuana or prescription
For a while we got into the habit of going over to [friends] place.
Being that I was the supplier [laughs]... It would be Friday evening,
everybody was getting off week and would just be chilling. It was
the same group of iike 15 people every weekend half were
deejays and half were our girlfriends. So we never had a shortage
of music or deejays so if one of us got fucked up... I would say for
about a year and a half, every weekend thats what we would do
unless there was some party going on that we really wanted to go
see. And then all of us instead of being at a friends house would
go to a party. Then we would roll there too. Basically we would
have maybe a beer or two at the house party, you know relax from
working all week. And then when everybody would get there we
would all drop at the same time. Then it would go from there.
Sometimes with my best friend and its pretty rarely -1 might not
sleep over Friday night. Cause sometimes me and her well she
does a lot of coke and I might be rolling. Well we might drink, and
roll, and do some coke, and drink some more. So then there were
a couple of times where I wish I had just gone to bed but it was still
fun. (Mark)
For the most part, weekend warriors kept their drug use within the context
of partying throughout the weekend. Many specified that they would stop using
drugs on Sunday morning so they could recover in time for work on Monday.
However, a number of interview participants revealed periods of drug-taking that
bordered addiction. While none of these club attendees would currently be
considered an addict (clinically or self-identified), most of them reported long-term
daily use of certain drugs in the past, specifically methamphetamine, cocaine, and
GHB, that indicated an increased level of dependency and a leap from the
bingeing behavior of most weekend warriors. Only one interview participant had
been through drug treatment (for methamphetamine) but several others talked
about their struggle to wean themselves off their respective drug of abuse after

they realized their drug use was no longer just about having a good time. Most of
these club attendees realized they were self-medicating and found healthier (legal)
methods to resolve their issues.
. I dont have anything to do with GHB anymore. It was taking control
of my life. I cut cold turkey and used Xanax to get off of it. Mentally
it was like being a recovering alcoholic. It took a month of good
rehabilitation. After that I started having pretty bad anxiety in fact
I had anxiety before and thats probably why I started taking it.
Once I got off, I continued to have anxiety so I went to a doctor to
get something so that I wouldnt continue to self-medicate he put
me on Zoloft and a really small dose (25 mgs) relieved all my
anxiety. (Trevor)
Like the ravers discussed in the previous section, most weekend warriors
age-out of their drug taking behavior and reduce their frequency and magnitude of
consumption to one of the drug user types discussed below.
Opportunistic/Experimental Drug User
Most interview participants fall under the opportunistic /experimental drug
user type. Experimentation aligns with the novelty-seeking ethos of many club
I like experiencing psychological twists being able to skew my
thinking a little so that I can come to a new understanding of things
- but after Ive experienced it I dont have any desire to keep doing
it. (Trevor)
Every time I would go out I would pretty much plan on taking
ecstasy... and then, you know, if something else came along...
Back then all of my friends were party kids and it was about the
rush of something new. (Paul)
One exchange that occurred in an interview with a young, straight male
epitomizes the Try every thing once in life" (Jack) mindset so indicative of club
attendees in this category.

AEF: Have you ever done Viagra?
Andrew: Yeah.
AEF: Why?
Andrew: Why not?
AEF: Well, did it work?
Andrew: Yeah. [Laughs]
Like many of the opportunistic/experimental drug users, this interview
participants drug consumption often resulted from the chance accessibility of
certain drugs. While there is no logical reason for a healthy, young man to take
Viagra, a friend offered the drug to him and he was curious about what it would do
to his body. Many of the interview participants could not explain why they used
certain drugs beyond the reasoning that the opportunity presented itself.
The way that a lot of this stuff often happened was that it was in the
moment. Somebody offered it and I tried it. Very few of these
drugs did I actually seek out. They would just kind of happen over
the course of the evening. (Travis)
More than one interview participant explained that they rarely seek out
drugs, especially the ones used less often.
Its so random. Usually someones like Hey Ive got some X and I
take a half. I dont really seek it that much, its usually offered.
Maybe like once every 3 months I seek it. Usually its just there. I
really dont spend any money on drugs. Coke is probably the one
thing that I do spend money on, but it's like small 40-sacks. Usually
its just so prevalent in the scene that people just offer it to you...
Same with weed. (Michelle)
Im like one of those people if you wanted to say I was a drug
addict it might be a good possibility because a lot of my life is based
around what kind of drug I happen to be on. But the thing is, I dont
go to seek out those drugs [ketamine and GHB]. And its whatever
that comes up. (David)
Furthermore, opportunity was a common explanation for how club
attendees ended up using drugs in combination.
I dont know [how I would choose]. Whatever came along.
Sometimes I would start the night out with drinking or do some acid,
some ecstasy or some K. Ive done a lot of drugs but I would never

