An Examination of Factors that Distinguish Groups of Young Adult Ecstasy Users

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Levy, Kira Beth
O'Grady, Kevin E.
This study examined Ecstasy use in 322 young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 years who participated in an Internet study regarding their history of substance use. The primary goal of this study was to increase our understanding of what factors differentiate between different 'types' of Ecstasy users. Specifically, this study examined potential factors that distinguish between young adults who experiment with the use of Ecstasy and then quit ("Experimenters"); become active users of Ecstasy and continue use ("Users"); and become active users of Ecstasy and then quit ("Quitters"). In addition, a non-ecstasy using polydrug using group served as a "Control" group. The following primary outcome variables were examined: age of first use of Ecstasy; patterns of Ecstasy consumption; Ecstasy use by peers; levels of social conformity, sensation seeking, risk appraisal, and risky behaviors; motivations for initial use of Ecstasy; motivations for continued use of Ecstasy; psychological addiction to Ecstasy; testing of Ecstasy pills; use of 5-HTP and vitamins; reasons reported by non-Ecstasy users for lack of experimentation with Ecstasy; and, general knowledge and beliefs about Ecstasy. Results indicated that Ecstasy Users (Experimenters, Users, and Quitters) were similar in the following characteristics: history of polydrug use; social conformity; sensation-seeking; appraisal of risky activities; history of engaging in risky activities; and self-report of reasons for first using Ecstasy. In addition, findings revealed the following characteristics to be distinguishing factors among the three groups (Users, Experimenters, and Quitters): extent of polydrug use; age of first use of ecstasy; patterns of ecstasy use; number of peers who currently use Ecstasy; and reasons for continued use of ecstasy. Notably, all of the participants in this study self-reported polydrug use, and Users were found to be significantly more likely to report having used a greater number of substances during the past 90 days than Experimenters, Quitters, and Controls. Furthermore, results suggest that young adults who have peers who use Ecstasy are at great risk for either the initiation of or continuation of current Ecstasy use. Implications for prevention and intervention are discussed.