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Molly is the colloquial name for the popular club drug MDMA, and implies a higher level of purity than ecstasy. It has been linked to five deaths at music events this summer, including one this past weekend at a Washington, D.C. nightclub.
Here & Now spoke with a doctor earlier this week who warned that molly can dangerously speed up the metabolism, leading to organ failure or heart attack in some cases. She said it can leave users feeling depressed after they come down from their euphoric highs, and she spoke of the longterm effects on the brain.
Many people who commented on the segment thought the warnings were overblown.
One molly user, who didn’t want to be identified out of fear he’ll lose his teaching job, told Here & Now he has safely gotten high on molly for several years.
“I heard the interview the other day, and although everything that was said was accurate, I thought that it was missing a little bit of context. For example, although it’s true that molly can cause dehydration or hyperthermia, the rate at which it is fatal is extremely low — depending on what studies you read,” he said.
So what does the molly-using community make of the rash of molly-connected overdoses?
“Within the culture, those are largely dismissed, and I think it’s a shame that they are because I think it does point to a real danger,” he said. “The perception that molly, you can take as much as you want and still be safe, makes people take far more than they need to, and it also means that they’re not being careful about testing things to make sure that that’s what they actually have.”
He tests drugs before he takes them, using a drug testing kit he bought online.
“I don’t think that they’re widely popular, simply because I don’t think a lot of people know that they’re available, and don’t understand that they’re really a necessity. For example, I think two out of three times that I’ve tested molly, it has turned out to be something other than what I thought it was.”
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW. Another concert-goer has apparently died from using the popular club drug known as Molly, this time in Washington, D.C., and concerns about Molly have prompted cancellations of two upcoming concerts in New England. Police in Boston think a bad batch of Molly is going around. Molly is a form of MDMA thought to be more pure than the party drug ecstasy, which is often cut with other things.
Earlier this week, we spoke with an addiction specialist, Dr. Marla Kushner, about her concerns about Molly. She said it can dangerously speed up metabolism, leading to organ failure in some cases, or heart attack. It can lead users feeling depressed after they come down from their euphoric highs; and she spoke of the long-term effects on the brain. We received a lot of response to that conversation at hereandnow.org from people who have used Molly and thought the warnings were overblown.
Well, joining us now in the studio is one user who doesn't want to be identified because of fears he will lose his job. He's active in the electronic music, dance party scene, where Molly is popular. Thanks for coming in.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Thank you.
HOBSON: So you've told us you want to debunk all of the misinformation you say you're hearing about Molly. Such as?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Well, I don't know if I want to debunk all the misinformation. I want to say that I heard the interview the other day, and although everything that was said was accurate, I thought that it was missing a little bit of context. For example, although it's true that Molly, you know, can cause dehydration or hyperthermia, the rate at which it is fatal is extremely low - depending on what studies you read; the jury is still out, to some extent.
HOBSON: Well, what about these deaths that have happened in a very short space of time this summer?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Right. So I think that within the culture, those are largely dismissed, and I think it's a shame that they are because it does point to a real danger. One number that gets thrown around a lot is something like 2 in 100,000 Molly users have a fatal experience. The fact that - or the perception that Molly, you can take as much as you want and still be safe, makes people take far more than they need to. And it also means that they're not being careful about testing things to make sure that what's they actually have.
HOBSON: Well, take us through your personal experience. How often do you do it?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I don't do it particularly often. I do it maybe once or maybe twice a month, if I'm really out in the scene a lot. But I don't think that there are a lot of people who are doing it every day. Maybe there are some. But I think for the most part, it's considered a party-type of thing, not an everyday sort of experience.
HOBSON: And when you take Molly, how easy is it to get?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It depends greatly on your community. Some, it's difficult to locate someone who has it. However, if you're at a party, there's certainly someone who has it. There are ways of getting it other than that - on the Internet, or something like that. But those are not easily accessible, and I don't think it's done widely.