say I abused or went over my limit with anything. You know, I never
had to go to the hospital or been talked down from doing something
crazy. But some people dont have addictive personalities and
some people do. (Andrew)
While this drug-taking behavior can seem haphazard and risky in its
approach, interview participants often expressed mental limits to potential drugs of
As long as I know there is someone there who has done it before. I
use a lot of precautions. Im not just going to say Okay, Ill do it
not knowing what it is or the dosage. (Tiffany)
Well heroin I would never use. But Ill use just about anything that
comes along. The only thing I might not do in the club, even if it
came to me, would be something hallucinogenic because l never
know if Im going to freak out or itll be too intense. (Michelle)
Risk perception and risk reduction strategies will be examined further in Chapter 7.
Spiritual Drug User
For club attendees that do not take drug consumption to an extreme level
and prefer to gain personal meaning from each experience, drug use assumes a
spiritual role in their lives. Interview participants that represent spiritual drug users
often put more thought into why they used certain drugs (usually the natural drugs
described in Chapter 6) and claim to have learned more about themselves from
their drug-taking experiences.
I like mushrooms because they're natural and create a spiritual
experience. Its like looking into a looking glass. It helps you
analyze things, see nature and people for what they are its a
learning experience. (Kevin)
I like the spiritual aspect I get out of mushrooms. I like the
creativity, body control, the feeling of sensitivity, visual patterns, and
things like that. (Paul)
Spiritual drug users enjoy taking drugs because of the connections it allows
them to make to others. This varies from the weekend warrior and

opportunistic/experimental drug users who tend to say their reason for using drugs
is to have fun.
I like doing drugs at raves because its just more spiritual. Theres
an interconnectedness between all of the participants. Being sober
at a rave where other people are on drugs you can still get that
contact high. Theres probably an energy flow of sorts. (Bridget)
Several interview participants also had experience using drugs outside of
the club scene in spiritual and religious Ceremonies.
I tried peyote in a tea. It was a trip. Mushrooms pale in
comparison. I went on a spirit walk. That was one of the reasons
that I knew I had American Indian in me. I got to meet my spirit
guide -1 didnt realize it at the time -1 thought I was massively
tripping. (Tom)
I did ayahuasca when I lived down in South America. It was
amazing. Its really weird, you get sick off of that one too but it's
different. Its big dried out leaves -1 was with the shaman guy and
he made this tea. We'd drink it, get sick as shit, drink some more,
get sick as shit. So you also fast see I have a spiritual tint, thats
why I dont mind doing drugs because there is a spiritual side to
them. So you keep drinking and eventually you get to this point
where youre supposed to go off and do your own thing, see visions
and stuff. (David)
These experiences typify the overall motivation for this groups drug use -
to gain spiritual understanding of themselves and their place in the world. When
drugs are used in the club scene, ecstasy and other mind-enhancing substances
serve to enlighten a spiritual drug users experience within that subculture.
Non-Drug User
Nearly 20% of survey respondents reported that they have never used an
illegal drug. Only 2.6% had never consumed alcohol and 63.7% do not smoke
tobacco. While these statistics are lower than the number of non-drug users in the
general population, it still reveals evidence that there is a cohort of club attendees
who do not have to take drugs just because they are a part of the scene.

