Individuals experiencing higher levels of psychological distress and those who are more impulsive may be at a greater risk of problematic ecstasy use, according to new research published in Addictive Behaviors. The research found that both of these factors are related to an increased tendency to use ecstasy to cope.
“Only a small proportion of people who use ecstasy develop any associated problems, such as difficulties controlling their use of the drug. I wanted to investigate what might predispose people to these problems,” said study author Sally Meikle, a PhD student at the University of Melbourne.
“I had found this was an under-researched topic. Most research in the area has looked at the predictors of frequent use or consumption of large amounts of ecstasy, which doesn’t necessarily translate into problem use.”
The researchers surveyed 483 individuals from 34 different countries who had used ecstasy on at least one occasion. Approximately 10% of the sample scored above the cut-off for possible “dependence” based on a self-report questionnaire. These participants indicated that they thought their ecstasy use was out of control, worried about their use of ecstasy, and wished they could stop.
The researchers also found this type of problematic ecstasy use was associated with three psychological factors.
“This study found some evidence to suggest that ecstasy users who are experiencing psychological distress, and those who are more impulsive, might be at a greater risk of developing problems associated with their use of the drug. Further, the link between psychological distress and ecstasy use problems might be explained by individuals using ecstasy to cope with their distress, which is something that has also been found with other drugs in prior research,”
“What we can take away from these results is that attempts to curb ecstasy use problems should acknowledge the diversity of users and their motives for use.”
The researchers controlled for variables such as age, education, and overall level of ecstasy use. But like all research, the study includes some limitations.
“This research is an initial step towards understanding why some ecstasy users develop problems. We used an online survey to collect cross sectional data from ecstasy users, but longitudinal data is needed to be sure of the cause-and-effect relationships here.”
The study, “Individual differences in distress, impulsivity, and motives for use as predictors of problematic ecstasy use“, was authored by Sally Meikle, Olivia Carter, and Gillinder Bedi.