Pathways to ecstasy use in young adults: anxiety, depression or behavioural deviance?

Rosa Alati, Stuart A Kinner, Mohammad R Hayatbakhsh, Abdullah Al Mamun, Jake M Najman, Gail M Williams
Drug and Alcohol Dependence 2008 January 1, 92 (1): 108-15

AIMS: To investigate pathways to ecstasy use disorders from pre-birth to early adulthood with particular attention to the relationship between early depressive and anxiety symptoms and later ecstasy use disorders.

DESIGN: Prospective, longitudinal, population-based study started in Brisbane, South East Queensland (Australia) in 1981. Participants were 2143 young adults, followed up from pre-birth to young adulthood.

MEASUREMENTS: Ecstasy use disorders were assessed with the composite international diagnostic interview (CIDI-Auto). Maternal socio-economic position and mental health status were assessed at baseline (antenatal visit); maternal substance use was measured at the 5-year follow-up, adolescents' behaviour at the 5- and 14-year follow-up and tobacco and alcohol use were assessed at the 14-year follow-up.

FINDINGS: Eight syndrome scales of childhood behaviour were examined. After adjustment for important confounders, delinquent and aggressive behaviour in early adolescence remained significantly associated with ecstasy use disorders in early adulthood. The associations became statistically non-significant when adolescent tobacco and alcohol use were included in the model [OR=1.50 (95%CI=0.75, 3.01) for delinquency and OR=1.69 (95%CI=0.92, 3.12) for aggression]. Formal mediation tests were statistically significant (p=0.001 for delinquent behaviour and p=0.05 for aggressive behaviour).

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest a pathway from early deviant behaviour to ecstasy use disorders, possibly mediated through licit drug experimentation in early adolescence.

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