What Is Molly and Where Are People Getting It?

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Molly, aka Mandy, is a form of ecstasy, a party drug popular for its euphoric effects and ability to give users deep feelings of connectedness and empathy.

Both ecstasy and Molly contain MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methamphetamine), the chemical compound that causes the mental effects. However, ecstasy is sold as a pill, a compressed powder containing dyes and diluents. Molly is sold as a powder and users take this as a sign of purity.

What Are the Effects?

Because of the state of mind Molly produces, professionals call it an empathogen or entactogen. Both of these terms mean it produces a strong sense of bonding with others.

Users report experiences like:

  • "It felt like everything was amplified. It felt euphoric - almost like a crazy adrenaline rush for a long time."
  • "You feel a lot more loose and comfortable in your environment."
  • As both a psychedelic and a stimulant, Molly brings on an energetic euphoria – not the “I must do stuff” rush of meth, but the feeling of being full of energy without any particular purpose, making it easy to go with the music or interactions with others.
  • One study of controlled use reported: “free of worries and obligations,” “boundless joy,” “as if in a wonderful other world” and “at one with their surroundings.”

Sounds pretty good, but so do the experiences with other drugs. That’s why people take them, to make life “better.”

Side Effects

Molly’s effects last about three hours (depending on the dose) with a gradual come down. According to the DEA fact sheet on MDMA, the drug affects brain cells and the neurotransmitter serotonin. This is why Molly affects mood. Coupled with this, however, are changes in perception such as confusion, anxiety and depression. Paranoia and sleep problems may occur.

Adverse effects include increased and unwanted motor activity, such as tremor or clenching of the jaw muscles and teeth grinding. Users may deal with this (as well as dry mouth from dehydration) by keeping something in the mouth. For a while, it was popular to have a baby pacifier handy to suck on, giving the jaws something to do and promoting saliva production.

More serious effects are an increased heart rate, abnormally high body temperature and dehydration that leads to symptoms of heat stroke. The latter is especially significant if the user is exercising (dancing, for example). A sudden, toxic increase in body temperature, akin to a fever, can cause liver, kidney or cardiovascular failure.

Because use of the drug depletes the body’s store of serotonin, chronic users may find they are unable to feel pleasure naturally and need the drug to enjoy their lives.

Is It Really Molly?

One reason for the rise in the use of this form of ecstasy is that users believe the powder is purer than what they could get in the tablet form. However, as Molly gains popularity, dealers are happy to supply something else and call it by the same name. After all, there is no quality assurance department in the illegal drug business.

Molly is purchased through the same supply chains as other illegal drugs. The difference is that it is primarily bought by young people and used as a party drug. It is obtained through social networking – call a friend and if they don’t know where to get some, they can tell you someone else who will know.

One series of tests in 2012 using samples from Boston, D.C., Miami and Philadelphia showed the capsules contained methlyone and sometimes just caffeine. Methylone is one of the chemicals that gained a deservedly bad reputation for being in “bath salts.”

One poison control doctor put it this way:

Methylone scares me a lot. We had a death from it. [The patient] bought what she thought was ecstasy [Molly]. She ingested two capsules ... She was seen to have a seizure, had a body temperature of 107 degrees, [her organs failed] and she died two days later.

Unlike marijuana, crack or crystal meth, a capsule of Molly could be anything. White powders all look alike and there’s no ready test available to assure users they are getting what they think they are getting. Generally, one of a group will take one or two and act as a guinea pig for their friends, reporting on their experiences.

Is It Safe?

Certainly, at higher doses there is a risk of serious consequences. However, there doesn’t seem to be significant withdrawal symptoms with Molly, nor is addiction as deep or as strong as with many other substances.

For now, though, the jury is still out. The treatment community doesn’t yet have enough data to really know what the long-term consequences of taking the drug are. The situation is made even more complex because users often mix Molly with other substances, including marijuana, alcohol and cocaine. And that’s on top of not really knowing if they took MDMA in the first place. Combined, these factors make it extremely difficult to figure out just what the real dangers are.

Those who take it think it is very safe. Some have even called for its use as a therapeutic agent, in particular for post-traumatic stress disorder and feelings of hostility. It remains to be seen if scientific study will validate these ideas.

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