MDMA/Ecstasy Use Among Young People in Ohio: Perceived Risk and Barriers to Intervention

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In the past several years, the use of MDMA (Ecstasy) has increased substantially in the United States and in many countries around the world. Although this increase has been associated with the dance club and rave scenes, Ecstasy use has expanded into new settings. At the same time, the diversity of people using the drug has also grown. Given the increasing, although unclear, evidence that MDMA has the potential to cause neurotoxicity and various psychological problems under certain conditions among humans, understanding how active users perceive the risks associated with Ecstasy use can help to inform prevention and intervention approaches. Based on audiotaped focus groups and individual interviews conducted with 30 Ecstasy users in Dayton and Columbus, Ohio, this article explores these and other issues. Results demonstrate that beyond the risk of obtaining something potentially deadly instead of MDMA, most users do not associate risks of neurotoxicity or psychological problems with Ecstasy use. Active users look to harm-reduction approaches for answers to using Ecstasy safely; prevention messages like, “Just say no to drugs” are largely ignored. Because Ecstasy is commonly used among small groups of friends, peer leader or other social network intervention approaches may be promising.



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