Tox Tuesday: Molly

Ecstasy pills, like the ones shown above, also contain MDMA. Courtesy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Ecstasy pills, like the ones shown above, also contain MDMA.
Courtesy of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Despite its innocent sounding name, the party drug molly has gained notoriety in recent weeks in connection with several deaths.

Molly, the powder or crystal form of MDMA (the chemical in ecstasy), often is used at music festivals, clubs and raves because it causes energy, euphoria and mild hallucinations, according to The Week. In the U.S., NPR reports that officials are concerned that a “bad batch” of molly is circulating around the Northeast following four deaths linked to the drug (and several hospitalizations).

In addition to its euphoric side effects, molly also can reportedly cause dehydration or overhydration as well as potentially increasing the risk of negative cardiac side effects, NPR notes. MDMA interferes with the body’s ability to regulate temperature and can lead to a spike in internal body temperature, which can cause kidney, liver and heart failure, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Molly causes an increase in serotonin in the brain (hence the elevated mood), but days later can cause a serotonin “crash”.

MDMA (and therefore, molly) is a schedule I drug under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, which means it has no accepted medical use and has a high likelihood of being abused.

MDMA was patented in 1914 and started making waves in the 1970s, when psychotherapists began using it to get patients to get them to be more open. Soon after, it hit the rave scene. In recent years, its resurgence has come in the form of molly, which is said to be a purer version of MDMA (ecstasy often is mixed with other chemicals, such as talcum powder, LSD or ketamine), according to the New York Times. However, health and drug enforcement officials warn that molly might not be so pure – there’s no way for people to verify what they’re actually taking (case in point, police in Bangor, Maine recently found drug dealers in the city were selling bath salts as molly).

Authorities also have become more aware of molly in recent years – the New York Times reports that MDMA confiscations by the U.S. Customs and Border protection jumped to 2,670 in 2012 from only 186 in 2008. Police also have seized almost 17 pounds of molly in Fairfax County, Virginia alone. Authorities there also have seen roughly 170 cases involving molly, according to the Washington Post. Hospitals also are seeing more MDMA-related cases – from 2004 to 2009, the number of ER visits related to the drug jumped 123 percent, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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