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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. All my friends say like, you know, I get very, very friendly. Legal and illegal ingested substances have long given pleasure to those who have consumed them. Whether that be the Yanomamo using tobacco in Brazil Chagnon,Hippies smoking marijuana in Haight Ashbury Cavan,Africans drinking beer in a Bulawayo beer garden Wolcott, or English youth popping ecstasy pills in Manchester Parker et al. Given the extent to which these substances have provided individual pleasure as well as social and communal enjoyment, one is forced to ask the question: why then is it that so much of the research on ingested substances has ignored this central feature?
While it may be understandable that drug and public health researchers should focus more on the social and personal problems, it is nevertheless surprising that the element of pleasure should have been so often overlooked in the thousands of articles written on the use of illicit drugs. It is as though pleasure has become unseeable within much of the research. Even when notions of pleasure or fun are allowed to enter the picture, they are mentioned merely to be denied or negated.
The absence of any ificant discourse about pleasure within drug research means that a central component of why people use mind altering substances is ignored. While many different social, historical and political reasons could be suggested as to why the pleasure element has been largely ignored in so much of the research literature, one possible contributory factor would seem particularly relevant.
Given such a perspective on the dangers of drugs, it is not surprising that the active pursuit of pleasure on the part of young people would be downplayed or ignored. Furthermore, focusing on the risks and problems of drug use is not surprising given the extent to which notions of risk permeate much of contemporary thought, not solely within the drug and medical professions but also within society at large.
This preoccupation is also true within other social science research literature, which has emphasized the role of risk in everyday life Beck, ; Douglas, ; Giddens, Unfortunately, by examining risk solely from a problem perspective, drug researchers have tended to ignore the possibility that for many young people taking risks may be an important source of pleasure and excitement Hayward, ; Reith, In order to begin to re-adjust this imbalance, and in an attempt to re-locate enjoyment at the center of the drug using equation, the aim of this paper is to explore the elements of pleasure in the drug using experiences of a sample of young ecstasy users who frequent electronic music dance events in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Utilizing recent theoretical developments in both cultural studies and cultural criminology, we will examine in-depth qualitative interview data to explore the ways in which these young people experience the pleasures and fun in taking ecstasy and attending dance events. While we are aware that there may be other perceived benefits from taking ecstasy, in this paper we focus on the benefits that are connected to issues of pleasure and fun, as this emerged as the dominant narrative utilized by our respondents to explicate their experiences with ecstasy.
In so doing we hope to shed light on why taking these substances is so appealing to so many young people. Contemporary club drug research has focused primarily on three elements. Although MDMA is said to be physically non-addictive, users may become psychologically dependent and may subconsciously use the drug as a form of self-medication for underlying disorders Jansen, Second, researchers have noted the extent to which ecstasy and other party drugs, especially amphetamines, are strongly associated with the dance scene Boys et al.
Although research has suggested that marijuana is used more extensively than ecstasy see for example Tossman et al. Third, researchers have examined the socio-demographic characteristics of the users, especially their age and gender. The majority of attendees at dance events are teenagers and young adults, both male and female, and from the available research this trend appears generally consistent in different countries Calafat et al. While no representative surveys have been completed on either the age or gender ratio of attendees at clubs, raves and parties, researchers have emphasized the extent to which young women are a ificant presence Hutton, ; Parker et al.
Overall, while this literature has been particularly important in providing information on the problems associated with ecstasy, contemporary drug-using patterns, and the characteristics of the users, it has generally ignored both the role of pleasure and fun in consuming the drugs and the social context in which this consumption takes place.
The young drug user is portrayed as separate and divorced from his or her social setting and their social identities have become subsumed by the substance. De-contextualization is sometimes so thorough that it is difficult to uncover how these individuals behave in social settings, perceive their social lives or express their feelings and beliefs. Furthermore, because the pleasure discourse is underdeveloped within epidemiological research little attention has been focused on the social construction of pleasure.
Given the tendency of this literature both to downplay the importance of pleasure and de-contextualize the user, we will now examine an alternative literature which has focused more specifically on examining the social setting within which these young people consume ecstasy and experience fun. The starting point for much of this alternative sociological and cultural studies literature has been the attempt to understand the rapid expansion of the electronic-music dance scene. Even though the specific focus of individual researchers has been diverse, they have all explored the experiences of young people within this leisure activity and sought to understand the pleasurable features of the contemporary dance scene.
