Last weekend there was an incident at Wesleyan College regarding 12 hospitalizations due to a common party drug known as “Molly”. This incident among hundreds of others in the past year demonstrates the rapidly increasing use of the recreational drug. Although the popular club drug, Molly, seems to be generating a new craze among young adults, this drug has in fact been around for decades. Derived from the same synthetic, psychoactive drug MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), Molly shares the same derivative as the commonly known drug, ecstasy.
The emergence of ecstasy in the 1980’s introduced users to an easily distributed pill that spread rapidly across Europe and the United States. While the pure form of MDMA is a white powder, ecstasy is generally packed into a colorful pill along with starch powder, coloring dye, and potentially other active substances. The desired feelings eliciting recreational abuse of the drug include methamphetamine-like effects, such as increased energy, elevated mood, bonding with others, as well as psychedelic properties; additionally, MDMA has mescaline-like effects as well, which feature increased release of cortisol, oxytocin, and antidiuretic hormone. During the 1980’s when rave and club scenes were common among young people, the combination of desirable symptoms induced by ecstasy complemented the bodily experiences of club scenes, in which loud dance music, warm temperatures, light shows, and vigorous dancing was prominent, thus further promoting the drug use. As the demand for the illegal drug increased, corruption by the drug manufacturers and distributors did as well; the pills were often mixed with other filler substances such as speed, caffeine, ephedrine, ketamine, LSD, aspirin, among others. The common club drug quickly gained a tainted reputation, decreasing its prevalence among users.
In the mid 2000’s, a new form of the same illicit drug resurfaced, which appealed to the new generation of drug users as a safer form of ecstasy called Molly. Rather than packed into a small colorful pill with other substances and labeled “ecstasy”, the same MDMA takes the form of power or crystalline packed into a capsule, generating a pure, safe, and fun-loving drug called “Molly”. Aside from the glamorized side effects endorsed by many pop culture figures as well as young people that rave about the fun, socially desirable, stimulating experiences produced by Molly, the drug induces a contrary set of dangerous, life-threatening symptoms as well. Liver damage, depression, sexual assault, rhabdomyolysis, serotonin syndrome, organ failure, cardiovascular events, arrhythmias, and death are all also potential side effects of Molly. Aside from the individual drug’s dangerous side effects, this version of MDMA has recently disproven its claim as a “pure” and safe drug. The Wesleyan students were reported to have consumed a “bad batch” of Molly, which included other unidentified active substances. As the distribution of the drug continues to expand across college campuses and festivals, hopefully individuals can learn from the tragic experiences of those that have been hospitalized and tragically lost.
Michael White, C. (2014). How MDMA’s pharmacology and pharmacokinetics drive desired effects and harms. The Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 54(3), 245-252.