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MDMA (Ecstasy) Abuse

What is the scope of MDMA abuse in the U.S.?

It is difficult to determine the exact scope of this problem because MDMA is often used in combination with other substances, and does not appear in some traditional data sources, such as treatment admission rates.

More than 11 million persons aged 12 or older reported using ecstasy at least once in their lifetimes, according to the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The number of current (use in past month) users in 2004 was estimated to be 450,000.9

Monitoring the Future Survey* - Trends in MDMA Prevalance, 2002-2004

bar graphs showing annual and past 30-day trends of MDMA use among 8th, 10th and 12th graders - maximum use was about 4.2% annual use among 12th graders in 2003, trend has been going down since then to 2.8% in 2005Note: These data are from the 2005 Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, DHHS, and conducted annually by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. "Annual" refers to use at least once during the year preceding an individual's response to the survey. "30-day" refers to use at least once during the 30 days preceding an individual's response to the survey.

The Drug Abuse Warning Network, maintained by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, reported that mentions of MDMA in drug abuse-related cases in hospital emergency departments were 2,221 for the third and fourth quarters of 2003. The majority of patients who came to emergency departments mentioning MDMA as a factor in their admissions during that time were aged 18–20.10

Trends in Perceived Harmfulness of MDMA Use

line graph showing perceived risk trends among 8th and 10th graders, trend shows a reduction in perceived harmfullness from 2003 to 2005, with lowest point being 39% of 8th graders saying there is a great risk from trying MDMA once or twice.

There is, however, some encouraging news from NIDA’s Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, an annual survey used to track drug abuse trends among adolescents in middle and high schools across the country. Between 2001 and 2005, annual ecstasy use decreased by 52 percent in 8th-graders, 58 percent in 10th-graders, and 67 percent in 12th-graders. Rates of lifetime MDMA use decreased significantly from 2004 to 2005 among 12th graders.

In 2005, 8th-graders reported a significant decrease in perceived harmfulness in using MDMA occasionally. The MTF data also show that MDMA use extends across many demographic subgroups. Among 12th-graders in 2005, for example, 3.9 percent of Whites, 3.0 percent of Hispanic students, and 1.4 percent of African-Americans reported using MDMA in the year prior to the survey.11

This page was last updated March 2006

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