Do You Know Molly?

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Following the tragic deaths of two young adults at this past weekend’s Electric Zoo music festival, “Molly” has been all over the news this week. Despite the drug steadily gaining popularity with teens and young adults over the past few years, many adults are now hearing the term for the first time. If you find yourself among the unfamiliar, here are the basics:

What is Molly?

Molly is most often used to refer to a powdered version of MDMA. You may remember hearing about MDMA under it’s former name, Ecstasy (or simply “E” or “X”). Molly is essentially the same drug, but re-branded and now portrayed as a purer, safer way to get the same euphoric high.

So is it actually less contaminated than Ecstasy?

No. While it’s probably possible to buy pure MDMA, it’s also possible to buy Molly that’s been “cut” with another illegal drug (like cocaine) or a filler (like caffeine or an OTC medication, or even talcum powder), just as Ecstasy was. And it’s even possible to buy a drug sold as MDMA or Molly, which could be entirely counterfeit. As with any illegal street drug, there’s no real guarantee of what you’ll be getting.

What are the risks associated with taking Molly?

Even if you’re taking pure MDMA, there are still dangerous risks and side effects. Most often, the conditions under which Molly is taken are what makes the drug so dangerous. “The early signs of intoxication going over toward overdose of MDMA, of Molly, is going to be high heart rate, high respiratory rate and high blood pressure… So if you're in a club scene, you're not feeling any of that,” Dr. Meika Roberson of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York told NBC News. Other common side effects range from teeth grinding and insomnia to high blood pressure and depression.

So why is it suddenly so popular?

MDMA has recently returned to the mainstream, mostly through its popularity in the electronic music scene. The drug is heavily associated with EDM (Electronic Dance Music), which has been steadily rising in popularity for the past few years among teens and young adults (some of the big names in the genre include artists such as Skrillex, Avicii, Calvin Harris, and Swedish House Mafia, just to name a few). That isn’t to say by any means that all teens that listen to EDM are also taking Molly, or that a large portion of EDM concertgoers aren’t drug-free and still just as dedicated to the music scene. But the drug’s associations to the scene are high, just as Ecstasy was with rave culture. Given the state of the media today, it’s more likely that your teen would have heard of Molly than not—even if they have never, ever come into contact with it.

What are the most effective ways to talk to your teens about Molly—or about drugs in general?

Drug use can be a difficult topic to navigate with teens, but it’s a conversation you need to have. Author of Clean, David Sheff, clearly and carefully outlines effective addiction prevention on his website—a must-read for any concerned parent.

Also, The Partnership at DrugFree.org is an invaluable resource for understanding why teens engage in risky behaviors, like drug use. They also provide important advice for how to talk to your teens about drugs, and how to help them find positive outlets for their curiosity and desire to take risks.