Childhood Depression May Raise Risk of Ecstasy Use

Study Says it is linked to pre-existing depression

Amsterdam; according to a Dutch study published today, ecstasy the illegal club drug often blamed by doctors for causing depression and anxiety may only enhance symptoms of depression and anxiety rather than cause them. The use of ecstasy is associated with emotional health problems, such as depression, psychotic symptoms, and anxiety disorders. But it’s not clear whether emotional problems are a consequence of using ecstasy, or if the emotional problems led to ecstasy use.

Researchers found that children suffering from depression were more likely to grow into adults who use the drug recreationally to feel better, indicating that the apparent emotional problems of adult ecstasy users may be due to a pre-existing condition. “Using ecstasy may increase a risk that is already there,” said author Anja Huizink, assistant professor at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam. “Other studies claim that ecstasy leads to depression,” Huizink told Reuters. “Sometimes that is the case. But perhaps it is more the case that individuals who already have an increased risk for depression are more likely to use ecstasy.

Ecstasy, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), causes the brain to exhaust its reserves of serotonin, along the way inducing the body to feel empathetic
(enhanced feelings of bonding with other people), relaxed, energized, and euphoric. For this reason it is a favorite of millions of club kids around the world who use it to laugh, talk and dance freely all night long. The problem being the next morning when they awake to revulsion hangovers. For this reason it has been linked to depression, especially for heavy users over a long period of time.
The Dutch study of 1,580 individuals over 14 years published by the British Medical Journal, did leave open the possibility that ecstasy can cause depression in some cases. “Perhaps for individuals who did not display symptoms of depression and anxiety in childhood, using a lot of ecstasy may also cause depression. We are not saying that is not the case, but we need more studies,” said Huizink.

Huizink and colleagues first looked at their sample in 1983, before ecstasy appeared as a recreational drug in the Netherlands. Use of the drug was then assessed 14 years later, providing a unique opportunity to investigate if a pathway from behavioral and emotional problems leading to ecstasy use exists. Individuals with signs of anxiety and depression in 1983 showed an increased risk of latter use of ecstasy. They believe that other factors not tested in their study could account for the increased tendency to use ecstasy in some individuals. These include peer pressure, novelty seeking, as well as substance use by parents. “Focusing on these vulnerable individuals in future studies will increase our insight into the potential harmful effects of MDMA,” they concluded.