Recreational ecstasy/MDMA and other drug users from
the UK and Italy: psychiatric symptoms and psychobiological problems

Parrott AC, Milani RM, Parmar R, Turner JD.
Department of Psychology,
University of East London, London E15 4LZ, UK,
Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2001 Dec;159(1):77-82


RATIONALE: Recreational drug use is increasingly widespread amongst young people, but there are concerns that psychoactive drugs may be associated with psychiatric symptoms or psychobiological problems. OBJECTIVES: To assess the psychiatric health status of a large, non-clinical sample of young adults from Italy and the UK, and relate it to their use of ecstasy/MDMA and other recreational drugs. METHODS: The UEL Recreational Drug Use Questionnaire was completed by 768 young people (mean age 21.7 years) from four European cities. The subjects comprised 150 non-drug users, 185 alcohol/tobacco users, 97 cannabis and alcohol/tobacco users, 102 illicit polydrug but not ecstasy users, 115 light (<20 times) ecstasy polydrug users, and 119 heavy (>20 times) ecstasy polydrug users. The unpaid volunteers completed the SCL-90 self-rating inventory for psychiatric symptoms when off drug, with 30 additional questions covering positive moods and life experiences. RESULTS: Heavy ecstasy polydrug users reported significantly higher scores than non-drug users on several SCL-90 factors, including phobic anxiety, obsessive-compulsive behaviour, anxiety, psychoticism, somatisation, and significantly higher rates of 'loss of sex interest or pleasure'. Self-rated symptom scores increased in line with greater drug use, so that polydrug users who had never taken ecstasy also reported a variety of psychobiological impairments. In contrast, positive moods and life experiences were broadly similar across subgroups. CONCLUSIONS: The recreational use of ecstasy/MDMA is associated with a range of psychiatric symptoms and psychobiological problems. However, these problems are not specific to ecstasy users but are also evident in other recreational polydrug users.

Polydrug use
Oxidative stress
Protect and survive
MDMA and immunity
Cutaneous vasoconstriction
Ecstasy/MDMA and cannabis
Arginine-vasopressin release
MDMA and executive function
Ecstasy and serotonin synthesis
Serotonin, noradrenline and dopamine
MDMA plus caffeine causes tachycardia
The confounding problem of polydrug use
MDMA (Ecstasy) plus methamphetamine

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