Synthetic drugs raise risk of depression

May 10, 2012

Adolescents who admit to using the recreational drugs "speed" and "ecstasy" are at risk for signs of depression a year later, research from Canada suggests. How does the risk for depression in these teens compare with peers who are nonusers?

Tenth-grade adolescents who use meth/amphetamine (known as “speed”) or 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA; “ecstasy”) are at increased risk of depressive symptoms the following year, especially among users of both synthetic drugs.

Researchers assessed use of these synthetic drugs in grade 10 via questionnaire in 3,880 adolescents, most of whom (91.3%) were white. Depressive symptoms were measured in 2,161 of the participants in grade 11 using an abridged version of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression (CES-D) questionnaire; the abridged scale measures behaviors in the past week.

Some 4.9% of the respondents used meth/amphetamine alone, 1.3% used MDMA alone, and 6.7% reported using both.

Three different models were used for data analysis-the separate contributions of MDMA use (model 1) and meth/amphetamine use (model 2) in predicting depressive symptoms and a third model in which either drug was assessed alone and also together.

When adjusted for use of other substances in grade 10 and other confounders, MDMA use increased the risk of grade 11 depressive symptoms by 50% to 70%, meth/amphetamine use increased it by 40% to 60%, and the use of both synthetic drugs increased risk by 90% compared with nonusers.

The researchers say that the results provide the first compelling evidence that using recreational MDMA and meth/amphetamine places typically developing secondary-school students at greater risk of experiencing depressive symptoms.

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