Pathways through MDMA use : a qualitative life story study

Sharifimonfared, Ghazaleh

October 2016

Thesis or dissertation

© 2016 Ghazaleh Sharifimonfared. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

MDMA is a popular psychoactive drug that is highly associated with raves and clubbing culture. Consumers experience feelings of euphoria, joy, and confidence. Despite the considerable research on MDMA, non-problematic aspects of use remain under researched. The aim of this study was to understand MDMA use and pathways into and out of consumption. More specifically, the research examines the experience of ex-heavy MDMA users through their MDMA journeys.

This qualitative study employed an online questionnaire inspired by the Life Story Approach. Participants were recruited using ethnographic research methods and through related online forums. The inclusion criterion was individuals who self-identified as ex-heavy MDMA users, who have now cut down or completely stopped MDMA use. 104 former heavy MDMA users were surveyed. Data was analysed thematically from which six main categories were identified: Journey; Polydrug use; Role of drugs during consumption; Changes in drug use pattern; Changes in life; and Advice. A common positive tone runs through all the themes, and most reported negativity is due to drug use as a whole.

Data analysis highlighted Harm reduction and Function and pleasure enhancement as important overarching themes for participants. MDMA was generally used in specific settings to enhance an event or experience, such as music related events. But MDMA also enhanced intimacy, social bonding, meditation, and was used by some as a cognitive enhancer and therapeutic aid helping to think and feel differently. Many described positive psychological and social effects of use that remained after MDMA use, and often lasted permanently. Although a stop or a cut-down in MDMA use is often a natural process, it could still be cut-down or stopped actively by making lifestyle changes such as distancing oneself from the associated scenes and people.

The results of this study bring a foundation of understanding MDMA use and pathways into and out of frequent use, which could particularly be useful in designing appropriate harm reduction programs and inform policy making. Likewise, present findings could help to address further aspects of MDMA use and non-problematic drug use in general.

Department of Psychology, The University of Hull
Hammersley, Richard (Richard H.); Dent-Brown, Kim
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