September 19, 2013

Molly: The New ‘It’ Party Drug?

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Editor’s note: Because both using and distributing Molly is illegal, the names of students interviewed for this article have been changed to protect their anonymity.

He did it to feel ecstatic.

Every two to three weeks, Jake would take Molly before going out for the night. But after one night, a bad trip rendered him nearly incapable of returning home. He abused his girlfriend. And despite sitting down with Jake to talk about the drug’s effects, Blake, a senior history major, said he was unable to convince Jake to stop.

“Fuck this drug,” Blake said to The Sun.

Molly, the powder form of MDMA, has polarized opinions among the Cornellians who have come across it. Embraced by music festival attendees for its euphoria-inducing qualities and condemned by both users and their friends, Molly was described by students who talked to The Sun as being everything from “a chill thing” to “something that can destroy your brain.”

At Cornell, students surveyed by Gannett Health Services in 2010 believed as many as 60 percent of their peers had used the drug, according to Deborah Lewis, health educator at Gannett. In reality, only three percent said they had tried it.

“I think the use of Molly here at Cornell is pretty rare. What we know about Cornell students is that their use of Molly tends to be less than even other college students,” Lewis said.

‘I Was on Someone’s Shoulders the Whole Concert’

Before attending Avicii’s concert at Cornell last year, Jackie, a senior psychology major, said she got drunk, crushed a tablet of Molly and snorted the powder with her friend.

“We went to this kid’s apartment, and he suggested that we take Molly. We were really drunk, so we ended up doing it anyway,” she said.

The next few hours were a blur — music pounding in Barton Hall, skimpily-clad students packing the floor, sweaty bodies pressing against each other.

“I don’t remember anything except for being on someone’s shoulders the whole time I was at the concert,” Jackie said.

The experience was “so fun, so euphoric” that she would not hesitate to take Molly again, Jackie said.

“Molly doesn’t kill people,” she added.

In fact, Molly is so harmless it should be legal, Josh, a senior computer science major, said to The Sun.

“I feel better after a night of doing Molly than after a night of drinking,” he said. “You’re definitely not going to die unless you do a lot. You feel like you’re in control.”

The Darker Side of Molly

Some students vehemently disagreed with their peers’ characterizations of Molly, saying they have witnessed firsthand how Molly can change people — making them irritable, paranoid or even depressed.

There was Sam, a senior biology major, who said to The Sun that his childhood best friend has developed “serious differences in his personality” because he has abused Molly over the years.

“You can start to see that he’s slower. He doesn’t have as much attention, he struggles with depression and he is taking SSRIs to deal with it,” Sam said. Watching his best friend slowly change over the years has been painful, Sam said.

“He’s a great guy; I like him a lot. It’s really hard to deal with,” he said.

The unpredictability of Molly can also leave users “out of it for days after they’ve rolled,” Blake said.

“Some of my friends have spent 72 hours acting dysfunctional, stuck on the couch and ruining relationships after taking Molly,” Blake said.

The Science Behind the Drug

Gannett officials say it does not come as a surprise that Molly can leave users tired, irritable or even ill after an initial high.

In the immediate aftermath of taking Molly, students face several risks: consequences from having consumed a drug laced with other chemicals, dehydration or even death by overdose, Lewis said. Those susceptible to heart conditions are at even greater risk of having health complications arise from using Molly, she added.

Even beyond the first few hours, Molly users have other problems to contend with, Lewis said. In the long term, Molly alters the brain’s neurotransmitter system so that mood regulation is disturbed for several days.

“People can experience depression afterwards, and sometimes, for people who use Molly pretty regularly, they can experience ongoing problems with depression and their neurotransmitter levels,” Lewis said. “Back when ecstasy was used a lot in the early 90s — it was a big part of the rave scene — this became commonly known as the ‘Tuesday blues.’ I think we may be looking at the same kind of problem with Molly.”

Despite researchers and doctors’ warnings, there are signs that Molly use is on the rise nationally. From 2004 to 2009, there was a 123-percent increase in the number of emergency room visits that involved MDMA, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network.

‘Think About What You’re Doing With Your Own Life.’

Given the risks taking any drug presents, Michael, a senior mathematics and physics major, said that, although he has taken Molly a couple times, he does not think it should be legal or widely available.

“It’s illegal for a reason. If everyone did Molly every time they went to a concert, those concerts would be too crazy, and there would be too many deaths coming out of them,” Michael said.

Another student went further, saying he wishes his peers would look past the hype and consider both the short-term and long-term consequences of Molly.

“Think about your own safety, but even more than that, think about what you’re doing with your own life,” Blake said. “Are you making a positive change to your own self?”

If a student does decide to try Molly, he or she should take steps to reduce the harm it might cause, Lewis said.

“They should have a buddy with them who isn’t using it, make sure they drink water, make sure they take breaks to cool down and test that what they have is actually Molly,” Lewis said. “Take half if it’s a tablet and really give yourself an hour to an hour and a half to feel the effects before you have more, because if you’re taking something for the first time, you don’t know how the body will respond.”

To Sam, there is no way to be careful with Molly. The best thing to do is to not try it, period, he said.

“Don’t listen to kids that pretend they know things about Molly and tell you it’s safe, because I guarantee they don’t understand a damn thing about it,” Sam said. “Consider who you are, and if you are at all proud of that, then I wouldn’t risk changing it and ruining it.”