I dont believe in using drugs. The people Ive talked to who have
used drugs think they need to use them to be normal and have a
good time, or to loosen up to do anything. And I see it more as
being out of control and putting poisons into my body. I eat very
healthy Im pretty much a Vegan. I run all the time. Im very
health conscious and health-oriented. (Steve)
Only one interview participant had never used drugs. I met him while
conducting participant observation at a club and was surprised by the fact that he
rarely even drinks alcohol. A number of interview participants said they were anti-
drug when they were younger, but eventually caved in to peer pressure, the
effortless accessibility of illegal drugs, or the lure of experiential camaraderie with
their friends. The following quotes illustrate how these features of set and
setting influenced their choice to use drugs.
My dad used to have a really bad drug habit and I was like the anti-
drug kid... but I was around it for so long. One night I was finally
talked into it, after like a year and a half of being around it. (Jack)
[My reason for going to the raves was] for the music. At first, again,
I was sober. I hated drugs; I was totally against drugs... It did wear
on me though that everyone was on drugs and everyone was
partying for days that was rough. And then meeting Hank, who I
really liked, he was the best dancer I had ever seen -1 was like,
Gosh, I wanna party with these people. I wanna go out, but Im too
tired. Its sad, because I cant believe I went that route. Before I
was so against drugs, I just can't believe I started shooting up. It
just blows my mind. (Carrie)
The notion of whether a non-drug user transitions to a drug user before or
after entering the club scene is difficult to untangle. Club attendees in this study
revealed various transitions into drug use some used illegal drugs before
entering the club scene, some purposefully decided to coincide their first night at a
rave with their first use of a drug like ecstasy, and some initiated drug use well
after being a part of the scene. There is no indication that raves and clubs spawn
a population of drug users, although the scene does seem to provide a setting for
the development of drug-experienced youth. For the most part, participant
observation, surveys and interviews all suggest that few club attendees remain

non-drug users throughout their entire clubbing career. However, it appears that
many club attendees go through a short period of drug use in their late teens and
early twenties, often returning to a non-drug using mentality as they grow up,
obtain more responsibility, and get tired of the scene.
Relationship to the Scene
Over a third of the club attendees that completed the DCHS survey could
be characterized as an occasional club attendee. Survey respondents reported
they had been to a nightclub or rave between 1 and 90 times in the past 3 months.
Forty-one percent (41.1%) of the sample had been to a club less than once a
month, of which 19.0% had only been to a club once in the past 3 months. On the
other hand, the majority of survey respondents (58.9%) and interview participants
(100%) attend clubs more than once a month. Many frequent clubs on a regular
basis because of their relationship to the scene.
Gay Community
The purpose of this study was not to conduct an in-depth examination of
the gay club scene (see Fernandez et al., 2005 and Clatts et al., 2005 for studies
of club drug use among MSM in Miami and NYC), yet interviews with homosexual
club attendees revealed key differences in their connection to the scene as
compared to heterosexual club attendees. According to one interview participant,
the bar and club scene is integral to social life in the gay community.
Most of my drug use was revolving around parties. Whats hard to
distinguish is that the things that are so integral to gay socializing
are hard to pull apart the club scene, the drug scene, the sex
scene, your social life and your friends... and for people who work
in the bars then their work life. I had bartender friends that it was
their life. If they werent behind the bar making the party happen
then they were in front of it in the action. (Travis)

In addition, all of the homosexual interview participants expressed an
intricate link between their experiences using drugs in the club scene and their
identity formation in the gay community.
Using ecstasy in the gay scene has a lot to do with escapism.
There is so much stigma regarding male sex that it is unnatural
and shameful that ecstasy becomes a great means to get over
those thoughts. You feel so content and positive that you get over
the negative thoughts about what youre doing. (Charlie)
For the heterosexual club attendees in this study, drug use appears to be
an important part of growing up linked to a shift away from the parents (and
dominant society) and into their own identity, which may involve temporary
inclusion in a counter-culture. For the non-heterosexual club attendees, drug use
in the club scene is also important to their acceptance into the gay community, in
which membership may last for a lifetime. These issues are more complex than
the scope of this dissertation, yet it is important to note that drug use among non-
heterosexual club attendees needs to be understood within the social context of
the gay community as well as the club scene.
Club Staff, Deejays and Promoters
Another group of club attendees in whom party life tends to mesh with
other aspects of life are the people who work in the scene. Their working
relationship in the clubs as bartenders, bouncers, promoters, dancers, deejays,
and even drug dealers increases their accessibility to drugs and, in turn, their
range and extent of drug use.
When we started [our own promotion company] we used to do a lot
of drugs. It was because we got to know everybody because all
of the promoters and all the important people were out doing drugs
all the time. (Mark)
I know pretty much all the promoters do coke. If they do ecstasy its
at the after party. (Evan)

