Dangers of "Molly"

Over the past few months, several deaths presumed to be the result of “Molly” overdoses have increased media attention on the club drug and led to the cancellation of several concerts in the area. The Univ. of Massachusetts cancelled several local events at the Mullins Center (including the artists Above & Beyond, Return to Fantasia and Pretty Lights) and released a statement that indefinitely banned all Electronic Dance Music (EDM) events at the venue. In its press release, UMass cited the strong link between Molly use and EDM events, stating: “the Molly-taking culture at these shows is real and now exceedingly dangerous to the health and safety of concert attendees.” Despite the heavy publicity surrounding the drug, it is still unclear what exactly Molly is.

In the 1990’s, the popular club drug was ecstasy. The key ingredient in Ecstasy is the man-made synthetic substance, MDMA (short for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine). MDMA causes the release of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. As a result, the effects of taking MDMA often include mental and physical euphoria, enhanced sensation, mild psychedelic feelings and increased empathy. While these short-term effects might sound great, some of the major risks associated with taking MDMA include dehydration and impaired temperature regulation, which are especially dangerous in places like clubs or concert venues. When ecstasy began to be known as a drug that was cut with other dangerous substances, however, it seems that a re-branding of the drug occurred.

That’s where Molly entered the scene. Short for molecule, Molly was designed for a demographic that was fearful of contaminants and wanted a “cleaner” version of the party drug. Maybe it really was “clean” at first — maybe it really was “the pure form” of ecstasy like everyone claimed. Whatever the original composition of the drug, however, statistics are now suggesting just the opposite. In a study done at the DEA’s New York division, only 13 percent of substances suspected of being Molly were actually MDMA. In reality, 41 percent were 4-MEC and 20 percent were methylone, both of which are types of bath salts. You’ve probably heard about some of the terrible trips that people taking bath salts have had, and according to the DEA users have reported paranoia, suicidal thoughts, seizures and panic attacks. For dealers, it is easier to repackage substances like methylone as Molly than to actually produce MDMA. Obviously, the lack of regulation of these illegal substances allows dealers to lie to their customers about what they’re really buying, all in the interest of making profits.

It is important to note that this isn’t some far-off phenomenon without relevance to the Amherst College community. Overdoses and deaths of college-aged students have occurred in Boston, New York and Washington D.C. and are likely to continue to occur as long as Molly remains part of our generation’s recreational culture. Although the suspension of all EDM shows at the Mullins Center might not prevent widespread Molly use, it is important that Amherst students understand that no matter its make-up, Molly is an incredibly dangerous substance.