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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Party Drug ‘Molly’ Sparks Concerns



This summer at least four young people attending music events in New York, Boston and Seattle died, apparently after taking the party drug “molly.”

Molly, or MDMA, is the chemical in ecstasy, the 1990s club drug.

It’s very popular these days because it is perceived to be purer than ecstasy and it induces a feeling of euphoria and empathy towards others.

But because it’s often sold in powder form, it can be adulterated with other substances and many users aren’t aware of that.

Doctors who have studied molly say it speeds up metabolism and users who overdose at clubs and dance parties don’t feel it at all until it’s too late.




It's HERE AND NOW, and this next conversation might not be appropriate for younger listeners. It's about the party drug Molly and this summer, at least four college-age kids attending music events have died, apparently after taking the drug, which is also called MDMA. Performers like Miley Cyrus have, some would say, glamorized it.


MILEY CYRUS: (Singing) We like to party, dancing with Molly and doing whatever we want...

HOBSON: Well, one former user who did not want to be identified says Molly makes people feel euphoric, and it improves sex.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The first time I took it, it was crystal form. I ingested, and it was definitely a bonding experience. I took it with a partner. We were just like, really - like, out of this world.

HOBSON: Well, our next guest was stunned when her college-aged son called her two years ago, asking "What is this Molly drug? It's everywhere." And she had no idea. Well, now she does. Dr. Marla Kushner is an addiction specialist. She's medical director for the New Hope Recovery Center in Chicago, and she's with us now. Welcome.


HOBSON: So let's talk first about these overdoses. When we say that people overdose on Molly, does that mean that they took too much of it, or that they had a bad pill or a bad experience with it?

KUSHNER: It's usually that they're taking a higher dose of it for their body type. And what happens when they take that drug, it can cause the body's internal regulation for body temperature to malfunction. So it can lead to liver damage and cardiovascular damage, and overdose.

HOBSON: And as somebody who focuses on people who use this drug, are you surprised that we've had so many incidents and deaths this summer?

KUSHNER: I'm saddened by it. I'm not surprised, though, that it's happening. It's become more common. It's actually increased - they're saying 123-fold in the past five years.

HOBSON: Wow, the use of it?

KUSHNER: The use of it.

HOBSON: And it's, we read, 15- to $50 a dose. What is a dose? Is it just a pill?

KUSHNER: Well, it's a powder form or a crystal form that sometimes can be packed into a capsule. The new way that we're hearing about is parachuting, where it's put into pieces of napkin and then swallowed that way. Or it can be snorted.

HOBSON: What is it about Molly that drives so many people to take it?

KUSHNER: The misconception that it's a pure drug and that, you know, ecstasy may be adulterated by other different types of drugs but that Molly has the image of being a pure form in its crystal or powder form, and that it may be safe. There's a misconception that it's widely used in psychiatric practices to help patients open up their minds.

HOBSON: You're saying that is not true.

KUSHNER: Well, there has - there is research going on about that, but it's not a widely used practice. And as of right now, it's considered a Schedule 1 drug, which means it is illegal to use and that there are no medical accepted uses for it, at this time.

HOBSON: Is the Molly that's out there right now actually pure, as they say, or is it being cut with other things?

KUSHNER: Well, again, you never know for sure what you're getting. You know, supposedly it is the pure form, and that's what's attractive about it. But again, you know, where are you getting it from? How do you actually know for sure what you are getting?

HOBSON: Well, let's talk about the consequences, and I want to first start with the short-term consequences. What happens to you when you have too much of it, or you have a bad strain of it?

KUSHNER: Well, the initial effects are stimulant-type of effects, and it can last for about three to six hours. And even after those three to six hours, some of those effects can last for up to about a week. And you talk to patients who are using some of these, and they'll tell you that even, you know, a week after they've used the drug that they're still experiencing some of these effects.

So that's why a lot of people like to use it. It's a stimulant. It makes you feel like everybody's your friend at a party. You're outgoing. You know, you're going to these concerts, and everything is great when you're on this drug. But what can happen if you take too much of it, or if you mix it with other substances - like alcohol, marijuana, other types of drugs out there - it can cause problems with your body's regulatory system.

And you can have a false sense of not being hungry, not being thirsty. People that are using Molly will get dehydrated from being at an outdoor venue, where it's overcrowded and it's hot; and that's when the autoregulation of the body can go into overdrive.

HOBSON: And the word that gets thrown around is hyperthermia, the opposite there for hypothermia. When you get too hot, your body overheats. And it can cause kidney and liver failure.

KUSHNER: Absolutely- and also heart attacks. It can cause, you know, cardiovascular failure as well.

