What Comes Up Must Go Down: Teens On Ecstasy And Speed
April 19, 2012

What Comes Up Must Go Down: Teens On Ecstasy And Speed

After studying speed and ecstasy use in teenagers for 5 years, University of Montreal researchers have found that the drugs can actually cause depression.

The study followed thousands of Canadian teenagers who used speed (meth/amphetamine) or ecstasy (MDMA) at ages 15 and 16. The results show these teens experienced severe depressive symptoms a year later.

“Our findings are consistent with other human and animal studies that suggest long-term negative influences of synthetic drug use,” said co-author Frédéric N. Brière of the School Environment Research Group at the University of Montreal. “Our results reveal that recreational MDMA and meth/amphetamine use places typically developing secondary school students at greater risk of experiencing depressive symptoms.”

According to the results, tenth grade students who used speed and ecstasy were 1.7 and 1.6 times more likely to become depressed by the time they reached eleventh grade.

To conduct the study, the researchers looked at data provided by 3,880 students from disadvantaged areas in Quebec. These teens were asked questions about their drug use–whether or not they had taken the drugs and how frequently–as well as questions about their home life. To determine depressive symptoms, the researchers used a standard epidemiological evaluation tool. Out of all of the respondents, 310 of them (or 8%) reported using MDMA while 451 of them (11.6%) reported using speed. Of all the students, despite their drug use, 584 (15.1%) were identified as having elevated depressive symptoms. Those students who had taken the recreational drugs, however, were almost 2 times more likely to develop depression than those who remained drug-free.

“Our results provide, to the best of our knowledge, the first compelling evidence that recreational [ecstasy] and [speed] use places typically developing secondary school students at greater risk of experiencing depressive symptoms,” according to Brière and Fallu.

Taking care to allow for other factors likely to depress the students, such as problems at home or school, the researchers asked questions which covered a wide area of the teenagers´ lives.

“This study takes into account many more influencing factors than other research that has been undertaken regarding the association between drugs and depression in teenagers,” Brière said. “However, it does have its limitations, in particular the fact that we cannot entirely rule out the effects of drug combinations and that we do not know the exact contents of MDMA and meth/amphetamine pills.”

Speed and Ecstasy have long been staples in the club and rave scene and have migrated their way into the public population. As such, there has been an increase in the number of children taking the drugs, with many taking both drugs at the same time, according to the study´s authors.

Both Brière and Fallu admit the increase of potential depression is modest in those students who used the drug, but also warn, “Modest contributions can have significant clinical implications from a population health perspective.”

Brière and Fallu also suggest further research should be done to determine if adolescents are more vulnerable to the drug as well as the neurological damage done by the drugs.

The study is published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.