Alcohol use and risk taking among regular ecstasy users
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Breen, C and Degenhardt, L and Kinner, S and Bruno, RB and Jenkinson, R and Matthews, AJ and Newman, J, Alcohol use and risk taking among regular ecstasy users, Substance Use & Misuse, 41, (8) pp. 1095-1109. ISSN 1082-6084 (2006) [Refereed Article]
We examine alcohol use in conjunction with ecstasy use and risk-taking behaviors among regular ecstasy users in every capital city in Australia. Data on drug use and risks were collected in 2004 from a national sample of 852 regular ecstasy users (persons who had used ecstasy at least monthly in the preceding 6 months). Users were grouped according to their typical alcohol use when using ecstasy: no use, consumption of between one and five standard drinks, and consumption of more than five drinks ("binge" alcohol use). The sample was young, well educated, and mainly working or studying. Approximately two thirds (65%) of the regular ecstasy users reported drinking alcohol when taking ecstasy. Of these, 69% reported usually consuming more than five standard drinks. Those who did not drink alcohol were more disadvantaged, with greater levels of unemployment, less education, higher rates of drug user treatment, and prison history. They were also more likely than those who drank alcohol when using ecstasy to be drug injectors and to be hepatitis C positive. Excluding alcohol, drug use patterns were similar between groups, although the no alcohol group used cannabis and methamphetamine more frequently. Binge drinkers were more likely to report having had three or more sexual partners in the past 6 months and were less likely to report having safe sex with casual partners while under the influence of drugs. Despite some evidence that the no alcohol group were more entrenched drug users, those who typically drank alcohol when taking ecstasy were as likely to report risks and problems associated with their drug use. It appears that regular ecstasy users who binge drink are placing themselves at increased sexual risk when under the influence of drugs. Safe sex messages should address the sexual risk associated with substance use and should be tailored to reducing alcohol consumption, particularly targeting "heavy" alcohol users. The study's limitations are noted. Copyright © 2006 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
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