An in-depth qualitative examination of the ecstasy experience: results of a focus group with ecstasy-using college students
Levy KB, O'grady KE, Wish ED, Arria AM.
Department of Psychology,
University of Maryland,
College Park, Maryland, U.S.A.
Subst Use Misuse. 2005;40(9):1427-41


This study examined ecstasy use in 30 college students who participated in one of four 60-minute focus groups with other participants who also had a history of ecstasy use. Ten topics emerged in the sessions: 1) pill ingredients, 2) mechanism of MDMA effects, 3) reasons for initiating ecstasy use, 4) risky behaviors and ecstasy use, 5) sexual activity and ecstasy, 6) positive effects from ecstasy use, 7) negative effects related to ecstasy use, 8) ecstasy and polysubstance use, 9) perceived risks of ecstasy use, and 10) motivational factors related to quitting ecstasy use. Most participants had a basic understanding of the contents of ecstasy pills, and the effects that ecstasy has on the brain and bodily functions. Participants reported positive effects on mood, social pressure, curiosity, availability, boredom, desire for an altered state of mind, desire to escape, self-medication, desire to have fun, and the ease of use of ecstasy in comparison to other drugs as reasons for initiating ecstasy use. They were divided regarding whether ecstasy increased the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors, including risky sexual behavior. Participants described their experiences of both the positive and negative effects (physical and psychological) that they attributed to their use of ecstasy. All participants were polysubstance users, consuming a number of other substances simultaneously and concurrently with ecstasy. The majority was unaware of specific types of problems ecstasy could potentially cause and discounted its potential harm. Participants varied in their motivation for quitting ecstasy use, including negative personal experiences while using ecstasy, health concerns, and addiction/tolerance. Implications for prevention and intervention are discussed.

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