Ecstasy is a drug favored by young people who often take it to intensify the pleasures of group gatherings like concerts, dance parties and nightclubs. This is why the drug is sometimes called a “club” drug. The drug was most popular in the U.S. during the late 1990s and into 2000. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that use of ecstasy among middle and high school students has been dropping steadily since 2001. The drug goes by several street names: MDMA, Molly, X, E and, in the U.K., Mandy.
Getting the Facts from the Kids
Researchers connected to New York University (NYU) examined nationally representative samplings of high school students (high school seniors in particular) to find out which kids are most likely to use ecstasy. The study identified specific risk factors that increased the chances a student would choose to use ecstasy. The data was collected during annual Monitoring the Future studies, which are distributed across 48 states and in more than 100 private and public schools. The NYU study zeroes in on information reported by students from 2007 to 2012.
Other Drugs are Gateways for Ecstasy
The findings reflect information gathered from 26,504 students. Investigators found that 4.4 percent of the surveyed seniors reported using ecstasy during the previous year. Those most likely to be ecstasy users were males who also reported using other drugs. In fact, researchers observed that use of drugs besides ecstasy was more predictive than any other relevant sociodemographic influence.
Risk factors identified by the study were:
- Urban versus rural dwelling
- Student income from work of over $50/week
- Student income from non-work sources over $10/week
- Use of cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana or other illegal substances at any time during their life
There is a cascade effect wherein use of illicit drugs precedes ecstasy use and use of ecstasy winds up leading into use of other club drugs such as GHB and ketamine.
General Downward Trend but Upward in Certain Groups
Despite the general downward trend in ecstasy use (use among high school seniors went from 11.7 percent in 2001 to 7.2 percent by 2012), the study’s authors note an upward trend in ecstasy use among certain racial groups. Whites continue to be the greatest consumers but the numbers of black and Hispanic students who report using ecstasy has been steadily growing. Some suggest the growing popularity of electronic-centered dance festivals may account for continued and growing use of ecstasy among certain population groups.
Those least likely to use ecstasy were Hispanics, blacks, females, religious students and kids who live in intact (two parent) families. However, if these students used other drugs, the outcomes were different. Using other drugs tended to cancel out even these otherwise protective factors.
Prevention Needs to Start Earlier
Since the drug is most often associated with social gatherings, prevention efforts have tended to focus on kids who frequent crowd events. This study reveals that stepping up efforts to prevent illicit drug use at younger ages before kids are old enough to attend concerts and nightclubs may be the most effective strategy. In addition to warning young people about the specific dangers of ecstasy, kids need to hear that imitation forms of the drug can be even worse.
Ecstasy is a man-made substance and therefore is itself a designer drug. But there are numerous mock ecstasy substances for sale claiming to produce the same results – usually for less money. These drugs are often mixed with all sorts of unidentified substances, increasing the already considerable risks. Abstinence is the message kids need to hear and embrace.