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Study: Prior drug use is greatest predictor of Ecstasy use

Thursday June 26, 2014
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A prevalent predictor that adolescents may use Ecstasy is that they have used other drugs, according to a study published in the journal Substance Use & Misuse by researchers affiliated with New York University’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research.

Ecstasy — aka “Molly,” Mandy,” “E,” “X” and its chemical abbreviation MDMA -— is an illicit drug that is commonly taken at nightclubs and dance parties, although use is not limited to social scenes. “We found that roughly 4.4% of high school seniors reported use of Ecstasy within the last year, with males being at particularly high risk for use,” Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, a CDUHR-affiliated researcher and an assistant professor of population health at NYU Langone Medical Center, said in a news release. “We delineated many important sociodemographic risk factors, but the most consistent and important risk factor we found is use of other drugs.”

The study, “An Examination of Sociodemographic Correlates of Ecstasy Use Among High School Seniors in the United States,” used data on 26,504 high school seniors from 2007-2012 from Monitoring the Future, a nationwide ongoing annual study of the behaviors, attitudes and values of American secondary school students. The MTF survey is administered in approximately 130 public and private U.S. schools.

While there are many important sociodemographic factors associated with Ecstasy use, the researchers reported that prevention of other drug use may be the most important factor in preventing use, according to the release. Researchers also found that females and religious students were consistently at lower odds for use. Black and Hispanic students, and students residing with two parents, were at lower odds for Ecstasy use, unless other substance use was already present. The researchers also said trends in Ecstasy use across racial groups have been shifting in recent years. Although white students have the highest prevalence of Ecstasy use overall, rates of use among Hispanics is now close to that of whites, and rates in blacks have increased over recent years.

“Students residing in a city were at increased risk, as were those who reported lifetime use of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana or other illicit drugs,” Palamar said in the release.

Additionally, rates of Ecstasy use might actually be higher than reported as some students may not know that “Molly” is the same drug as MDMA/Ecstasy.

The researchers say that prevention efforts should focus on educating adolescents and young adults at highest risk with regard to the potential harmful effects of Ecstasy and on preventing use of the drugs that normally precede it.

Education on the effects of the latest designer drugs may be necessary, too. “Hundreds of new designer drugs have emerged in recent years, some of which were created to mimic the effects of Ecstasy,” Palamar said in the release. “Many individuals may be ingesting what they think is Ecstasy, but it may in fact be an even more dangerous new substance.”


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