Escape from Loneliness May Drive Ecstasy Use
By Yahoo News – Thursday September 5 2002
Copyright: Yahoo News
CHICAGO (Reuters Health) – Many young people drawn to the “party drug” Ecstasy may use it as a way to banish feelings of loneliness, according to new research.
“Given the subjective effects of Ecstasy in promoting ‘togetherness,’ it is likely taken by people who feel socially isolated and perhaps unable to feel a sense of belonging in other ways,” said researcher Dr. Ami Rokach, of York University in Toronto, Ontario.
She presented the findings here Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association.
Use of Ecstasy, also known as MDMA, has surged in recent years among youth, who often consume it at dance clubs and “rave” parties. Numerous reports of serious adverse reactions and even deaths linked to the drug have heightened public concern.
In their study, Rokach and co-author Tricia Orzeck sought to determine which types of personalities might be at especially high risk for frequent Ecstasy use. Ecstasy users often report a heightened sense of “belonging” while on the drug, so the Toronto team focused on loneliness.
They had 106 regular Ecstasy users, 88 users of other drugs (such as pot, alcohol or cocaine) and 624 people who didn’t use drugs complete detailed psychological questionnaires. The questionnaires asked study participants to report on the means they used to cope with feelings of loneliness.
The result? “Drug users, in particular those who consume Ecstasy, do indeed cope with the distressing effects of loneliness differently” than non-drug-users, the researchers report. Ecstasy users were much more prone to relying on networks of friends to help them feel less alone, and were also more likely to deny or distance themselves from their feelings of loneliness by using drugs or alcohol, compared with non-users.
“The locations in which the drug is most popularly consumed, namely at Raves and parties, are also conducive to a feeling of oneness,” the researchers point out. “A lonely individual who attends a Rave and takes MDMA may find himself suddenly surrounded by hundreds of ‘friends,’ most of whom are also taking the same drug, wearing similarly styled clothing, and seeking connection with others.”
The findings could have implications for the treatment of those with serious Ecstasy abuse problems. According to Rokach and Ozeck, counselors may need to address core feelings of loneliness, “especially when counseling Ecstasy abusers in their teens or young adulthood years.”