3 out of 10 people in their 30s and 40s who previously tried ecstasy have used it in the past year.

The arrest of Matthew Chesher, husband of Education Minister Verity Firth, has caused uproar in the NSW Labour party.  Mrs Firth said “My husband has admitted to making a very big mistake. I am angry, hurt and very disappointed.”

But it has also opened up a debate about the reality of yesterday’s youth who still indulge in drug taking. Throughout the 1980’s and 90’s Ecstasy was very popular and it seems that the trend has stayed with that generation as they have reached middle age.

Many are focused on very stressful careers, or painful family break ups.  Others are hitting a mid life crisis and reliving their youth or experimenting with things they feel they missed out on when they were young.

So where do the youth of today look for their role models? Many are also facing the same life issues; family breakups, stress from studying and peer pressure.

Drug educator and Generation Next speaker, Paul Dillon feels ecstasy is becoming more socially acceptable among older people.

“I meet a lot of women, particularly divorced women, people who are going out and having their second childhood,” said Mr. Dillon, from Drug and Alcohol Research and Training.  In 2007 only 3.2% of women aged between 30 and 39 used ecstasy*.

“I consistently hear the message from people that they don’t see [ecstasy] as as bad as other things. It’s easy to access.”

Middle aged people have the added advantage that they can afford to purchase the drug and often obtain it in relative safety and privacy through a network of friends, rather than street dealers.

Dr Alex Wodak, director of the Alcohol and Drug Service at St Vincent’s Hospital said “For many people life is quite stressful. A brief chemical vacation is one of the ways many people cope with the vicissitudes of life.”

The last National drug Household Survey was conducted in 2007 and showed that 6.3% of men aged between 30 and 39 used ecstasy. This was up from 0.6% in 1995*.

Rebecca McKetin from the National Alcohol and Drug Research Centre expects approximately 8% of men and women in their 30s and 40s to use ecstasy by 2021.

“It’s not so much that this drug is a standout in terms of people who continue to use the drug into adulthood. It’s just that we’ve had this big wave of use in the ’90s … so we are seeing quite unusual levels of use into that older age bracket emerging.”

(*Source: 2007 National drug household survey)

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald