"Given the subjective effects of ecstasy in promoting 'togetherness,' it is likely taken by people who feel socially isolated and perhaps unable to feel a sense of belonging in other ways," said study lead author Ami Rokach, Ph.D., of York University in Toronto, Ontario. "The locations in which the drug is most popularly consumed, namely at raves and parties where individuals are suddenly surrounded by hundreds of 'friends,' are also conducive to a feeling of oneness."
In a study of 818 drug and non-drug users (275 men and 543 women, ages 15-30), Dr. Rokach and co-author Tricia Orzeck, B.S., of the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Toronto, examined how ecstasy (MDMA) users differ from others in coping with loneliness. The sample consisted of 106 regular users of ecstasy, 88 users of other drugs (such as marijuana, cocaine, and alcohol), and 624 who indicated they were not drug users.
All the participants answered a loneliness questionnaire, which asked them to reflect on their previous experiences of loneliness and mark those items that described the coping strategies that were most helpful to them. The items were grouped into the following six factors: 1) Reflection and acceptance (being by one's self to become acquainted with one's fears and accepting loneliness and its resulting pain), 2) Self-development and understanding (the increased self-intimacy, renewal and growth that often comes with active participation in organized focused groups or from receiving professional help and support), 3) Social Support network (re-establishing friendships which can help one feel connected to and valued by others), 4) Distancing and denial (denial of loneliness and the pain that comes with it by using alcohol, drugs or through other deviant behaviors), 5) Religion and faith (gaining strength and a sense of community and belonging by affiliating with a religious group and practicing its faith), and 6) Increased activity (active pursuit of daily responsibilities and fun-filled solitary or group activities).
Results show that drug users, in particular those who consume ecstasy, cope with the distressing effects of loneliness differently than non-drug users. Ecstasy users scored highest on all the coping strategies except for the reflection/acceptance and the religion/faith factors, the two factors where non-drug users scored the highest, and the other drug using group had the lowest scores. Both the effects of ecstasy and the atmosphere in consuming this drug seem to help explain why ecstasy users scored high in most of the coping strategies, according to the authors.
The authors say the results of the study show the need to address loneliness and strategies of coping with it when counseling ecstasy abusers in their teens or young adulthood years.
Presentation: "Coping With Loneliness: Young Adult Drug Users," Ami Rokach, Ph.D., Institute for the Study and Treatment of Psychosocial Stress, Toronto, ON, Canada, and Tricia Orzeck, B.S., Adler School of Professional Psychology, Toronto, ON, Canada, Session 1158, 1:00 - 2:50 PM, August 22, 2002, McCormick Place, Lakeside Center-Level 3, Hall D1 (A-3).
Full text paper available from the APA Public Affairs Office.
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