Not surprisingly, the club attendees that work in the scene tend to burn out.
Several of the interview participants have learned to create boundaries between
their work in the scene and their party time. In fact, many of them have completely
separated their work life from their personal life, where in the past the two were
I'm really a homebody these days. Cause you work in it, you do it
for a living; you need to separate yourself for a while. After a while,
constantly doing it gets old. (Jack)
I dont really go out to party. I go out strictly to work now. Every
once in a while Ill go out to party. But whenever I have days off I'm
usually at home. I kind of burned out. My chemicals dont rebound
as fast. (Trevor)
One theme that kept reappearing in interviews with club attendees who
worked in the scene was the perception that club owners and promoters are guilty
of providing the drugs. Some of the interview participants were, in fact, some of
these people.
Club owners are like some underground cartel. Theres so many
friends that I have that are drug dealers and they know all the
managers. Back at [old club], they would confiscate some drugs
and then allow others to deal. Its corrupt. At times it can be sad
because theres so many fucked up people. (Michelle)
Id say in the olden days, the best parties had the best drugs.
Promoters knew that they had theyre own people running stuff -
so youd be able to buy stuff in line before you got in. (Andrew)
Both of these interview participants are referring to drugs available in the
scene in the past (i.e., 2000). Since this time, the Rave Act was enacted in an
effort to target promoters, venue managers, and land or club owners who
knowingly and intentionally allow drug use on their premises. While this piece of
legislation may have decreased the blatant drug dealing of certain groups, one
interview participant suggested this activity may still be occurring in Denver.
I guarantee there are people going [to clubs] to find drugs because
thats the easiest place to find them. The only people I buy drugs
from are people I know -1 would never buy from a stranger. But I

know everyone and everyone sells drugs its like the in" thing to
be a drug dealer. All of the main promoters out there do drugs, but
Id say let me think about all the major companies I know of that
promote that almost 65% of them sell drugs too. They sell to the
other promoters and their friends its not like they sell to the kids.
I mean, me and [my friend] threw a party and I called somebody
because Im not going to supply the drugs but I was going to make
sure the drugs were there. Ive been to parties where there are no
drugs and its just not as fun. Or Ive been to parties where theres
too much coke then everyone is just kind of weird. So I think it's a
balance between the two of those. Honestly, the people I buy drugs
from are all promoters. They do it and its extra money. [AEF: Did
you know the Rave Act was written to stop that kind of activity?]
Theyre not really selling to the crowds, they sell to friends...
although there are a couple that sell to the crowds. (Mark)
To summarize, the club attendees who work in the scene, visit regularly, or
just occasionally, all comprise a unique network of drug users (and dealers) who
change with the scene and with age. The next chapter will examine the kinds of
drugs used by this varied population.

Patterns and Prevalence of Drug Use
Party drugs and club drugs comprise a group of drugs believed to be
prevalent in rave, club or party settings. The drugs that make up these
classifications differ by country, study and agency.18 NIDA defined club drugs as
ecstasy (MDMA), GHB, ketamine, Rohypnol, methamphetamine (meth), and LSD
in its Community Alert on Club Drugs in 1999. Years later, meth and LSD have
been dropped from the group (NIDA, 2005). In addition, evidence suggests that
use of several of these drugs has diffused beyond the club setting to different
populations (NIDA, 2003; Maxwell, 2005). So what exactly are the party" or club
The types of drugs used by club attendees appear to vary according to
time, location, availability, and preference (among other factors). Despite the
potential inappropriateness of the term club drugs, this classification still has
meaning if it lends insight into the types of health education and information most
relevant to club attendees based on their current drugs of use. In this chapter I will
discuss what drugs are actually used by club attendees in Denver. Prevalence
rates are explained according to self-reported use, perceptions and preferences of
survey respondents and interview participants. Table 6.1 lists the percentage of
18 Party drugs is a term used more often in Australia (Topp et al., 2002) broadly
including cannabis, ecstasy, speed, cocaine, ice/crystal meth, ketamine, LSD and
GHB (Duff, 2005; 165). Conversely, the term dance drugs was used by Parker et
al. (1998: 12) to group ecstasy, amphetamines, LSD and cocaine as recreational
drugs of use distinct from marijuana.

