Depressive and anxiety symptomatology in ecstasy users: the relative contribution of genes, trauma, life stress and drug use

Rebecca M Scott, Leanne Hides, J Sabura Allen, Richard Burke, Dan I Lubman
Psychopharmacology 2010, 209 (1): 25-36

RATIONALE: Previous research has identified elevated rates of depressive and anxiety symptoms amongst ecstasy users; however, few studies have examined which factors increase the likelihood of experiencing such symptoms.

OBJECTIVES: The current study aimed to determine the relationship between ecstasy use and depressive/anxiety symptomatology after controlling for known environmental and genetic (polymorphism of the serotonin transporter gene) risk factors for depression and anxiety disorders.

METHODS: Participants consisted of a community sample of 184 18-35-year olds who had taken ecstasy at least once in the past 12 months. Participants completed an interview and questionnaires and provided a saliva sample. Mood symptoms were assessed using the Mood and Anxiety Symptom Questionnaire. Timeline methods were used to collect information on lifetime and recent ecstasy use, as well as recent other drug use and life stress. Trauma exposure was measured using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview--Trauma List. Genomic DNA was extracted from participant saliva samples.

RESULTS: Neither lifetime nor recent ecstasy use was associated with the severity of current mood symptoms, either alone or in combination with genetic risk factors. Rather, lifetime trauma, recent stressful life events, the frequency of tobacco use and recent polydrug use significantly predicted the severity of depressive and anxiety symptoms.

CONCLUSIONS: These results highlight the need to consider the role of environmental factors when examining the relationship between ecstasy use and mood symptoms. Whether ecstasy exacerbates such symptoms in vulnerable individuals requires further investigation using prospective designs.

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