Ecstasy drug of choice for mid-aged professionals

By Beck Vass

5:30 AM Wednesday Feb 2, 2011

Ecstasy tablets. Photo / Supplied

The use of Ecstasy among older professionals is on the rise and even having children is not stopping people from partying with the drug.

Figures out of Australia’s National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre show Ecstasy is the drug of choice for those aged 30-40.

Experts here say New Zealand drug use follows Australian trends.

Dr Rebecca McKetin, from the research centre, which is part of the University of New South Wales, said there were more Ecstasy users who started using the drug in their 20s and continue to use into their 40s – despite settling down and having children.

Dr Chris Wilkins, who leads the illegal drugs research team at Massey University which conducts the New Zealand Alcohol and Drug Use Survey, said there were several reasons for the increasing use of drugs by middle-aged people.

"It’s a little bit of a function of those teenagers or young people in the eighties essentially just getting older, it’s kind of a natural process of cohort change."

But, he said social change over time had also led to increased drug use.

Forty was not considered "old" any more and, with fewer people having children, middle-aged people had more time to stay involved in youth culture which was often linked to drug use, Dr Wilkins said.

"The older generation are not only involved in illegal drugs such as Ecstasy but are also more likely to be involved in pharmaceutical drugs that have a lifestyle component, so your Viagras, your Prozacs and even some anti-depressants."

Dr Wilkins said he was aiming to complete another drug-use survey this year.

Ross Bell, executive director of the NZ Drug Foundation, said the age group that consumed "by far" the most drugs was the 18-24 bracket and the main group using Ecstasy was those aged 25-34.

"Meth [P] is the same – popular with middle-class professionals who may not yet have kids and may not be quite ready to. We do have that population that are aged in their 20s to mid 30s who are using. And, if they like it, they might keep using.

"In the sixties it was pot, people chilling out, in the eighties it was opium and heroin-type drugs and at the moment it seems to be drugs that are able to keep people working hard and playing hard.

"It stimulates them. It’s a quick high.

"They’re not the type to do it all the time. They might do it once a month, or every two months.

"[With] the lives that we’re currently leading … drugs of choice aren’t going to be drugs that slow them down like pot or heroin, it’s going to be drugs that speed them up."

Johnny Dow, director of the drug and alcohol rehabilitation trust Higher Ground, said the drugs people most sought help for were P and alcohol, rather than Ecstasy.

By Beck Vass


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