In most developed countries the use of antidepressants has risen dramatically during the past few decades. The situation in Australia has followed this international trend.

A new market opened here in 1990 with the introduction of antidepressants such as Prozac and Lovan. Other new generation antidepressants like Aurorix, Aropax and Efexor entered the market in later years.

A greater awareness of these new antidepressant drugs, reduced side effects and government subsidies means that these pharmaceuticals are now more accessible than ever.

Recent studies have highlighted the fact that some people who use ecstasy also use antidepressants for medical and non-medical purposes.

One study found that 1 in 16 regular ecstasy users in NSW had recently used antidepressants. Another found that about 25 per cent of regular ecstasy users had deliberately taken pharmaceuticals with ecstasy.

Of these, a proportion had intentionally combined ecstasy with antidepressants with the expectation of achieving a specific effect. (Using pharmaceuticals in this way is sometimes called pre- or post-loading).

In this study, those people who deliberately used antidepressants together with ecstasy were more likely to report potentially serious health effects including muscle rigidity, dizziness and headache than those who only used ecstasy.

These findings add to a small but growing body of research, which shows that a number of ecstasy-antidepressant combinations could possibly have serious health complications.

It is important, therefore, that ecstasy users are well informed of the risks associated with using antidepressants before, during or after ecstasy.

This applies to people who choose to pre- or post-load with antidepressant drugs and also to those who may be taking antidepressants for a medical condition such as anxiety or depression.

A medical practitioner would be the best person to approach for information about the potential negative health consequences. People considering making changes to their prescribed antidepressant regime should always consult their general practitioner first.

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) is currently conducting further research into the use of antidepressants with ecstasy.

If you are taking antidepressants for a medical condition and using ecstasy, or are deliberately combining your use of ecstasy with antidepressants then you may be eligible to participate.

If you are interested in being part of this worthwhile harm minimisation research, or have any further questions, you can contact Ed Silins at NDARC on 9385 0141 (if you are put through to voicemail leave your contact details and your call will be returned).

Alternatively, you can email e.silins@unsw.edu.au. Any information provided will be kept strictly confidential.

Remember: If you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and no matter how many times you have used a substance – never be blas?

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