survey respondents reporting ever using each drug,19 from highest to lowest, as
well as percentage reporting past month use.
Drug Lifetime use (%) Past month use (%)
Alcohol 97.4 85.8
Marijuana 79.5 24.2
Ecstasy 39.0 5.8
Cocaine 32.8 7.0
Mushrooms 27.0 1.3
LSD 23.9 0.4
Prescription drugs 10.3 4.0
Dietary supplements 9.3 5.4
Methamphetamine 7.9 0.5
Nitrous oxide 6.6 0.4
Ketamine 6.0 0.8
GHB 3.1 0
Viagra 3.1 0.8
Heroin 2.4 0
Poppers 1.7 0.4
PCP 1.6 0
Tryptamines 0.6 0
2CB 0.7 0.4
These rates show that while a large number of survey respondents
reported ever using an illegal drug, particularly marijuana, very few reported recent
use (in the past month). In addition, the lifetime prevalence of club drug use
among club attendees does not appear as high as expected.
Table 6.2 reveals how gender, race, and sexual orientation correlate with
lifetime use of each drug. Survey data shows that a higher percentage of male
club attendees reported ever using all drugs except marijuana, mushrooms, and
dietary supplements, as compared to female club attendees. White survey
respondents show substantially higher rates of ever using cocaine, mushrooms,
and LSD than non-white respondents. In addition, a higher percentage of
heterosexual survey respondents reported lifetime use of most drugs, including
19 Cigarettes are not included because smpkjng was not assessed according to the
same measures of lifetime and frequency of use.

meth and Viagra, which are often considered more prevalent in the gay club scene
(Clatts et al., 2005; Fernandez et a!., 2005).
Table 6.2. Percentage of gender, race and sexual orientation by lifetime use of
each drug (N=160)___________________________________________________________________
Drug Gender Race Sexual Orientation
Male (%) Female (%) White (%) Non- White (%) Hetero (%) Non- Hetero (%)
Alcohol 96.8 97.9 98.8 93.4 97.0 97.7
Marijuana 74.5 86.7 81.0 75.4 83.4 74.2
Ecstasy 39.1 39.5 37.7 42.7 43.8 32.4
Cocaine 41.2 23.7 36.4 22.9 38.0 25.7
Mushrooms 22.6 32.5 31.1 15.3 36.5 13.8
LSD 25.9 22.0 30.7 4.9 35.4 8.0
Prescription drugs 11.9 8.7 10.4 10.2 10.7 9.8
Dietary supplements 8.6 10.3 8.9 10.3 11.1 6.8
Methamphetamine 10.2 5.4 8.8 5.3 9.9 5.1
Ketamine 9.5 2.0 6.4 4.9 6.9 4.7
Nitrous oxide 9.2 3.7 6.6 6.6 9.4 2.8
GHB 4.2 2.0 2.5 4.9 3.7 2.3
Viagra 5.9 0 4.3 0 4.2 1.7
Heroin 3.6 1.1 3.3 0 2.0 3.1
Poppers 3.2 0 1.6 1.9 2.5 0.6
PCP 2.1 1.1 2.2 0 0.6 3.1
Tryptamines 0.4 0.9 0.3 1.5 0.7 0.6
2CB 1.3 0 1.0 0 1.2 0
An examination of the frequency of use among drug users also reveals
distinct patterns of consumption for each drug. Table 6.3 shows that drugs like
alcohol, marijuana and dietary supplements are used more frequently by drug-
using club attendees than hallucinogens, meth, and other enhancement drugs.
Qualitative data helps explain these varied patterns of drug use that will be
examined in more depth throughout this chapter.
Data obtained from pilesorting techniques were used to organize the
categorization of drugs in this chapter. These groupings, summarized in Table
6.4, represent an emically-defined, indigenous model of drug categories that may
hold more relevance to understanding the nature and extent of drug use among
club attendees than the category club drugs that was created by researchers.