This focus on pleasure was further developed by writers such as Malbonwho provided the first detailed of the internal workings of the club scene and the night out. Other studies, while focusing on different issues, have also emphasized elements of pleasure. For example, writers such as Bennett and Gilbert Fun things to do while on ecstasy Pearson have focused on the pleasure of the musical aspects of the scene, while others have concentrated on exploring the pleasurable elements of dancing Thomas, Finally, because of the popularity of the dance scene for young women, feminist researchers have examined the relationship between gender and pleasure Henderson, ; McRobbie, ; Pini, both from the perspective of young women and also, but to a lesser extent, from the perspective of young men.
Cultural studies research on raves and the dance scene provides an important counter-balance to the problem-focused approach of much of the drug literature. Given the sharp Fun things to do while on ecstasy between the foci of epidemiology and socio-cultural studies, it is not surprising that the implicit or even explicit conceptualizations of young people are also ificantly different.
These two approaches reflect a dichotomous view of young people based in part on different underlying theoretical paradigms of positivism and phenomenology. Overall, socio-cultural studies have highlighted the pleasurable features of attending dance events, whether that be obtaining an ecstatic experience Malbon,enjoying the music Bennett,or exploring new boundaries of femininity Pini, However, in spite of this emphasis on elements of pleasure and fun, these studies have considered the use of mind-altering substances largely as an adjunct to other issues.
As Parker, Williams and Aldridge have argued, drug use among young people who attend dance events has become increasingly culturally acceptable and integrated into their leisure and lifestyle. One of the key attractions of attending dance events and doing drugs is the possibility of being involved in an exciting and non-mundane activity.
The data used for this article come from an ongoing study on the San Francisco Bay Area electronic music dance scene and drug users. Data were collected through in-depth, face-to-face interviews. These interviews took place between February and August and were conducted by the project manager and five interviewers.
In the first part of the interview, a brief, quantitative questionnaire was used to collect socio-demographic characteristics.
Respondents were recruited using several different methods, including advertisements, referrals from respondents, and through contacts of the project staff. Involvement in the scene was defined as attending dance events such as clubs, raves, and warehouse parties.
As this was primarily an exploratory study, we were interested in interviewing people with a wide range of experiences with club drugs, including both new and experienced users, as well as those who had used in the past but were not currently using. Of the respondents interviewed in the study, The data presented here are for those respondents, who we will be discussed in this paper.
Among the ecstasy users in the sample, The sample was fairly young, with a median age of 20, and the majority of these respondents Slightly more than half of the respondents reported Caucasian as their primary ethnic group Overall the sample was well-educated, and Forty-one percent of the sample had either received a four-year degree or were currently attending a four-year university.
Only 13 respondents had not finished high school and were not currently pursuing a diploma or degree. Just over sixty percent of the sample were employed at the time of the interview, mostly in white-collar business or clerical jobs, education or non-profit fields, or in retail and service. Only five respondents had children one child each and one respondent was pregnant.
Since the goal of the project was to interview club drug users who attend dance events, and in our advertisements we noted that drug use was a focus of the study, it is therefore not surprising that the vast majority of people who participated in the project Fun things to do while on ecstasy used ecstasy. Besides alcohol and marijuana, ecstasy was by far the most commonly used drug in our sample. While Of the respondents who had used ecstasy, This is not to say that some respondents had not experienced periods of heavy use, but for many of these respondents periods of heavy use were of short or moderate duration after which they either stopped or ificantly reduced their consumption.
The median age for first using ecstasy was 18, with a range of 12—36 years of age. And like the high was great. The importance of having fun is not surprising given both the ificance of attending dance events for many young people as a valued leisure activity as well as the extent of ecstasy use at dance parties. The respondents frequently described how ecstasy, especially when used within the dance-event setting, allowed them not just to have a good time but to experience a superlative level of fun.
Although respondents did describe negative experiences and effects from ecstasy, 7 the majority characterized their experiences as largely pleasurable and positive. For some, the pleasures centered solely around enjoying an exciting night out, while for others the pleasures experienced were life-changing.
Respondents described how they perceived themselves, experienced the environments in which they used, and related to others, highlighting the extraordinary or transcendental nature of the experience Lyng, For this respondent, ecstasy use is energizing, novel, and radically transformative of their outlook on the world. The descriptions of the pleasurable aspects of their ecstasy experiences can, for the purposes of this paper, be divided into three distinct but inter-related and often overlapping components - the physical experience, the emotional experience, and the experience of sociability and interacting with others.
An increase in energy and a heightening of the senses were the primary physical effects of the ecstasy high as described by the respondents. The pleasures of these physical effects were often tied to the social context within which they used the drug. For example, because many respondents used ecstasy at dance events, they noted a connection between the drug and their enjoyment of music and dancing.
