Imagine a summer scene of party-goers writhing with excitement as a DJ blasts pulsating beats through speakers, every hypnotic rhythm resonating. After one hit of molly the music gets louder, the lights get brighter,the dancers go non-stop, soaring to new heights of ecstasy. This is what 21-year-old student Rachel—whose name has been changed to protect her privacy—experienced at the fifth annual Electric Zoo (EZoo) festival on Randall’s Island this past Labor Day weekend. It was the Queens native’s first time at the concert which showcased more than 25 Djs, and despite two deaths and a day-early shutdown by the New York City Police Department, she says it won’t be her last.
The fatalities at EZoo—along with one death and two overdoses at an Electronic Dance music concert in Boston—were linked to the new club drug molly. “Molly” is the street term for “molecular,” a form of MDMA, also known as the purest form of ecstasy, commonly used at nightclubs, raves, and festivals around the nation. MDMA in high dosages can lead to irregular body temperature or hyperthermia, which could potentially cause liver, kidney, and cardiovascular system failure, ultimately resulting in death, according to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. There was a 123 percent increase in the number of emergency room visits from 2004 to 2009 due to MDMA related use, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network. These numbers, however, don’t shake the popular drug’s appeal. Still, festival fans seem unmoved. “Electric Zoo has been around for years,” said another concert goer, Jessica Perez, 22, a retail sales associate. “Why would they stop because two people died?”
Although Perez said that she has never used molly, her sentiments are echoed by other young people as well. Molly has become an inescapable part of modern popular culture, featured in the lyrics of today’s most notable artists—Jay-Z, Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, Rick Ross, and Madonna among others. Whether its prominence stems from celebrity endorsements or from easy accessibility is difficult to tell. Maybe it’s both. One thing is for sure: young people are using it and enjoying it. But why, despite the highly publicized deaths and ER visits? For some, it’s the culture of raves and electronic dance music. “That type of music goes with the drug. For other’s it’s just because of popularity,” said Stephen, 24–whose name has also been changed–a Starbucks barista, where who admits to having taken molly more than 15 times. His first time was on his way to a rock concert about last summer. Stephen says he and his friends usually take it before raves and concerts because it makes the music sound “amazing.” For Stephen, molly is just not like other drugs. “There’s no anger involved, there’s no aggression,” he said. He attributes molly’s mainstream acceptance to its perception as a “happy” drug, being taken at clubs and concerts by young people who just want to have a good time.
“People take molly at raves the same way people drink alcohol at clubs,” said Rachel, 21, a student who also used molly. Rachel says that she and her friends had searched on Google for ways to negate molly’s possible toxic effects. Before EZoo she purchased five bottles of vitamins, including vitamin c, alpha lipoic acid, melatonin, and magnesium. Some of these allegedly help reduce the risk of neurotoxicity, and also to facilitate the person’s comedown after the drug is used, according Erowid Center, an illicit drug education site. Rachel bought an at-home drug kit, sold at sites such as www.dancesafe.org, www.eztestkits.com, and www.bunkpolice.org, that tests for authenticity, in the hopes of ensuring that the molly she purchased wasn’t diluted or poisoned. Ok Rachel isn’t the only one buying these kits. A representative from the website that Rachel purchased from—bunkpolice.org—said, “MDMA tests make up the majority of what we’re distributing at the moment.” Good The Bunk Police rep attributed most of their kit sales to young adults aged 18 to 24.
But do these kits really work? A research report “Putting an Ecstasy Test Kit to the Test: Harm Reduction or Harm Induction?” conducted by members of the Department of Pharmacy Practice, College of Pharmacy, and the University of Florida evaluated the DanceSafe Complete Adulterant Screening Kit for Ecstasy and its ability to detect contaminants. The results showed that the kit’s reagents lacked specificity and sensitivity and were ultimately unable to differentiate pure MDMA from the adulterated forms. The researchers say that, “Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry remains the most sensitive and specific testing method for identifying MDMA and its contaminants.”
Despite these findings, Rachel was convinced in her approach to ensuring purity. “I’m treating my body with the most respect by knowing what I’m putting into it and not by over doing it. I’m no major drug advocate but I just don’t think that it’s fair that Molly is receiving this bad name as a killer.”
Deaths and research finding don’t seem to be stopping molly’s appeal. Artists are still singing about it, and young people are still singing along. When asked if he would continue using molly despite being aware of all the dangers and uncertainties, Starbucks barista Silk Hayes said, “To be honest, yes.” Good end.
• Drug Enforcement Administration, Drugs of Abuse 2011 Edition resource guide http://www.justice.gov/dea/pr/multimedialibrary/publications/drug_of_abuse.pdf#page=60
• Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2011: National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4760, DAWN Series D-39. Rockville, MD: 2013.
• “Putting an Ecstasy Test Kit to the Test: Harm Reduction or Harm Induction?” http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/462698
Image is of Jessica and friend at EZoo festival.