Molly is very popular.
Molly is a party-girl.
But Molly is now showing her darker side, and it can be deadly.
Molly is the street name for MDMA (chemically 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine), which is also the active ingredient in Ecstasy. Molly, short for “molecule”, is considered by users to be “pure” MDMA, unlike Ecstasy, which generally is laced with other ingredients, such as caffeine or methamphetamine.
In the past two weeks there has been a disturbing rise in the number of overdoses and deaths attributed to Molly. On August 27, a 19-year-old from Derry, NH died at a Zedd concert at Boston’s famous House of Blues. There were two overdoses the same night, with promoters cancelling the next night’s concert.
Over the Labor Day weekend, New York City’s massive Electric Zoo concert on Randalls Island was cancelled early when Molly was blamed for two fatal and four non-fatal overdoses.
Molly belongs to a class of drugs called phenethylamines, structurally similar to the amphetamines.
An amphetamine molecule contains a ring and a side chain. By changing the side chain and adding different substitutions on the rings, chemists have made a number of different drugs with slightly differing effects. For example, metamphetamine (crystal meth) has a “methyl” side change. Other drugs made in a similar way include MDMA (“Ecstasy”), 2C-I, also known as “smiles” and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MPDV) (often used in “bath salts”).
Whereas Ecstasy is frequently laced with other ingredients such as caffeine or methamphetamine, Molly is supposed to be “purer,” consisting only of MDMA. However, there is no real reason to expect that Molly is free of contaminants that can be found in any illegal drug, or that dealers don’t mix MDMA with other drugs or fillers to increase their profits.
Molly can induce euphoria, a sense of intimacy with others, a decrease in anxiety, and increased energy. As such, it has become very popular with dance club and party-goers. As 22-year-old Kaitlin told the New York Times:
It makes you really happy. It’s very loose. You just get very turned on — not even sexually, but you just feel really upbeat and want to dance or whatever.
MDMA is taken orally, usually as a capsule or tablet. Its effects last approximately 3 to 6 hours, although it is not uncommon for users to take a second dose of the drug as the effects of the first dose begin to fade.
MDMA acts by increasing the activity of three neurotransmitters, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. The emotional and pro-social effects of MDMA are likely caused directly or indirectly by the release of large amounts of serotonin.
This surge of serotonin caused by MDMA can deplete the brain of this important chemical, and can cause negative aftereffects. These include confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and anxiety. These aftereffects may occur soon after taking the drug or during the days or even weeks afterwards.
The drug also can cause muscle tension, tremors, involuntary teeth clenching, muscle cramps, nausea, faintness, chills, sweating, and blurred vision.
High doses of MDMA can interfere with the ability to regulate body temperature, resulting in a dangerously high increase in body temperature (hyperthermia). This can lead to damage and even failure of the liver, kidney and heart. Severe dehydration can result from the combination of the drug’s effects and the crowded and hot conditions in which the drug is often taken.
Some heavy users of MDMA experience long-lasting confusion, depression, sleep abnormalities, and problems with attention and memory.
Is Molly addictive? Research so far has shown varying results. We do know that some users report symptoms of dependence (needing a drug to function normally) and withdrawal effects.
Perhaps giving MDMA a more innocent name (Molly vs. Ecstasy) makes people feel they are using a safer drug. But as DEA spokesman Rusty Payne told CNN:
(Suppliers) are making it look like something that is safe and easy to take, but in many cases, you’re playing Russian roulette.
Emergency rooms around the country have seen Molly and MDMA-related ER visits double in recent years. The past week’s tragic deaths of three young concertgoers attributed to Molly should act as a wake-up call. Young people need more information about this potentially dangerous drug.
Admirers often plaster “Have you seen Molly?” posters around clubs and concerts. Let’s hope they don’t find her.