To estimate the prevalence of past year laxative use or vomiting weight control behaviors among adolescent females in the general population and to examine the relationship between these behaviors and substance use among adolescent females, with a specific focus on past year 3–4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) (“Ecstasy”) use.
Secondary analyses were conducted using a nationally representative sample of females aged 12 to 17 years (n = 4292) from the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA). Logistic regression was used to examine bivariate relationships between past year laxative use or vomiting weight control behaviors and substance use and the multivariate relationship between unhealthy weight control behaviors and Ecstasy use.
Approximately 10% of adolescent females had used laxatives or vomited to lose weight in the past year. Adolescent females who had used laxatives or vomited to lose weight in the past year were more likely than those who had not to have used substances during the past year, including Ecstasy, inhalants, nonmedical psychotherapeutics, marijuana, cigarettes, and alcohol. After controlling for demographics and other substance use, past year laxative use or vomiting weight control behaviors were positively associated with past year Ecstasy use (OR = 1.81; 95% CI = 1.05, 3.14; p = 0.04).
Laxative use or vomiting weight control behaviors are a significant problem among the general population of adolescent females and are related to an increased risk of Ecstasy use.