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Raving Women - The effect of drugs use

There are many stereotypes of women who use recreational drugs. A woman might be considered hard and "macho," sexually promiscuous, or silly and easily manipulated. Generally speaking, men tend to be more upfront about their drug use among their peers than women, who may want to avoid being judged. Some women find that it is difficult to talk about issues around drug use because it is hard to meet other women whom they can relate to and talk honestly with.

Below are just some of the issues that a woman who chooses to use drugs might encounter.

Body Image
Self Image
Self Respect
Contraception & STDs
Sexual Harassment

Body Image

All of us have, at some point in our lives, probably felt bad about the way we look, no matter what our individual size or shape. Issues about weight, especially, (whether we think we are too skinny or too fat) have probably affected most of us.

Some women report that using ecstasy and going dancing on the weekends helps them lose weight, or stay thin. This may be true, due in part to strenuous exercise combined with a temporary loss of appetite. While dancing is a great form of exercise, and Ecstasy can be great fun, using ecstasy every weekend in order to lose weight is likely to make you look tired and burned out, not thin and healthy.

If you are using drugs recreationally it is important to help your body replenish itself.

- Get lots of rest. If you are going out on the weekends, recharge your body and mind with enough sleep during the week.
- Eat regularly and try to balance your diet. Cut down on junk foods and drink sufficient water while you are partying and during the week.
- Exercise regularly. It will keep you in shape for all night dancing and make you feel more energetic naturally.

Taking Ecstasy and not drinking enough non-alcoholic fluids can be extremely dangerous. Remember these rules to avoid heatstroke and dehydration:

- Take regular rests throughout the night.
- Wear lightweight clothes (no hat).
- Sip small amounts of water/sports drinks regularly. Drinking too much all at once can be dangerous.

Self Image

Many women struggle with issues of self-esteem in their daily lives. They may be overly critical of themselves and feel that others also perceive them as "not good enough." Some women have found that when they are using drugs they feel better about themselves. They may experience themselves as attractive, confident and sexy. This can become a problem if you become "addicted" to the good feelings and therefore become dependent on the drug to make you feel better.

If you are struggling with issues of self-esteem and drug use, you may want to consider counseling or finding a safe place where you can express your feelings. Remember that the awesome girl that you experience while you are high is still there in the mirror when you are sober!


Some women who use drugs find that their periods become heavier or irregular. They may even stop. Often this is because a woman's weight has dropped below a level that is individual to her.

Weight loss occurs due to several factors that are affected by drug use:

- An increase in physical activity.
- Increased body temperature, which makes you sweat more.
- A decrease in appetite and irregular or unbalanced diet.

If your periods do stop you can still get pregnant. If you are sexually active, use contraception. Condoms are most effective in preventing sexually transmitted diseases AND pregnancy.

Some important tips to remember if you are going to use drugs while on your period:

- Drink plenty of water. This will combat dangerous dehydration as well as help reduce the bloated feeling that can accompany water retention. Pee as often as you feel necessary!
- If you are having a painful period don't use drugs to mask the discomfort. You will probably end up feeling worse in the long run. Go a little bit easier with yourself than you normally might.
- Remember wherever you are going may not have a sanitary dispenser. If you are on your period or think you may be close, bring enough tampons/pads to make it through the night.


A great deal of research has been done into the effects on the fetus of a drug-using woman. There are many drugs that may not be harmful to a woman but that can harm her unborn child. There are drugs that are not "safe" for mother or baby.

Many drug-using women have had a trouble free pregnancy and given birth to a perfectly healthy baby. However, if you do use drugs you increase the chance of experiencing complications during pregnancy and/or with the healthy development of your baby.

If you are pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant it is important that you talk to your doctor or medical professional as soon as possible. It is important that you tell your doctor about ALL the drugs you are currently using. This includes alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, and prescription medications.

If you do not feel comfortable talking to your doctor about illegal drug use it is imperative that you find a safe setting to discuss these issues. You should have as much information as possible regarding your own health and your baby's health during pregnancy.

If you are concerned because you used drugs before you discovered you were pregnant you should also speak to a medical professional. Most women discover their pregnancies early in the first trimester and as your doctor will probably tell you, if you stop using drugs as soon as you find out there will be little risk to your baby.

"I found out that I was pregnant two days after getting back from this huge out-of-state party. I had used E and pot and was worried about how that may have affected my baby. I talked to four different doctors/midwives during my pregnancy and they all reassured me that there was nothing to worry about as long as I was no longer using."

If you feel that you want to stop using but are afraid you can't, there are many programs that offer help and support to dependant drug users. The sooner you stop using the less risk you run of harming your baby.


If you are nursing a baby it is especially important to be aware of whatever you ingest, as much of it travels through your bloodstream into your milk. Some substances such as caffeine do enter your bloodstream but appear in breast milk in such low levels that you would have to consume very large amounts for it to affect your baby.

A balanced diet and lots of rest are vital to maintaining your health and providing your child with the right vitamins and nutrients. It is possible that using drugs may interfere with this. Some women choose to wait until they are no longer nursing to resume drug use. Some women choose to express breast milk while under the influence of a drug and discard the "affected" milk. This can be tricky to judge however, as it is difficult to know how long a particular drug remains in your bloodstream.

If you have questions about breastfeeding contact: La Leche League

Contraception & Preventing STDs

There is no evidence to suggest that illegal drugs interferes with the Pill, although it is not known how contaminants used to cut drugs may affect the Pill. However, a drug using lifestyle may reduce the effectiveness of the pill as it is important to take it every day at the same time for consistency. This does not mean you should stop taking the pill on the days you are going to use drugs. If you do so, you will not be protected against pregnancy. Remember too, if you vomit or have diarrhea the pill may not work.

