Ecstasy and Amphetamine Use Raise Depression Risk in Teens

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A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health describes a strong link between the use of ecstasy or amphetamines and subsequent depression in teens. This link has been suspected but not clearly shown.

The study, which used a sample of almost 4,000 students in Canada, looked at kids in 10th and 11th grade. If they used either meth or ecstasy in 10th grade, that turned out to be predictive of depression the next year. This might show how the still-developing brain is more susceptible to changes brought on by drug experimentation.

In the study group, 11.8% of the kids had used speed in 10th grade, while 8% admitted using ecstasy. Some had used both drugs. Accounting for previous depression, researchers found a 60 to 70% greater risk for depression with drug use than without.

The study stops short in claiming that ecstasy and speed directly cause depression, although that is a confirmed part of withdrawal from many addictive substances. It may be that taking the drugs is a type of self-treatment for depression, anxiety or stress. It may also be that the two factors – depression and drug use—have a third, as yet unknown cause. However, the statistics do bear out a relationship between abuse of ecstasy, meth and depression.

Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis, a mental health issue linked to an addiction, is common in the adult using population. Estimates are that at least 60% of those seeking treatment for substance abuse will have a diagnosis of a mood disorder, usually depression. What’s surprising in this study is that the link can be demonstrated so early on.

In the US, the drug surveys among high school students show that students are using ecstasy and meth at a slightly lower rate than in the study above. The Monitoring the Future drug survey from 2011 shows a rate of about 7% for amphetamine use and 5% for ecstasy in 10th graders nationwide. These percentages will vary by region however.

photo by John Nyboer

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