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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2005 Feb 14;77(2):185-93.

Is ecstasy perceived to be safe? A critical survey.

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1
Research Department, University Hospital of Psychiatry, Lenggstrasse 31, 8029 Zurich, Switzerland. gamma@bli.unizh.ch

Abstract

Recent publications claim that the recreational drug ecstasy is considered to be safe by many or most ecstasy users, or by young people or the general public. Unfortunately, there are no references that provide any support for this claim. Previous studies of various populations, including drug users and adolescents in several nations, also failed to support claims of the perceived safety of ecstasy. Epidemiological surveys from the USA and UK consistently report high proportions of young people who perceive great risk in using ecstasy. Studies in ecstasy users show that they are aware of a number of short- and long-term risks of ecstasy use, although, in the absence of actual problems, they evaluate the personal significance of these risks as low. This study further investigated the perceived harmfulness of ecstasy, drawing on an online survey of over 900 drug users. Little support for the claim was found. Seventy-three percent of the participants in the online survey viewed ecstasy as carrying at least 'some risk'. The claim of ecstasy's perceived safety is plausibly based on researchers' assumptions that the continued widespread use of the drug indicates that users are unaware of the associated risks, and that informing them about these risks would lead to a reduction in drug use. We argue that these assumptions are inadequate and that drug information and harm reduction strategies should focus on more affective and personally significant aspects of risk perception.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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