HOBSON: What about the depression that people report feeling afterwards? Is that dangerous levels of depression?

KUSHNER: Those can be dangerous as well, and those are some of the effects that can happen after the use. So after - after the concert, after they go home; for the next week after, if you look at some of the information that's online, of people sharing their experiences with Molly. They'll even tell you, you shouldn't be doing this every day - you know, I only do it every - a couple times a month because of the effects and how long they last. So it's really interesting, even with people that are using Molly, that they're cautious about it.

HOBSON: Is it addictive?

KUSHNER: You know, there's research out there that it goes both ways, as far as whether or not it's addictive. And for something to be addictive, it's continuing to use it despite harmful consequences, whether they're physical consequences or psychological consequences. And is there a tolerance to it? So do they need to continue to use more of it each time that they use? And could there possibly be a withdrawal when they stop using?

So some of the research is showing that there is. I think it may be on an individual basis. You also need to look at family history, genetic predisposition for addictive diseases, and I think that can make a difference in certain people.

HOBSON: And of course, as we said, you learned about this and started looking into it when your son started college and said Molly is everywhere. You say he has not used it. But has he reported that things have gotten worse or better, to you, on his campus?

KUSHNER: You know, he's just said that it's there, and wanted to know what it was and what was about it. I was actually putting together a lecture on what adolescent young adults were using and what the new drugs of use were, and he happened to call me and ask me, you know, had I heard of this and what is it. And I thought, oh my goodness, I'm an addiction medicine specialist, and I wasn't aware of this - and began doing more and more research, and saw how common it is on college campuses. I joke that my first response was: I don't what it is, but don't do it.

HOBSON: When patients come in to you and they are using it, what do you tell them?

KUSHNER: I give them facts. I give them information. I let them know what the consequences could be physically and emotionally for them, when they're using. I don't hold judgment on patients who, you know, have the disease of addiction or experimenting, but I'm there to provide them the medical knowledge and to be able to help them in their decision-making.

HOBSON: And are they typically young, college age?


HOBSON: Wow. But they have decided on their own to come and seek treatment?


HOBSON: We heard, in the introduction to this, the song "We Can't Stop," by Miley Cyrus, where she says dancing with Molly. Are you concerned that this is becoming too widely accepted in popular culture like that?

KUSHNER: I am. I'm concerned that there's a misconception that it's safe, and that there won't be consequences from using it.

HOBSON: Dr. Marla Kushner is medical director of New Hope Recovery Center in Chicago. Dr. Kushner, thank you so much for coming in.

KUSHNER: Thank you for having me.


HOBSON: And we'd love to hear your thoughts on Molly. Are you concerned about its use? Hereandnow.org is the place to tell us. News is next. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • PoliticsWatcher

    Good report. I tried it once, and found the up-side to be less than advertised, and the down-side to be significant.

  • mike

    I realize I missed the beginning of the segment (&not computer savvy enough to e-mail in time…)- my disclaimers

    Your guest during the “Molly” segment? In brief?
    I call bullshit. Here and now.

    Sept. 3, 2013

    “As far as recreational drugs go, MDMA is relatively safe, aside from what it might be cut with.

    None of the federal health or drug abuse agencies track deaths from MDMA, but experts say fatalities are relatively rare when the drug is taken alone. The New York Times reported that just two people died in New York City after taking the drug by itself from 1997 to 2000.

    Roughly 80,000 people die from excessive alcohol consumption each year, as a point of comparison.”

    From such a controversial source as….ABC news.

    Did I miss her disclaimer at some point?

    Your fan, mike

  • Insight

    very disappointed in the continued vilification of this substance as well as marijuana. Molly, like any chemical introduced into the body, needs to be taken with care. we are well on the way the legalization of marijuana and perhaps the decriminalization of other drugs. compare those for who died in nyc with the many who partook and survived and even had positive experiences. how many people died using alcohol in the same amount of time? the key is not to perpetuate fear and negative rhetoric but to educate people on safe use. there are many benefits to be exploited in this substance and there are people who have used it and other chemicals for decades without self destruction

  • Peter Boyle

    Unfortunately, one of the unintended consequences of the War on Marijuana is that people, particularly younger people, no longer trust anyone connected to the government or the ‘rehab’ industry when in comes to whether or not a drug is dangerous or addictive. As the truth about marijuana gradually made it’s way into the public consciousness, those who continued to demonize it damaged their credibility – The Boy Who Cried Wolf. MDMA, also called ecstasy, is very common and widely used by people in our culture. But the government and the rehab industries are sounding alarms about it, and have deemed it to have no medical value – even though many doctors have proven it’s efficacy and safety when taken in proper doses. Over 200 people die each year from aspirin. Nothing, even water, is totally safe. If we really wanted to do some constructive education we would be pointing out proper dosage and ways to test for purity on drugs that have little real danger, That would make our warnings about the really dangerous drugs. like meth or heroin, have more effect. Once people know you lied about one thing, they don’t trust you on anything. As long as the government and the ‘rehab’ industry spread horror stories about a drug that is in common use and known to be relatively harmless, neither will be believed.

    • A0220R

      Molly and Ecstasy are very different. Ecstasy is generally a combination of drugs pressed into a pill, which is supposed to contain MDMA or MDA but may or may not. Many Ecstasy pills contain other drugs, from high doses of caffeine to methamphetamine. So they are certainly dangerous.
      Molly is supposed to be pure MDMA, and people are attracted to it precisely because people know that the “bombs” or “pills” can be dangerous. But again, it can be cut with anything, no different than coke.
      Anyway, it’s absurd to compare it to aspirin or water. And saying doctors have proven its efficacy (for what exactly?) and safety (maybe of quality controlled pure MDMA, but that’s not what Techno Dave buys at the club) is a big reach.
      I’m not against the drug itself, per se, but this point of view is utter stupidity. It’s as if you thought there were only two points of view to have, and since you didn’t think it was an evil scourge on humanity, it must be harmless and doctor certified and unfairly attacked. You can criticize the government’s approach to drugs without bs-ing about their safety.

  • elephantom

    Just wanted to relay that pure ecstasy has always been MDMA (Molly) and that it has been referred to in pop culture for a while now. Note Missy Elliot’s album Miss E… So Addictive (2001) with such songs as “X-Tasy” & “Higher Ground” and the song “4 My People” contains the lyric, “Here’s a glass of orange juice, let’s go X it out.” It sold 5.2 million copies. The internet probably plays the biggest role in the circulation of the knowledge that drugs exist these days, not Ms. Cyrus.

  • Demosthenes

    I just have to comment that the choice of this guest is frankly shameful for Here and Now. Not only have you provided an incredibly narrow, barely informed, opinion on the use of the drug molly, but she has a massive conflict of interest in reporting on the use of any mind altering substance to the public. Her business is in treating addiction in highly clinical, and highly expensive, environment in which her business profits from a negative perception of any psychoactive substance. As another NPR show has already proven (This American Life) doctors have direct conflicts of interest when it concerns promoting treatment due to financial concerns. She stand to gain DIRECTLY from portraying molly as not only deadly, but as a public menace. For the record molly is not itself a toxic substance, which tends to be implied when you use terms like “overdose,” but these tragic events were infact the result of secondary effects caused by the drugs stimulant properties.

    When referring to any substance as capable of overdose you suggest that there is a directly toxic response the body has to the substance. Drugs such as with heroin, or cocaine, which can quite easily be overdosed on, create these responses despite the actions of the user. But with molly the “overdose” level is apparently due to hyperthermia an event that is certainly aided by the stimulant but is ultimately caused by the unchecked physical activity of the user.

    Secondly I take High (pun intended) offense to your guests suggestion that the use of marijuana is apparently secretly harmful (a claim that I believe has never been proven in a study, and if she is citing a study she is likely citing the racially dubious studies of the 1940s that infer that black men lust after white women after smoking marijuana). Your guest went so far as to claim that Marijuana causes PSYCHOSIS?!!?! Where in the universe of scientific literature has she come to the conclusion that marijuana can cause psychosis?? If anything the experience of anyone who has tried marijuana would tell you that infact it would cause the extreme OPPOSITE reaction: lethargy, apathy, and at the worst mild depression. She does realize that psychosis is the loss of an individuals cognitive faculties proceeded by violence, hallucination and possibly institutionalization. The argument that “high THC concentrations in new strains of Marijuana causes insanity” is the laziest, oldest argument since “reefer madness” and about as accurate.

    The distinct impression I get from your guest is that she has a vested interest in creating an atmosphere of fear surrounding any illegal drug. Much like the campaigns of the 80s and 90s during the drug war these nonsense claims about the EXTREME side effects of drugs only serve to misinform the public. Here and Now should be ashamed of themselves for providing a bullhorn for a dinosaur from the drug war to spout her nonsense fearmongering. What the public needs is good, believable, accurate information so they can make an informed decision the next time they are around marijuana, or molly, or whatever substance. What happened to the public service on public radio?

  • marc

    What in the world is here and now doing putting quacks on the show?

