Drug Facts: Molly, or MDMA

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 2:12 PM

drugsMolly, a supposedly pure form of the drug MDMA, is seeing a spike in use among young people. Users of Molly see it as a safe, inexpensive drug with few long-term negative side effects, like addiction. Many celebrities, including most recently Miley Cyrus, have quite literally been singing its praises.

But Molly, known previously in the 1980s and ‘90s as Ecstasy, is an illegal drug and it comes with many risks. A mind-altering drug that is a stimulant and hallucinogenic, it boosts both serotonin and dopamine levels in the body. Users of the drug report feelings of happiness, euphoria, empathy, decreased anxiety and fear, as well as enhanced sensory perception, which makes it a popular dance club drug.

Jerrold Leikin, MD, Medical Toxicology and Emergency Medicine at NorthShore, dispels some of the myths surrounding Molly:

  • Myth: It is safer than other drugs.
    Truth: A stimulant, like speed or amphetamines, it comes with many of the same dangers. It can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. It can cause tremors, cramps, nausea, chills, blurred vision and dehydration, especially if combined with hours of dancing. High doses of the drug in the bloodstream can increase one’s risk of seizure and heartbeat irregularity.  There have been cases of brain bleeding requiring surgery after use of Molly.  It has also been known to cause hyperthermia, or a rapid increase in the body’s temperature, which can cause life-threatening heat stroke. 
  • Myth: There are no after effects or long-term negative side effects.
    Truth: As the drug wears off and serotonin levels drop rapidly, users report a depression that can last for several days and range from mild to severe. And while prolonged use eventually begins to diminish users' highs, which means a relatively low risk of physical addiction, it also means that many users take larger doses to achieve a high, increasing the risk of overdose. Over time, repeated use may cause memory loss. Bleeding from the brain can be deadly, and brain surgery to prevent death carries many potential risks and complications that may result in permanent damage and neurologic dysfunction.
  • Myth: Unlike Ecstasy, Molly is pure.
    Truth: Molly is short for “molecule” and as such, it is a myth that all Molly is Ecstacy and is pure.  Those involved in the drug trade make different molecules from MDMA and call them “Molly” to evade governmental regulation and law enforcement.  Other chemicals are sold under the name “Molly” as well.  This results in a mixture of different molecules with unknown short-term and long-term effects that have not been fully studied by scientists. Additionally, it could be cut with potentially hazardous chemicals or it could be a completely different drug altogether.  There is no way for the user to know what is actually in that powder or pill.

How do you talk to your kids about drugs?

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