Whatever form of contraception you are using it is vital to also use condoms. Only condoms will help protect you against HIV, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Some women have reported that they are unable to become naturally lubricated after taking some drugs. This may cause friction and discomfort. You can make sex safer by using water based lube such as KY Jelly or Astroglide every time you use a condom. Do not use oil based lubes such as Vaseline or baby oil as these can damage a condom, making it ineffective.

Be prepared. Don't assume your partner will provide the condoms. Even if you are not planning on having sex you never know what might happen at the end of the night! Don't let your mood affect your good judgement about protecting against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

For more info on contraception, condoms, and sex positive information visit:

- Planned Parenthood
- Good Vibrations
- Positive Health Project


Some women say that drugs can heighten the pleasurable feelings of touching and kissing. Some women find it difficult to orgasm while under the influence of a drug.

You may feel like having sex more than you normally would. People may seem more attractive or interesting while under the influence of a drug. Remember that once the drug has worn off the attraction may also.

Taking drugs may also lead to a loss of inhibitions. You may act more confident than usual and find yourself in situations that wouldn't normally arise. If you would consider yourself a shy person normally but find yourself making out in the corner with someone you just met after taking drugs, try to think about how you are going to feel about your actions. Basically, try not to do anything tonight that you'll regret or be embarrassed about tomorrow.

"When I first hung out with my boyfriend we were both on E. We were having a great time and really enjoying each other's company. At the end of the night when he came back to my house, I decided I didn't want to have sex with him (even though I was really into him!). I didn't want to wake up the next morning and wonder if it was just because we were high. When we finally did have sex (sober) it was great because we already felt so close."

Sexual Harassment:

Respect is highly valued in the dance community. However, like everywhere else in the world, there are people out there who want to take advantage of situations and they can be potentially dangerous. Many women have had the experience of having to deal with someone trying to hit on them at parties, making them feel uncomfortable, or sometimes worse.

Remember respect applies to yourself as well as to other people. Don't feel shy about telling someone to back off if they are crossing your personal boundaries or making you feel uncomfortable. Trust your intuition. And don't worry if they say you are "ruining their vibe." They are probably ruining yours!

Many parties and events occur in isolated areas that are difficult to get to. There are several decisions you can make before you go out that can help keep you safe at the end of the night:

- Try and set a ride up beforehand and agree on a meeting place and time.
- A ride offered may seem great but would you normally get in the car with a stranger? If you don't know the person, don't risk it.
- If you do want to go with someone you don't know, try to take a friend along so you won't be alone if things get weird.
- Share a cab and get dropped off first.

For info on self-defence, sexual harassment, or support after an assault:

Self Respect

There are many situations that women who use drugs might find themselves in that men who use drugs might not. It is important not to devalue yourself if someone is treating you differently because you are a woman. The more you respect yourself, the more you will demand respect from those around you. The more you act with self-respect, the more you will force people to change their thinking about women who use drugs.

"When I hang out with my male friends who smoke pot, I either get treated as a 'dude' or as a 'girl' who needs to get taken care of. I just want to get treated normally. I was smoking with a group of male friends and I got up to go the bathroom and they all stood up! I was like 'I can go to the bathroom by myself. I always do!'"

You don't have to try and "keep up" with your male friends and match their drug taking. Women and men can take the same amount of the same drug and feel totally different. This is because women's bodies are generally smaller than men's and the effects of drugs may feel stronger.

If you are using drugs with a group, don't feel pressure to use what others do. Keep your own pace. You use drugs to feel good and it is important to remain in control of what you are doing.

Getting Home Safely

Driving home in the morning after staying awake all night partying can be dangerous. Below are some suggestions of how to reduce your risk of getting into a car accident.

Definite Don'ts
  • Don't drive if you have been drinking alcohol. Alcohol lowers your reaction time and inhibits motor functioning. Don't drive if you have been using ketamine, GHB, LSD, mushrooms, ecstasy, speed or any other strong psychoactive drug. Even if you have "come down" and think you are fine to drive, these drugs all have residual effects that can impair your driving ability. Even ecstasy and speed, which can make you feel more alert, are dangerous to drive on. These drugs especially can take a lot out of you and make you tired after you come down. It is always better to get a good night's sleep before attempting to drive after using them.

  • Don't drive if you are too tired or sleepy. If you are feeling sleepy, you may be thinking only about getting home and into bed. However, it is dangerous to drive in this condition. (Note: coffee may keep you awake, but it won't improve your driving ability if you are significantly tired or sleepy.)

Ways to prevent getting into a potentially dangerous driving situation

  • Assign a "designated driver" who agrees to stay sober the entire night and to not exhaust themselves dancing for too long.

  • Leave the party or rave before you get too tired or sleepy to drive. It's safer to show up early and leave earlier than to show up late and leave later. Know your body's limits.

  • Take the bus. If you know you are going to stay all night, some raves end late enough in the morning that public transportation systems may be running.

  • Take a cab. Compared to the price of some raves, and definitely some drugs, cab fare is a relatively minor expense for the safety it provides. Plan to share a cab with others to spread out the costs. Also, think of the great conversations you can get into with the driver.

If you find yourself in a potentially dangerous driving situation

  • Have someone else drive the car who has been sober the whole night or is more rested than you.

  • Take a bus or a cab and come back later to get your car.

  • Go home with someone else and come back later to get your car.

  • Make sure somebody stays awake along with the driver and keeps conversation going. Have this person sit in the front passenger seat. Talking to a sleepy driver helps keep them awake and alert.

  • When all else fails, lock your doors and sleep in your car! (Keep in mind, however, that in some states even having your keys in the ignition constitutes drunken driving. If you are intoxicated, you may want to hide your keys in the tire well or under the hood, so it is clear to any police officer who may approach you that you were never driving in that condition.)

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