Patterns of ecstasy use in Australia:
findings from a national household survey

Degenhardt L, Barker B, Topp L.
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre,
University of NSW, Sydney, Australia.
Addiction. 2004 Feb;99(2):187-95.


AIM: To examine the patterns, correlates and context of 'recent' (preceding 12 months) ecstasy use using data from a nationally representative sample of Australians interviewed in 2001. DESIGN: Data were analysed from the 2001 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, a multi-stage probability sample of Australians aged 14 years or older. The focus was on ecstasy use among 14-19-year-olds and 20-29-year-olds, as the prevalence of recent use is highest among these groups. Recent ecstasy users were compared to those who had not used in the preceding 12 months and those who had never tried ecstasy ('others') on a range of demographic and drug use variables. Comparisons were also drawn between the patterns and context of ecstasy use of the two groups of recent ecstasy users (users aged between 14-19 and 20-29 years). FINDINGS: In 2001, 6.1% of Australians aged 14 years or older reported life-time ecstasy use, and 2.9% reported recent use. One in 10 (10.4%) of 20-29-year-olds and 5.0% of 14-19-year-olds had used ecstasy recently. Although there were few demographic differences between recent users and others, compared to those who had not recently used ecstasy, recent ecstasy users were more likely to have used a range of other drugs. Although recent ecstasy users of both age groups could be characterized as polydrug users, 20-29-year-old users were more likely to use other drugs concurrently with ecstasy. CONCLUSIONS: Following cannabis and amphetamines, ecstasy is the third most widely used illicit drug in Australia. Other than a greater likelihood of having used other drugs, few demographic variables appear to distinguish recent ecstasy users from others. Australian users in their 20s use ecstasy within a context of greater polydrug use than those in their teens. Although most ecstasy users described a pattern of occasional use, minorities reported weekly use, and difficulties in reducing their use despite wishing to do so. There is a need to develop interventions to assist problematic ecstasy users to reduce their use should they wish to do so and to increase education about the potential risks of combining ecstasy with other drugs.

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