Molly, the dangerous drug with the innocent name – what parents and kids should know

Molly in tablet form comes in different colors and is often stamped with a corporate logo. — Photo courtesy of DEA

Since March, Molly — the name for a potent form of the drug ecstasy, or MDMA — has taken the lives of at least seven people around the country and sent many more to hospital emergency rooms. This pharmaceutical femme fatale lures her victims with the promise of low cost euphoria, where inhibitions melt and everyone loves their fellow man and they dance the night away. But as the recent spate of deaths and overdoses in the Northeast has shown, the promise of an unforgettable night with Molly can end with devastating consequences.

A survey of local authorities finds that Molly has arrived on the Vineyard, and it is attracting the attention of Island law enforcement, parents, and adults who work with young people.

Use of ecstasy among young adults has risen steadily since the mid-90s. According to a study done by Drug Abuse Warning Network, from 2004 to 2009 there was a 123 percent increase in the number of emergency room visits involving ecstasy. Almost eight in 10 ecstasy-related visits to the emergency room involved ecstasy in combination with alcohol or other drugs. About 70 percent of the patients were between ages 18 to 29.

Molly is supposed to be a more pure form of ecstasy, but the user never knows what they’re ingesting, or how potent it is. “Young people tend to think this stuff isn’t dangerous, and it is dangerous,” a DEA spokesman recently told the Boston Globe. “This stuff gets manufactured in someone’s bathtub. You just don’t know what’s in it.”

Molly is made in labs around the world and often bought and sold on the Internet. Samples of confiscated Molly have contained methamphetamine, baking powder, and even fertilizer.

Molly is a wash ashore

“We have a couple of open investigations regarding possession and distribution [of Molly],” said Edgartown police detective Chris Dolby in a telephone interview with the Times. “It’s been around for a while. It’s not new to us. It’s just been getting a lot of exposure lately. It also played a part in a recent sexual assault I investigated. We’re hearing it’s a party drug on the Island.”

“When I first came on the job in 1999, ecstasy in pill form was big,” Oak Bluffs police detective Nicholas W. Curelli said in a telephone interview with the Times. “Then it went away. Then around 2012 we had our first Molly case. We didn’t know what it was at first, because it was in powder form. Because Molly comes in so many different forms, we don’t know what it is until it comes back from the lab. We had a couple of arrests this summer; they’re open cases so I can’t go into too much detail. It’s definitely around. We know it’s becoming more popular with younger kids. Hopefully the schools are addressing it.”

“I think we do a fantastic job on all types of substance prevention,” said MVRHS Assistant Principal Matthew Malowski. “We do school-wide assemblies several times a year and we do more intimate workshops with a few adults and 10 to 20 students. We also work in association with the youth task force and meet two to three times a month, working on ways to educate our students on all substances. I feel very good about the way the school and community work together on this.”

Recognizing Molly

Molly is sold as a powder, a capsule, or a colored tablet, often stamped with a corporate logo or a whimsical image. While it can be snorted, most people swallow Molly, and some wrap a concentrated amount in paper to speed up absorption, which is called parachuting. Molly is often mixed with caffeine, alcohol, and other drugs, making it potentially more lethal.

Common side effects of Molly include heart palpitations, insomnia, nausea, fever, involuntary jaw clenching and teeth grinding, muscle cramping, dehydration, and in more severe cases, seizures, spiked body temperature (hyperthermia), cardiac arrest, and coma.

Post-use side effects can include anxiety, irritability, aggression, more jaw clenching, loss of appetite, and extreme lethargy. Molly detonates an explosion of serotonin. The prolonged high depletes the body’s neurotransmitters, so the user invariably crashes hard when the drug wears off. These days are nicknamed “Suicide Tuesdays.” Molly can also trigger long-term depression in people who are predisposed to it.

What to do about Molly

“It’s good for parents to establish an open dialogue about the all the stresses and pressures of their teenager’s life, including drugs and alcohol,” said Tom Bennett, a counselor at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services who said there are confirmed cases of Molly use by Island high school students.

“The main thing parents need to remember is to be open and forthcoming about their concerns. People get worried about saying the wrong thing. But it’s the motivation behind it that will come across. It says they care and they want to know if their kids are doing okay. Parenting is not an easy job, but trying to open those lines can make a big difference.

They can also let their kids know there is help elsewhere for things they don’t want to speak to parents about, like the counseling center here at [Martha’s Vineyard] Community Services.

Parents should also know there’s a youth task force on the island. If they find they need some guidance, they can call 508-696-5304.”

Mr. Bennett said that young people who experience peer pressure to take Molly, or any kind of drug, should take a hard look at their social circle. “A lot of kids are able to stand up to peer pressure, but sometimes it’s helpful to look at the company they’re keeping. If they’re feeling nervous about pressure to try drugs and alcohol, they can look at connecting with other people. Being encouraged to say no and to move away from that group into productive activities like sports, clubs, jobs, etcetera, is very important. The company you keep is where values are developed. It’s where they decide what’s important in their lives.”

Mr. Bennett said students who have drug problems or know someone who does may seek help from guidance counselors, who can refer them to drug counseling. They can also call Island Counseling Centers at 508-693-7900. After business hours, the emergency services number is 508-693-0032.