Comparing ecstasy users and non-users in a population-based and co-twin control design across multiple traits

Annabel Vreeker, Tibor M. Brunt, Jorien L. Treur, Gonneke Willemsen, Dorret I. Boomsma, Karin J.h. Verweij, Jacqueline M. Vink

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Objective: Ecstasy is one of the most commonly used illicit substances in Western countries. The aim of this study is to identify characteristics of ecstasy users in a large population-based sample of adults aged 18–45 years. Method: With generalized estimating equation models we explored the association between self-reported lifetime ecstasy use and urbanicity, educational attainment, health, wellbeing, stress, other substance use, personality traits and psychopathology in a Dutch twin sample (N = 9578, 66.8% female, 18–45 years). We also explored the nature of the association (underlying genetic factors, shared environmental factors or a causal relationship) with the co-twin control method. Results: Lifetime ecstasy users (N = 945, 9.9%) were more often male, younger, living more often in urban areas, higher educated, less satisfied with life and more stressed than non-users. Ecstasy users scored differently on most personality and psychopathology scales compared to non-users and were more likely to have used every other substance we investigated. Whereas smoking tobacco and alcohol use often preceded first use of ecstasy, first ecstasy use often preceded first use of other illicit substances. A combination of scenarios (both causal and environmental/genetic) explained the strong associations between ecstasy and substance use. Conclusions: Ecstasy users differ on many characteristics from non-users, and especially on illicit substance use. Our results indicate that causal effects may play a role in explaining the relationship between ecstasy use and other illicit substance use.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106421
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Early online date28 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020

Cohort Studies

  • Netherlands Twin Register (NTR)


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