Purpose: To examine the prevalence and changing patterns of ecstasy use among college students, and to determine characteristics, associated behaviors, and interests of ecstasy users.
Methods: The study analyzes data regarding ecstasy use and related behaviors from the 1997 and 1999 Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study. This is a survey of a nationally representative sample of over 14,000 college students at 119 U.S. four-year colleges. Changes in self-reported annual ecstasy use were examined, and lifestyle and high-risk behaviors associated with Ecstasy use were identified. Data were analyzed using 2 x 2 Chi-square tests and multiple logistic regression fitted by the generalized estimating equations (GEE).
Results: The prevalence of past year ecstasy use rose from 2.8% to 4.7% between 1997 and 1999, an increase of 69%. This increase was observed across nearly all subgroups of student and college type. A smaller sample of ten colleges revealed that the increase continued in 2000. Ecstasy users were more likely to use marijuana, engage in binge drinking, smoke cigarettes, have multiple sexual partners, consider arts and parties as important, religion as less important, spend more times socializing with friends, and spend less times studying. Unlike other illicit drug users, ecstasy users were not academic underachievers and their satisfaction with education was not different from that of non-ecstasy users.
Conclusion: Ecstasy use is a high-risk behavior among college students which has increased rapidly in the past decade.