Here ecstasy transformed the physical experience of the music and the fact that this effect was shared by others further intensified the pleasure of the experience. Respondents also described the pleasures of visual effects and their sense of touch while on ecstasy. It felt so good.
It feels good to have human contact. Like…you feel a warmth. Again the physical pleasures of the drug are intimately connected with its social aspects. Overall, these physical effects allowed young people to experience their environment in new and exciting ways.
This sense of increased well-being allowed respondents some respite from everyday worries and allowed them to focus on enjoying themselves and being present in the moment:. When I was on E, it was just great, everything was great. In addition to this sense of well-being, respondents Fun things to do while on ecstasy described feeling a sense of freedom that allowed them to Fun things to do while on ecstasy in a less self-conscious or self-critical way.
You like…you open up to people. Like you can just open up and talk about whatever you want and…dance and…do anything you want. In this interview and in others, respondents emphasize the way that ecstasy facilitates not so much a transformation into someone or something new, but rather ecstasy enables them to finally be and act as they really are, unfettered from the artifice of everyday life. The social constraints and barriers that existed in everyday social interactions, for example being too emotional or too open, were suddenly lifted by the effects of ecstasy, which made people feel much more sociable and empathetic:.
And it helped me to like overcome…those barriers when dealing with other people. This respondent experiences ecstasy as enabling not just superficial effects on sociability but a deeper dismantling of social barriers. You know, you still know your boundaries …. Because norms of appropriate social and personal behavior and notions of privacy were transformed, people often became much more eager to interact with others and willing to share their personal thoughts and feelings.
This openness in turn led respondents not only to bond more closely with friends and partners but produced in them an eagerness to meet new people. Respondents, who described themselves as normally shy, told of how they became more outgoing and their uneasiness about talking to strangers diminished:. And …. It reflects for many of the respondents the deepness of the feelings that they experienced while on ecstasy with others. Overall many respondents indicated feeling free of the constraints and pressures of everyday interactions and hence they valued these opportunities, even if, as many noted, it was drug-induced.
This change in notions of social boundaries also resulted in a diminution in the perception of social distance between people, which normally operated in day to day life. Respondents described how they became more accepting of others and less judgmental while on ecstasy. They became more open to sharing and finding connections with others who seemed, at least on the surface, to be very different:. Everybody…you just feel like so much love toward people. While some respondents argued that these connections with strangers were fleeting and superficial, and limited to the context in which they occurred, others noted that these experiences were enjoyable and beneficial regardless of their ephemeral nature.
In the context of a dance event or party where others were also using ecstasy, respondents felt a freedom of social interaction often missing in their normal lives. Of course the setting of the dance event as the context within which this interaction took place, coupled with the use of ecstasy, was ificant in creating these experiences.
It allows you to experience the crowds …. I What was great about it at a rave? R Because like it was just everybody was in your same boat. Respondents found satisfaction, comfort and a sense of belonging in knowing that others were sharing in and being committed to the same pleasurable experience.
Thus, in addition to their individual pleasures, they also found pleasure from feeling and knowing that they were part of a collective. This sense of collectivity has been noted by other researchers who have emphasized the pleasurable nature of merging with others. The DJ put on like a really good track, and then everybody…like right when they hear the first beats they all cheered ….
And then just that with the whole atmosphere and…the music and light shows and like…it felt like really moving, like I…I almost started crying, because it felt so good. You know, and…nothing else could…could evoke that feeling like ecstasy. This respondent describes a profound shared pleasure and an intense human connection unattainable without the aid of ecstasy. In reflecting on their experiences of using ecstasy, all respondents discussed the transitory and immediate effects, however, some also described more enduring and even permanent benefits.
As noted above, respondents described how ecstasy facilitated the transformation of everyday experiences and accepted norms of behavior in ways that they felt were self-revealing and enlightening. While some respondents believed that these effects were ephemeral and confined to the intoxicating influence of ecstasy, others sought to capitalize on the experience of the drug and integrate these newfound sentiments and ways of relating to others into their everyday lives.
The pleasures of ecstasy thus contribute to a longer-lasting positive experience. Having experienced feelings of empathy and self-contentment, and becoming aware of ly unexplored means of relating to others and the world in general, respondents believed that they could re-create some of these positive and pleasurable ways of being into daily life.
As one respondent noted:.Fun things to do while on ecstasy
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Young Adult Ecstasy Users’ Enhancement of the Effects of Their Ecstasy Use