Molly drug use more common than U think

Police report few incidents, but some students say the drug’s use is increasing.

Molly drug use more common than U think

Nicholas Studenski

Following several deaths earlier this month, the drug Molly has appeared in headlines across the country. It’s also featured in songs by artists like Tyga and Miley Cyrus.

Officials say they haven’t seen a major increase in the drug’s use, but some University of Minnesota students say use may be higher than authorities
realize.

Molly is the pure form of Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), the active component in Ecstasy. David Ferguson, University medicinal chemistry professor, said Molly is essentially “just Ecstasy.”

MDMA works by increasing the body’s level of serotonin, a chemical that activates he pleasure centers in the brain.

Maggie, a University student, said she’s taken Molly six or seven times. Because MDMA is a controlled substance, Maggie requested she only be identified by her first name.

The first time Maggie tried the drug, she said, she hadn’t planned to.

“It just came up,” she said, “I had no idea what it was going to feel like.”

On Molly, she said she felt “really pumped up and excited.” Maggie said the drug kept her awake and gave her energy so that she could dance longer. Maggie said she’s found herself dancing or bobbing her head even when music isn’t playing.

“You feel a rhythm inside yourself,” she said.

Maggie said she usually takes Molly orally, though it’s common to snort the powder so it takes effect more quickly and to avoid its unpleasant taste.

Because users aren’t buying the drug with a label, Ferguson said, it’s difficult to know exactly what they’re getting.

“It is Russian roulette in a way,” he said.

Ferguson said he sees danger in the versatility of the drug because it allows users to increase the dose of an already highly concentrated substance.

“If you buy it as a powder, you could snort it, shoot it, do anything you want with it,” he said.

Another concern, Ferguson said, is that the higher potency of the drug gives users a stronger, faster high, encouraging them to continue using the drug.

Ferguson said because Ecstasy in pill form contains other ingredients, it usually only has about 10 to 20 percent MDMA. But Molly is the free crystalline form of MDMA, which allows it to reach nearly 100 percent potency.

“The potential of getting that greater, stronger high means students could have problems with addiction and abuse,” Ferguson said.

English junior Sean Hirthe said he has seen more use of the drug in his native Milwaukee, but use has “definitely increased recently.”

“I would say it’s fairly common,” he said.

University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said there have been no known cases of Molly possession at the University.

Minneapolis police Sgt. Bill Palmer said he knew of Ecstasy but “wasn’t aware” of the drug Molly and declined to comment.

Use and abuse

Maggie said she’s been at a concert each time she’s done Molly, and that’s where she thinks it’s primarily used.

“I don’t think I could see myself doing it outside of that,” Maggie said.

Daniel Klinkhammer, dance sophomore, said he’s seen Molly used in the same context, like at music festivals.

Klinkhammer said when he sees people use it they’re normally energetic and enthusiastic, but said he’s concerned when people start mixing it with other things.

“People overdo it when they aren’t smart,” Klinkhammer said. “They’ll mix it with other drugs.”

It can be difficult to treat a patient who’s overdosed on Molly, said Dr. Jon Cole, an emergency physician at Hennepin County Medical Center and Medical Director of the Minnesota Poison Control System.

He said all doctors can do is work to keep the symptoms under control until the body metabolizes the drug.

Because MDMA is an amphetamine, it shares properties with meth.

“It’s methamphetamine that’s been modified to also have a hallucinogenic component,” Cole said.

An overdose of MDMA can cause many problems similar to an overdose of meth, he said, including seizure, uneven heartbeat and kidney failure.

Even in less severe cases, users can experience negative side effects. Because serotonin increases body temperature, users have a significant chance of overheating and dehydration, which the drug’s “zoning out” can worsen, Ferguson said.

Cole said MDMA can have long term effects as well, like depression.

“Even if you never have a major overdose, it’s possible that you’re still poisoning yourself by taking it,” he said. “It’s not safe.”

Ferguson said after the increased levels of serotonin return to normal, users can feel a depression the next day.

Maggie said in the days after using Molly, she felt “really worn out.”

Possession of Molly is a controlled substance crime punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000 in Minnesota.

Maggie said she’s aware that Molly is against the law but thinks it’s hard to monitor. The drug is physically small, and users can take it quickly after purchasing it.

Maggie said she thinks it’s also difficult for police to identify those who have taken the drug, because she’s able to function normally while on Molly.

“You act like yourself,” she said. “You just have a ton of energy, and you want to keep moving constantly.”

But Klinkhammer said he’s seen two sides of the drug.

“I’ve seen people have lots of fun,” he said, “but I’ve also seen people overdo it.”