  • Demosthenes

    I would like for Here & Now to know that because of their segment, in blatent disregard for the public good, I will no longer provide any pledges to WBUR. Though it is regretful, and my love for WBUR is deep, I cannot be involved with this kind of shameful misinformation. I would call for anyone with the interest of the public to follow my example and teach WBUR a lesson. Provide an Anti-Pledge.

  • Yar

    Anyone ever think to look at a club scene with thermal cameras, it should be easy to see who is running hot.

  • Duane

    I do Molly nearly every weekend. I think this “addiction expert” should try it. She would be way less boring and judgmental. As the person below pointed out, she is making money off people by inventing addictions.

  • unfair npr!!

    So freakin false in the dipiction of this substance. What about the other non-fear-based opinion on MDMA? Bad journalism! Look at the statistics of use vs. harm with pure MDMA. Also most “Molly” one might find is “Bath Salts”(Mephedrone) not MDMA. Any addiction expert worth their salt wiuld know this. Both sides NPR please. MDMA is a very special substance the demonization is unwarranted at least.

  • Mike

    About 2 months ago my nephew took Molly (supposedly a one time event), became paranoid, went home and shot himself in the head. All this occurred over a period of a couple of hours. The safety aspects associated with this drug are not confined to overdose.

    • A0220R

      Really sorry to hear that. Sounds like he took an adulterated batch. But regardless, all of these drugs are psychoactive – you’re messing with your neurotransmitters – if you’re unstable you could trigger a host of psychological issues. Some people have similar issues with antidepressants.

  • Robert Thomas

    The oddly “matronizing” tone of the guest and the clueless tone of Mr. Hobson obscured the fact that MDMA is the same compound whatever its nickname and may be relatively pure or relatively more adulterated from dose to dose, anywhere and in whatever form it’s provided.

    The sourceless, clumsy claim that “they’re saying” that MDMA has increased in popularity or usage or incident (or whatever the claim was) by “a hundred and twenty three fold in the past five years…” invites skepticism.

    This radio program is not very good.

  • Shulgin’sNephew

    W at an awful piece of fear propaganda and miseducation. Your addiction specialist hadn’t heard if MDMA until last year? It has been around for 50 years. Weak journalism I won’t be listening again until you equal out the biased coverage. I have over a decade experience with MDMA, your docotor is frankly….a quack.

  • Tonecool1

    From an aging hippie who’s done my share of mind- and mood- altering substances, I’d like to offer a little advice: KNOW what you’re taking, and be aware that there’s no free high. Whether it’s a hangover, a 2-day couchlock, or something way more damaging, there’s a price to pay.

  • Truth is

    I’ve used MDMA for years (more than 300 times) and if you use it with caution (Don’t be an idiot) and practice safe drug use (You sample before you even ingest 1 standard dose) it is nearly impossible to get into any danger with it. Alcohol is a much, much, much more dangerous drug. I personally don’t advocate for drug taking as I believe that people, in a perfect world, shouldn’t even feel the want fro drugs. Having said that you can almost always tell who has used it or not as non users exaggerate the effects wildly; Those who have used it say “Yeah it was a really good time, I was tired the next day, but the experience was very, very beautiful”. It’s like anything, If your dumb and don’t give something the respect id deserves it will bite you in the !ss. (you could ingest a quarter of a pill of Draino and it would only make you slightly ill) But uninformed, careless people go out and take 3 to 4 pills, lines, whatever at one time. I have known hundreds of MDMA takers and none have ever been any where even close to “in trouble” from 1/2 a pill/line etc. None. Those deaths I promise you would have been the equivalent of 5,6,10 times a standard dose. I have seen people OD on MDMA, and if it is MDMA the OD looks kind of like alcohol consumption. vomiting, dizzy etc. It only releases what’s already in your head (serotonin and dopamine). Like the post two down from this says. If you over dramatize the danger of a given drug….when people find out you’ve been lying about it….you will have zero, credability left. None.

  • Truth is

    This is what the actual experts say….


  • snowBIZNESS

    Disappointed in the reporting quality of this story WBUR.

    There was no mention by name of the active ingredient, MDMA. For the record, “molly” is the powder/crystal form of MDMA and “ecstasy” has traditionally referred to MDMA mixed with an inert binding agent that are then pressed into those colorful pills everyone knows.

    The real story: in a perfect world both would be free of adulterants, but this is not always so, and honestly that’s the only significant risk. Unscrupulous sellers vending a product that is not what they say it is; there are testing kits available, and often times there are organizations at festivals and parties that will do this for you. Blame whatever policy you want for adulterated drugs. The same thing happened with bad batches of alcohol during Prohibition.

