The epidemiology of ecstasy use and harms in Australia

Neuropsychobiology. 2009;60(3-4):176-87. doi: 10.1159/000253553. Epub 2009 Nov 5.


Aims: This paper examines the epidemiology of ecstasy use and harm in Australia using multiple data sources.

Design: The data included (1) Australian Customs Service 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) detections; (2) the National Drug Strategy Household and Australian Secondary Student Alcohol and Drug Surveys; (3) data from Australia's ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System; (4) the number of recorded police incidents for ecstasy possession and distribution collated by the N.S.W. Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research; (5) the number of calls to the Alcohol and Drug Information Service and Family Drug Support relating to ecstasy; (6) the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Dataset on number of treatment episodes for ecstasy, and (7) N.S.W. Division of Analytical Laboratories toxicology data on number of deaths where MDMA was detected.

Findings: Recent ecstasy use among adults in the general population has increased, whereas among secondary students it has remained low and stable. The patterns of ecstasy consumption among regular ecstasy users have changed over time. Polydrug use and use for extended periods of time (>48 h) remain common among this group. Frequent ecstasy use is associated with a range of risk behaviours and other problems, which tend to be attributed to a number of drugs along with ecstasy. Few ecstasy users present for treatment for problems related to their ecstasy consumption.

Conclusions: Messages and interventions to reduce the risks associated with polydrug use and patterns of extended periods of use are clearly warranted. These messages should be delivered outside of traditional health care settings, as few of these users are engaged with such services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / therapy
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Crime
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens* / administration & dosage
  • Hallucinogens* / analysis
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / analysis
  • Male
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine* / administration & dosage
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine* / analysis
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors


  • Hallucinogens
  • Illicit Drugs
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine