Aims: (i) To describe illegal drug use patterns in an adolescent normal population sample with special emphasis on MDMA, ecstasy; (ii) to investigate where ecstasy is introduced in a hypothesized drug use sequence, and (iii) to contrast the predictors of ecstasy use with those of other illegal substances. Special attention was given to the relationship to subcultural music preferences and house-party-going.
Design: A school-based survey of the total cohort of adolescents enrolled in the school system in a city.
Participants: 10,812 adolescents, age 14-17 years, response rate 94.3%.
Setting: Oslo, the capital and only metropolitan town in Norway.
Measurements: Social class was measured by the occupation standard ISCO 88, questions were posed as regards frequency of alcohol use and alcohol intoxication, cigarette smoking and use of cannabis, amphetamines, ecstasy and heroin. Alcohol problems were measured by a shortened version of Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index (RAPI), conduct problems were measured according to the four categories of acts forming the basis of the diagnosis conduct disorder in DSM-IV, internalizing mental health problems were measured using items from Hopkins Symptoms Checklist (HCL). A number of questions were asked as regards subcultural music preferences and house-party-going. STATISTICAL MODELS: A hypothesized cumulative sequence in drug use was investigated by means of latent class analysis, and the predictors of the various patterns of drug use were estimated and compared by means of multinominal logistic regression analysis.
Findings: The use of ecstasy was often intermingled with the use of cannabis, amphetamines and heroin, in a pattern of polydrug use. The latent class analysis revealed the following drug use sequence: (1) alcohol, (2) cigarettes, (3) cannabis, (4) amphetamines, (5) ecstasy and (6) heroin. There was no significant association between ecstasy use and parental social class or residential area of the town. All patterns of illegal drug use were highly associated with cigarette smoking, alcohol use, alcohol problems and conduct problems, whereas the associations with internalizing mental health problems were of less magnitude. Multinominal logistic regression analysis revealed that the use of ecstasy (E) was significantly more weakly associated with cigarette smoking than were the use of cannabis only (C), amphetamines (A) and the combination of ecstasy and amphetamines (A + E). The association between E and conduct problems (CP) was weaker than the association between CP and A and A + E. Finally, there were associations between E and A + E and House/Techno preferences and house-party-going, which were not found for C and A.
Conclusions: Ecstasy is used by adolescents who use other legal and illegal substances in a polydrug-use pattern. The substance is introduced late in a hypothesized drug use sequence. Even so, ecstasy use seems to differ from the use of, e.g. amphetamines, in that the association with smoking and conduct problems is weaker and that the associations with subcultural music preferences and house-party-going are much stronger.