    There was no real reference to the clinical research that is going on right now with it, but it’s very important research. Pharmaceutical companies are scared to death of it’s abilities to “cure” depression and PTSD among other things.

    And, like other pharmaceuticals, it’s a relatively safe substance to ingest. When you are feeling sick, do you take multiple tablespoons of NyQuil until you finally feel it kick in?

  • g3ny

    @7edbdfc147753f21375c3d8b6fb1a75c:disqus Knowledge is power. It’s not a matter of knowing that a drug is out there but more so the knowledge and understanding of what that drug can do to you and your body.

    As a occasional user myself, it creates a “bonding” experience, opening people up. You can ask anyone who’s done it before that after taking MDMA some may have been able to have closer/intimate relationships, develop new friendships, and were able to see the world in a whole new spectrum.

    The “rave” experience wasn’t created with the intention of a bunch of users coming to take drugs, but more so on the ability to gather a bunch of like minded people together to have a great time.

    Just like anything in life things are good in moderation, and the ability to do a drug like MDMA (pure of course) needs to be done with responsible people who not only understand the drug, the problems it may pose, and making sure to take all the precautions necessary to have a fun/safe time.

    The US has one of the most strictly regulated drug and alcohol laws in the entire world but still ranks one of the highest in DUI related accidents, drug dependability and abuse, with hundreds of thousands of people ending up in the hospital every year.

    This just shows that it isn’t a matter of just completely stopping and telling people not to use MDMA (think of when you were told not to do something when you were a child), but to educate them, just like we do with sex ed nowadays.

    In my opinion, the leading cause of drug abuse is misinformation, and that too much regulation leads to criminals and selfish people distributing adulterated drugs to earn a quick buck.

    Instead of creating a segment titled “MOLLY CONCERNS”, maybe we can create a segment called “Molly 101. What to, and not to do.”

    • g3ny

      Sorry for the typos ~

  • Tomboy

    How about some perspective from the other side? Maybe from someone who is actually knowledgeable about the substance?

  • it_disqus

    Just look what Molly did to Miley.

    • Gordon Sachtjen

      I think the song goes “Dancing with Miley” not “Molly”

      • it_disqus

        And the trying to get a line in the bathroom? Do you think she is singing about how much they like to wait to pee?

  • Aulisemia

    Really frustrated with this piece. Is it a type 1 illegal drug? Yes. Do you know who your supplier is and how clean the dose you’re getting is? No, of course not. This is the dangerous part about the product – in fact Boston police are working on arrests in the distribution side because of the tainted shipment, not because people were otherwise using it.

    My problem comes in here, MDMA is not typically a drug that people overdose on. The majority of the dangers are related to the effects on the respiratory system when combined with other conditions like excessive heat, dehydration, alcohol or other drugs.

    Aside from not knowing where your dose came from, it is functionally the same as drinking. You follow the rules. Don’t over do it, don’t do it alone or with a bunch of strangers, make sure you hydrate. You’re gonna be fine.

    To point out a few overdoses because of a tainted batch and declare that it is “exceptionally unsafe” is ridiculous. Binge drinking and antidepressants are much more harmful to people than MDMA will ever be, but you don’t see a call to ban these on college campuses do you?

  • Molly

    I grew up disliking my name — maybe all kids do. It wasn’t exactly popular back then, except among cows, dogs and fish. I learned to accept it though I can’t say I ever really liked it. But it was mine, is mine. Now I learn it’s also the name of a
    party drug that caused the deaths of three people last week. My name has taken on a whole new look and sound: Molly.

    My name is everywhere now: internet, newspaper, television, radio, conversations.
    Even before the overdoses, I guess it had become quite popular in the party scene
    and beyond, making its way into pop song lyrics and pop star comments. Tragically, it will now hold a place of unbearable grief among the family and friends of those who died from it, from “taking Molly.”

    I can’t undo those deaths; the pop stars can’t unsing their songs or unsay their
    comments. But maybe we can sing, say or do something to avert any more Molly-related tragedies. One idea I had was to invite anyone out there who is contemplating taking Molly to talk to this Molly first. I wouldn’t give you the 3-6 hours of chemically-induced euphoria, but I would give you my undivided attention,
    listening to whatever you wanted to say, without judgment, with compassion, and
    maybe just maybe that would fill the void you hoped the other Molly would fill.

  • RogerP

    Your today’s response by a junkie questioning the doctor’s interview comment was quite dispicable. Since when did NPR started glamorizing the drugs, that too by inviting dopers to show how cool it is to take Molly? You guys hit new journalistic low today

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