HOBSON: How old were you when you first tried Molly?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Oh, I think I was probably like 22, perhaps. So I was actually on the older side of it. I think there's sort of a dual generation of Molly takers right now. There are some who started with ecstasy back when that was the drug and sort of moved into Molly as ecstasy became less widely available. And now, there's a new explosion of drug users with the new electronic music popularity.
HOBSON: So tell us why you do it. What is it that it does that you can't achieve through I would say a natural high, or just a normal state of being?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The interesting thing about Molly is that although you feel euphoric, it does not interfere with your objectivity very much. For example, I can recall being at a Dead Mouse concert, and I'm not a particularly big fan of Dead Mouse. I took some Molly, and although I was dancing, I also felt like the music was not particularly good. So it creates an atmosphere where you feel good about everything around you, but you're also capable of having real conversations with the people nearby.
HOBSON: Now, we heard the other day from Dr. Kushner about the effects that she was talking about, short-term and long-term, including, as you said, hyperthermia and dehydration, but also longer-term effects on the brain and depression afterwards. Have you suffered any of those?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: No, not to my knowledge. So the effects that she was talking about, the short term, the so-called ecstasy hangover; the idea is that two days after you take it, you might experience depression or something of that nature, but that passes fairly quickly. You do have some effects going longer into the week, but they're not strong. As for long, long-term effects, the research that I've read, as I think the doctor said, is - the research is still sort of - it's inconclusive on that.
HOBSON: Do you use these testing kits that are put out there to - I guess test the purity of the Molly that you have?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I do. They're easily available. You can get them on the Internet for not a huge fee. However, I don't think that they're widely popular simply because I don't think a lot of people know that they're available, and don't understand that they're really a necessity. For example, I think two out of three times that I've tested Molly, it has turned out to be something other than what I thought it was.
HOBSON: Did you take it anyway?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: In one case, yes, and in one case, no.
HOBSON: How long do you think you're going to keep using Molly?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's hard for me to say. I think, you know, at the moment, I also DJ sometimes and I think - and it's part of the culture, and so it's hard for me to imagine a day that which I would just say never again. However, I suspect that as I get older and my life changes, I'll probably use it less and less. But it's not - I don't think of it as being something that's going to bar me from having a normal life.
HOBSON: Our guest is a Molly user who wishes to remain anonymous out of fear of losing his job. Thank you so much for coming in.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Thanks for having me.
HOBSON: Well, for a quick response now, let's bring back Dr. Marla Kushner in Chicago. Doctor, what do you make of what you just heard?
DR. MARLA KUSHNER: Yeah, I really appreciate his candor and honesty about the awareness of what's going on with Molly. My concern is especially for the younger new users of Molly who go to a concert. And they just decide to use it there, haven't prepared, don't know what to expect and then they encounter some of these consequences that we've been seeing in the news lately. The first time they're using it, they're not expecting to feel the way they do.
They're not staying hydrated the way they should. They're in the crowds. They're dancing. They're having a good time. And then the hypothermia could take over. Also whether or not they are on other medications or have a predisposition, that could lead to something bad happening. So that's where I'm very concerned.
HOBSON: Well, and we should, of course, remind people that this drug is illegal and obviously can be dangerous, as has been the case here. What would your message be, in just the 30 seconds we have left, to people who have just heard this conversation?
KUSHNER: Just again, to remind them that it is illegal, that there is no regulation of the medication. Even if you're doing a test kit, you're - it's not guaranteeing what you're absolutely getting and that it could be dangerous and could have a fatal outcome.
HOBSON: Dr. Marla Kushner, medical director at the New Hope Recovery Center in Chicago. Thank you so much.
KUSHNER: You're welcome. Thank you.
HOBSON: And we'd love to hear your thoughts on this and keep the conversation going at hereandnow.org or facebook.com/hereandnowradio. We're also on Twitter, @hereandnow. We'll be back in one minute, HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.