Self-Reported Ecstasy/MDMA/“Molly” Use in a Sample of Nightclub and Dance Festival Attendees in New York City

Joseph J. Palamar, Patricia Acosta, Danielle C. Ompad, Charles M. Cleland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Ecstasy (MDMA) use has regained popularity in the United States, particularly in the form of “Molly,” which is often marketed as pure MDMA. Surveys have generally not included “Molly” in the definition of ecstasy, so rates of use may be underestimated. As popularity of ecstasy increases, research is needed to examine use among those at highest risk for use—nightlife attendees. Methods: We surveyed 679 young adults (age 18–25) entering nightclubs and festivals holding electronic dance music (EDM) parties in New York City in 2015. A variation of time-space sampling was utilized. We examined prevalence and correlates of self-reported lifetime ecstasy use. Results: Self-reported lifetime ecstasy use was common (42.8%, 95% CI: 32.8, 52.7). Use was most common among older participants, frequent party attendees, and those reporting higher levels of exposure to users. Those surveyed outside of festivals were less likely to report use compared to those surveyed outside of nightclubs (AOR = 0.37, p =.015). Over a third of ecstasy users (36.8%)reported use in pill, powder, and crystal form. Ecstasy users were also more likely to report use of other drugs, including novel psychoactive substances (e.g., 2C series drugs, synthetic cathinones [“bath salts”]). Half (50.4%) reported suspecting (21.9%) or finding out (28.5%) that their ecstasy had ever contained a drug other than MDMA. Conclusion: A large percentage of nightlife attendees in NYC report lifetime ecstasy use. Findings should inform prevention and harm reduction programming. Further research is needed as ecstasy continues to change (e.g., in form, purity, and name).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)82-91
Number of pages10
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2017


  • Ecstasy
  • MDMA
  • nightclub and festival attendees
  • young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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