Prevalence and correlates of past year ecstasy/MDMA use in the United States

OBJECTIVES: 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) (also known as “ecstasy” or “Molly”) has regained attention in recent years for its efficacy in treating posttraumatic stress disorder, and the drug was granted breakthrough therapy designation for such use by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2017. However, little is known about the current epidemiology of recreational ecstasy/MDMA use.

METHODS: We estimated past-year prevalence and correlates of ecstasy/MDMA use based on a representative sample of noninstitutionalized US individuals 12 years or older from the 2015–2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (N = 315,661).

RESULTS: An estimated 0.9% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.9–1.0) of individuals used ecstasy/MDMA in the past year. Compared with those ages 35–49 years, all younger age groups were at increased odds for use, while those older than 50 years (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 0.14, 95% CI = 0.08–0.23) were at low odds for use. Compared with heterosexual men, those identifying as bisexual women (aOR = 1.32, 95% CI = 1.02–1.72) were at increased odds for use, and compared with White individuals, those identifying as Asian (aOR = 1.92, 95% CI = 1.42–2.59), Black (aOR = 1.70, 95% CI = 1.41–2.06), or multiracial (aOR = 1.61, 95% CI = 1.19–2.16) were at increased odds for use. Past-year use of other drugs (e.g., cannabis, ketamine), prescription drug misuse (e.g., pain relievers, stimulants), nicotine dependence (aOR = 1.21, 95% CI = 1.00–1.45), and alcohol use disorder (aOR = 1.41, 95% CI = 1.25–1.58) were also associated with increased odds for use.

CONCLUSIONS: While use of ecstasy/MDMA continues to be relatively rare, findings from this study can help inform prevention and harm reduction strategies, especially among certain subpopulations that are at high risk for use.

Full citation:
Yang KH, Kepner W, Nijum A, Han BH, Palamar JJ (2023).
Prevalence and correlates of past year ecstasy/MDMA use in the United States
Journal of Addiction Medicine, 17 (5), 592-597. doi: 10.1097/ADM.0000000000001188. PMCID: PMC10593986.