Ecstasy: Usage trends

Last modified: Sunday, 31. May 2009 - 2:03 pm

Until relatively recently, researchers had little data on Usage trends of ecstasy because it was not included in national surveys of drug use. The most comprehensive and up-to-date information on Usage trends among young people in the United States comes from just a few sources, including The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse and the Monitoring the Future surveys. The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse is an annual survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that estimates the incidence and prevalence of drug use in the general population ages 12 and over. In 2000, nearly 3% of the population ages 12 and over reported at least one lifetime use of ecstasy, showing a substantial increase from 1999 and years prior. The majority of users were in younger age groups, with 9.7% of young adults aged 18-25 reporting at least one lifetime use of ecstasy, an increase of more than 2% from the previous year.
Because ecstasy is primarily used by adolescents and young adults, a survey focusing on this area of the population should provide the most accurate assessment of patterns and trends of ecstasy use. The Monitoring the Future survey, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, was designed to track drug use patterns and attitudes of secondary school and college students in the United States since 1975. The Monitoring the Future survey started incorporating questions on ecstasy in the 1989 survey for young adults and the 1996 survey for younger students. Results from this survey have shown a trend of increasing use across all age ranges. The study found 3.4% of eighth graders had used ecstasy in 1996. Numbers dropped slightly for the next couple of years, but have shown a sharp increase to 5.2% of eighth graders in 2001. Among tenth graders the prevalence of ecstasy use went from 5.6% to 8.0% in the same time period, again with a slight dip in 1998. Just over 6% of twelfth graders reported ecstasy use 1996, an estimate that has jumped to 11.7% by 2001. College students have shown a similar trend. Around 2% of college students reported use in 1991, a number that slowly increased until 1996, when it sharply increased to more than 13% in 2000.
Scope and severity
Usage and research of ecstasy in the United States appears to be at least five years behind that in European countries. Some reports suggest 80% of all ecstasy in circulation comes from the Netherlands. By the end of 2001, much of the research on the health effects of ecstasy has come from outside the United States, from places such as Australia, Ireland, Great Britain, and Germany, among others. The ecstasy users studied also differ somewhat; to qualify as an ecstasy user in many of the European studies, a higher number of total uses is required than in U.S. studies.
Ecstasy use originally was associated with certain subcultures, such as people involved in New Age spirituality, the dance club scene, gay men, followers of the Grateful Dead, and college students. This is no longer the case, as ecstasy use has become more mainstream in popular culture.
Age, ethnic, and gender trends
The majority of ecstasy users are Caucasian, educated, and are concentrated in the adolescent to young adult age groups. In addition, many studies have not shown the differences in ecstasy use between males and females usually seen with other drugs. Although drug use tends to start among people in younger age groups, ecstasy is rarely found to continue into older ages as is the case with many other drugs. As the availability of ecstasy has become more widespread, the drug is branching out to different age and ethnic groups, which will be reflected in the results of future national surveys.

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