Zinberg’s Interaction Model implies that the content of a drug-induced experience is a function of the pharmacological properties of the drug, the set (the user’s characteristics e.g. motivation and personality), and the setting (the physical and social context). The current research investigated the function of the set and setting and their role in shaping the psychological effects of 3,4-methylenedioxmethamphetamine (MDMA), as well as their role in reducing the risk of drug abuse.
An online survey was distributed among adult MDMA polydrug users (n = 158) and MDMA-naïve controls (alcohol, nicotine and cannabis users, n = 138). Participants answered questions regarding their pattern of drug use, their motivation for MDMA use and the setting (e.g. clubbing, home with friends), as well as the subjective effects of MDMA. Participants also completed a range of self-report measures of self-reflection and insight, emotional intelligence, and personality, as well as a drug dependency measure.
MDMA users displayed higher levels of self-reflection and insight, openness to new experience and lower levels of neuroticism and conscientiousness, in comparison to the control group. The significant predictors of self-reflection and insight were openness, emotional intelligence, MDMA use, extraversion and neuroticism. When the analysis was rerun only for the MDMA group, the significant predictors of self-reflection and insight were openness, emotional intelligence and self-insight effects of MDMA. High levels of self-reported negative effects of MDMA were predictors of a problematic drug use.
These findings suggest that there might be a relationship between MDMA use and higher levels of self-reflection and insight; however, longitudinal studies are required to further investigate the causality of this relationship. The results add to existing evidence that MDMA has potential for altering emotional experiences. Further research utilising a prospective design is warranted.
Wieliczko, M. J. (2016). Psychological effects of MDMA (Doctoral dissertation, Canterbury Christ Church University).