Resurgence in Ecstasy Use on the Horizon?

Several indicators suggest that there may be a resurgence in ecstasy use in the coming years. There were an estimated 1.1 million new ecstasy users in 2009, according to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).

This is an increase of 83% from the most recent low incidence rate of 607,000 in 2004. By comparison, there were an estimated 1.6 million new users at the height of the ecstasy epidemic a decade ago. Changes in incidence are often leading indicators of emerging patterns of substance use, and there was a statistically significant increase in the estimated number of past year ecstasy users from 2008 (2.1 million) to 2009 (2.8 million; data not shown).

In addition, the number of ecstasy-related emergency department (ED) visits has nearly doubled since 2007 (from 12,748 to 22,816). CESAR will continue to monitor these and other indicators for changes in ecstasy use.

Estimated Number (in thousands) of New Ecstasy Users per Year (ages 12 or older) and Estimated Number of Ecstasy-Related ED Visits, 1992 to 2009


*Data on ecstasy-related ED visits prior to 2004 is not comparable to current DAWN ED data because of a major redesign that altered most of DAWN’s core features (e.g., design of the hospital sample, drug-related cases eligible, data items submitted on these cases, protocol for case finding and quality assurance).

NOTES: Estimates from 1992 to 2001 were produced using combined data from the 2002-2004 NSDUH and are based on questions on age and month at first use, the respondent’s date of birth, and the interview date. Estimates from 2002 to 2009 refer to initiation in the 12 months prior to the survey, and are produced independently based on the data from the survey conducted that year. Ecstasy-related ED visits are those in which ecstasy was involved as either a direct cause or a contributing factor to the visit.

SOURCES: Adapted by CESAR from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables, 2010 (available online at; SAMHSA, Results from the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables, 2005 (available online at; and SAMHSA, National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits, 2004-2009, online at, accessed 3/29/11.

Randy Haveson

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Randy Haveson
Randy Haveson is the Founder & CEO of HERO House, a sober living, recovery residence program for college students in early sobriety from addictions. Learn More

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