July 02, 2014
2 min read

Sociodemographic factors predicted ecstasy use among US high school seniors

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New data published in Substance Use & Misuse suggest certain sociodemographic factors and use of other drugs increase the risk of ecstasy use among high school seniors.

“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, assistant professor at the department of population health at New York University Langone Medical Center and research affiliate of the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research, said in a press release. “We delineated many important sociodemographic risk factors, but the most consistent and important risk factor we found is use of other drugs.”

Joseph Palamar

Joseph J. Palamar

Palamar and Dimitra Kamboukos, PhD, also of the New York University Langone Medical Center, evaluated 26,504 US high school seniors from cohorts assessed in 2007 to 2012 to determine who is at high risk for ecstasy use.

Females and religious students were consistently less likely to use ecstasy. Unless other lifetime drug use was reported, black and Hispanic students and students living with two parents were less likely to use ecstasy.

Participants who earned more than $50 a week from a job were also at increased risk of ecstasy use (adjusted OR=1.36; 95% CI, 1.15-1.62). Similarly, participants who earned $10 to $50 per week from other sources (adjusted OR=1.2; 95% CI, 1.01-1.43) or more than $50 per week from other sources (adjusted OR=1.6; 95% CI, 1.28-2) were at increased risk of ecstasy use.

“Students residing in a city were also at increased risk, as were those who reported lifetime use of alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, or other illicit drugs. This is among the first studies to examine how student income is related to ecstasy use,” Palamar said.

Increased risk of ecstasy use was specifically associated with lifetime use of another illicit drug (adjusted OR=13.92; 95% CI, 10.96-17.67).

“Harm reduction education is greatly needed, regardless of where and under what circumstances the drug is taken,” Palamar said. “As ecstasy becomes increasingly popularized and often contains adulterants, those who reject abstinence need to be able to make informed decisions about use in order to minimize potential harmful effects.”

Palamar also stressed that clinicians need to be aware that users and people who know users don’t think of the drug as harmful.

“We need to find a way to caution individuals about use without stigmatizing them or exaggerating the adverse effects that can be associated with use,” he told Healio.com. “Clinicians need to be trusted to provide believable information; otherwise we take the chance of users disregarding warnings about ecstasy and possibly even more serious drugs such as heroin.” — by Amber Cox

Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, can be reached at joseph.palamar@nyu.edu.

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.