“Molly” is one of the most widely used slang terms for the club drug MDMA (methylenedioxy-methamphetamine).
German chemists developed the psychoactive substance more than a 100 years ago, but it was only outlawed by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 1984. The result was a spike in popularity at all night parties known as “raves” that led to overdoses and fatalities.
- The name Molly comes from a derivative of “molecule”
Often classified as a “club” or “designer” drug, MDMA has been around for a long time. It wasn’t until the late 1990s, when it became the drug of choice in nightclubs and the electronic dance music scenes. It was at that time its popularity began to skyrocket. It’s no coincidence that emergency rooms and healthcare professionals began to see a spike in usage. They also began to see more and more people who had overdosed on the psychoactive substance.
What Is Molly MDMA?
Generally found in pill or powder form, users either ingest or inhale the drug. The chemical makeup of MDMA causes neurotransmitters to flood the brain with serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. These chemicals bring about feelings of euphoria, increased sociability, a sense of inner peace, mild hallucinations and enhanced sensation, perception or sexuality.
Generally coming in pill or powder form, users either ingest or inhale the drug. The chemical makeup of MDMA causes neurotransmitters to flood the brain with serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. These chemicals bring about feelings of euphoria, increased sociability, a sense of inner peace, mild hallucinations and enhanced sensation, perception, or sexuality.
MDMA has become a popular drug, in part because of the positive effects that a person may experience within an hour or so after taking a single dose.
The effects of a Molly high include:
- Feelings of mental stimulation
- Emotional warmth
- Empathy toward others
- General sense of well-being
- Decreased anxiety
In addition, users report enhanced sensory perception as a hallmark of the MDMA experience.
Molly is rarely smoked, as it tends to diminish the effects on the brain.
Rarely Pure MDMA
Often pitched by drug dealers as pure MDMA, and an allegedly safer version of the drug ecstasy, the DEA reported that from 2011 to 2015 only 13 percent of the “molly” seized in New York state contained any MDMA at all.
Instead, what is sold as pure MDMA contained any number of other dangerous chemicals.
- “You’re playing Russian roulette if you take these compounds,” Al Santos, associate deputy administrator for the DEA, told CNN, “because we’re seeing significant batch-to-batch variances.”
In fact, much of what’s marketed as “molly” is actually unknown synthetic compounds that skirt U.S. laws by altering the molecular makeup of already illegal substances.
Though some of what’s sold as “molly” is smuggled in from Canada or Mexico or made in the states, a vast majority the drug supply comes from underground labs in China that sell their compounds online.
MDMA Purity Tests
The pop culture acceptance and promotion of MDMA in music and film, it’s reputation as a party drug, has created a dangerous demand, which generally results in users consuming less than pure MDMA.
Even test centers, which are more and more common at music festivals, cannot identify bulking agents, such as lactose, or other drugs that MDMA might be cut with.
They can only inform users as to whether the MDMA is pure or not. It’s then up to the individual whether to take the drug or not.
Development of Methylenedioxy-Methamphetamine
Originally created in 1912 by a chemist at the pharmaceutical company Merck, methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA) saw it’s first applications by a small set of psychotherapists in the late 70s and early 80s.
Because MDMA makes users feel uninhibited, researchers believed the compound might have some therapeutic benefits.
However, by 1985 the drug received a Schedule I classification from the federal government, meaning that authorities believe the drug has no accepted medical use.
Street Names of MDMA or Molly
MDMA goes by several different street names, including:
- XTC or X
- Molly in the U.S.
- Mandy (in the UK)
Possible Side Effects of Ecstasy and Similar Drugs
There are a number of reasons why “molly” became so ubiquitous among club and concert and music-festival goers. The psychedelic and stimulant combination of MDMA floods the brain with dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters creating feelings of euphoria and heightened sensory perception. It is known as an empathic drug because it increases feelings of closeness to others.
Whether it is snorted, injected or, most commonly, taken in capsule form, its effects kick in 30 to 60 minutes after ingestion.
Depending on the dosage and a user’s tolerance, individuals “peak,” or feel the full effects of the drug, anywhere from 75 to 120 minutes after taking it.
As the drug induced euphoria levels off, users continue to experience a dissipation in their “high” for as long as three and a half hours.
The adverse effects of MDMA can be significant and even fatal, especially in crowded, overheated places, such as all night dance parties known as raves.
Even with authorities on high alert at these events, two teenage girls fatally overdosed in August of 2015, at a music festival in Pomona, California.
While overdose rates from MDMA aren’t as high as other narcotics, there are still reports of deaths due to abuse of the drug every year. It’s important to note that users don’t usually overdose on the drug itself, but from the adverse side effects of dehydration or hyperthermia (high body temperature).
Other negative side effects of Molly or MDMA can include:
- Sleep problems
- Poor judgement
There are, as with most illicit and illegal drugs, serious negative side effects, both long and short term, that can arise after the temporary “high” ends.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the demographic most likely to abuse “molly” are those aged 18 to 25.
More than 13 percent of people in that age group admit using the drug at least one in their life and more than 4 percent admit to taking it in the past year.
Even more disturbing, NIDA reports that almost 7 percent of children 12 or older also confess to using MDMA at least once.
- Hyperthermia, overheating the body which can lead to liver failure
- Intense sweating and perspiration
- Teeth grinding
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Mild hallucinations and altered sense of time
- Increased emotions and heightened feelings of sexuality
- Increased confidence, sociability and a reduction in anxiety
- Irritability, anxiety and chronic depression
Because MDMA depletes the brain from so many neurotransmitters and creates a lack of serotonin, individuals who have consumed the substance over the weekend can experience anxiety and depression days after using it. The nickname for this is “suicide Tuesdays.”
Other symptoms than can last from a few days to a week are:
- Loss of appetite
- Memory loss
Risk of Death
Intense physical activity (dancing) and warm environment can cause kidney failure and even possible death. Especially susceptible to overdose are teenagers and first time users.
Sadly, a college senior – Joana Burns – died after taking “Molly” at a club for her pre-graduation party.
- Even a “one-off” experiment with “molly” is dangerous considering there are very few ways in which to be sure the drug is not laced with deadly synthetic chemicals.
While MDMA remains a schedule I narcotic, a substance with no accepted medical use, some physicians and psychiatrists express an interest in the drugs ability to help people treat some people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
An even more recent study is looking at how MDMA might be used to help those suffering from alcoholism.
MDMA Drug Addiction Treatment
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that while studies have shown varying levels of physical addiction to MDMA, symptoms of psychological dependence can be nearly as damaging.
One reason for the dependence is tolerance. Individuals have to take more of the drug to experience the same high, and many continue to consume it even after acknowledging the physical and psychological harm they’re causing themselves.
Treatment for MDMA dependency can be effective using cognitive behavioral therapies, which helps those recovering to modify their actions and thought processes. One on one counseling and group therapy are also useful tools.
They address the underlying causes such as depression or trauma that might be causing self-destructive behavior.
As with any treatment and recovery from drugs or alcohol, patience, understanding and support can help individuals move to a happier, healthier and sober lifestyle.