Adult Ecstasy Use Tied to Childhood Depression

The 'club drug' can give sense of connectedness with others, researchers note

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FRIDAY, Feb. 24, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Childhood anxiety or depression could boost risks for adult use of the illicit drug ecstasy, Dutch researchers report.

The nearly 1,600 participants in the study were first assessed in 1983 when they were children, and then again 14 years later. People who had signs of depression and anxiety in 1983 also had an increased risk of later ecstasy use as adults, the research team found.

Reporting in the Feb. 24 online issue of the British Medical Journal, researchers at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam noted that ecstasy's effects include enhanced feelings of bonding with other people, euphoria or relaxation. They speculate that people with anxiety or depression may be particularly susceptible to these effects, and may use ecstasy to relieve those feelings.

However, they added that long-term use of ecstasy may lead to an increase in depressive symptoms, which may partially explain the link between ecstasy use and later depression found in previous research.

Particular social environments, seeking out new experiences, or parental substance abuse are other factors that appear to increase the likelihood of ecstasy use in some people, the researchers said. They did not test for these factors in this study.

"Focusing on these vulnerable individuals in future studies will increase our insight into the potential harmful effects of ecstasy on brain neurotransmitter systems and associated psychopathology," the study authors wrote.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about ecstasy.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, news release, Feb. 24, 2006

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