Synthetic drug use linked to teen depression

Synthetic drug use linked to teen depression

By Liz Lockhart

Teenagers who use synthetic drugs such as speed or ecstasy are at a much greater risk of depression the following year, according to new research.  The University of Montreal found that the use of speed (methamphetamine) or ecstasy (MDMD) by 15 or 16 year olds was linked to elevated symptoms of depression.

This five year study’s findings suggest that the use of synthetic drugs has long-term negative effects.  ‘Our findings are consistent with other human and animal studies that suggest long-term negative influences of synthetic drug use.  Our results reveal that recreational MDMA and methamphetamine use, place typically developing secondary school students at greater risk of experiencing depressive symptoms,’ said Frederic N. Briere, co-author of the study.

The study suggests that students in the 10th grade who use speed and/or ecstasy are two-thirds more likely to have depression by the time they enter 11th grade, than those who did not use such drugs.

The study analysed data from 3,880 student participants who were enrolled in schools across Quebec.  The participants were asked a set of questions that encompassed their use of drugs.  It asked what drugs had been used in the last year or at other times in their life and also asked about their home life.  A standard epidemiological evaluation tool was used to establish symptoms of depression.

The results showed:

  • 8% (320) of participants reported using MDMA
  • 11.6% (451) of participants used methamphetamines
  • 15.1% (584) of participants were identified as having elevated depressive symptoms

Other factors which could affect the psychological state of the participating students were taken into account.  Factors such as conflict between the student and their parents.

Briere said ‘This study takes into account many more influencing factors than other research that has been undertaken regarding the association between drugs and depression in teenagers.  However, it does have its limitations, in particular the fact that we cannot entirely rule out the effects of drug combinations and that we do not know the exact contents of MDMA and methamphetamine pills.’

As a consequence of this fact they will be conducting further research to learn how drug combinations affect the likelihood of depression.  They also aim to discover whether adults and adolescents are different in this area.

The researchers suggest that all adolescents should be aware of the potential risks associated with the use of synthetic drugs.

Jean-Sebastien Fallu, Ph.D., study co-author, said ‘Our study has important public health implications for adolescent populations.  Our results reinforce the body of evidence in this field and suggest that adolescents should be informed of the potential risks associated with MDMA and Methamphetamine use.’

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