Date of Award

Spring 2014

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Professor Laura Holt


In a recent survey of 18-35 year olds, 15% reported using ecstasy (Businelle et al., 2009) and many emerging adults viewed it as “safer” than other illicit drugs, with limited negative consequences (Bahora et al., 2009). Although numerous quantitative studies have explored the topic of ecstasy use in college students, there is limited qualitative research, most of which is limited to users. Thus, in the current study, we used a focus group methodology to better understand users’ and nonusers’ knowledge, expectations, and perceived risks of ecstasy use, for the purpose of informing prevention efforts on college campuses. Twenty-four college students participated in three focus groups. Results of a thematic analysis suggested that both users and nonusers of ecstasy hold specific, positive expectations related to the effects of ecstasy; this supported the first hypothesis that college students’ attitudes about ecstasy would be characterized by more positive rather than negative effects. Compared to nonusers, users identified more positive and negative effects, as well as risks associated with ecstasy use. This supported the second hypothesis that users would view ecstasy more positively than non users; however, users also reported more negative effects and risks than non users. Results of the quantitative portion of the study showed that students regarded ecstasy to be just as risky as cocaine, but more risky than both alcohol and marijuana; interestingly, there was no significant difference in perceived risk of ecstasy between users and non users. Implications of these findings for prevention efforts with college students are discussed.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Psychology.