Move over, marijuana: MDMA, sometimes called “Molly,” is having a moment. From Miley Cyrus coyly name-dropping the drug in “We Can’t Stop” to the alarming articles on blogs and news sites citing its danger, Molly has been everywhere. We talked to collegiettes across the country and Dr. Mason Gomberg, a pediatrician, about some of the things you may not know about Molly.
1. Combining Molly with other substances is extremely dangerous
Because Molly is considered a club drug, which means that people often use it at raves, concerts and clubs because of its euphoric effects, people often mix it with other drugs or alcohol. According to Gomberg, this is a potentially lethal combination.
“MDMA should not be mixed with other drugs, for most drugs are not fully pure, containing chemicals that can dangerously interact with each other,” he says. “One of the more common drugs used with MDMA is alcohol. This is a very bad combination because it often exacerbates the negative effects due to the diuretic effect of alcohol.”
A drug is diuretic when it causes you to urinate more often, sometimes causing dehydration. As you’ll read next, Molly can dehydrate you too, so combining it with a diuretic seriously jeopardizes your health.
2. It makes you super dehydrated
As Gomberg explained, mixing alcohol and Molly can make you dehydrated. Why? Taking Molly elevates your temperature, making you thirsty. Combined with alcohol, which makes you urinate more often, you’re at risk for dehydration. But even taking Molly alone increases your chance of dehydration.
On the opposite end, it can also cause you to become over-hydrated. Some Molly users will overcompensate for their thirst and high temperature by drinking a ton of water. However, drinking too much water can disturb the salt and electrolyte balance in your body, Gomberg says. Both dehydration and over-hydration can cause your body’s organs to fail, leading to harm or, in severe cases, death.
3. It’s definitely not “pure”
Molly is what some people say is the “purer” form of MDMA, Gomberg says, but the drug is far from pure. Because Molly is illegal, and therefore not regulated, what you think you’re ingesting could contain anything. Drugs are often laced with other substances, and the contents of the capsule you take can vary.
According to EcstasyData.org, an independent laboratory pill testing program, MDMA can contain everything from ibuprofen to aspirin to acetaminophen—all painkillers. Because you really have no idea what you’re taking (a capsule could be one part ecstasy, another part ibuprofen), you’re putting your body at risk because you don’t know how the drugs may interact.
4. Abusing Molly can put you at risk for mental health problems
While trying Molly once or twice will not put you at risk for long-term effects, using it regularly (several times a month or more) for several years will. “Long-term users of MDMA are more prone to depression, anxiety and memory loss,” Gomberg says. “It has also been proven that long-term use of MDMA causes brain damage by interfering with serotonin communication in the brain.” Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates your mood, sleep and appetite.
“I sometimes feel glum for a few days after [taking Molly],” Lizzie, a junior at Vassar College, says. Whether or not you already suffer from anxiety or depression, using Molly regularly can impair brain functions, causing you to feel down.
5. It’s becoming more and more popular
According to a 2010 United Nations drug report , around 10 to 25 million people use Molly at least once a year. While there aren’t a lot of statistics about Molly use among college students, a 2002 study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health noted that use of the drug increased between 1999 and 2000.
The drug is also illegal in the United States. “MDMA is illegal and considered a Schedule I drug due to the fact that it has high potential for abuse, lack of safe use and no current accepted medical use,” Gomberg says.
Then why is the drug so popular? Gomberg says Molly has become popular because of its feel-good effects and the fact that it’s relatively cheap. Molly’s increase in popularity means you’re more likely to come across it at college parties. Prevalence also can make the drug seem not as harmful, since it may appear that “everyone is doing it.” However, not everyone is, and those who are doing it are taking a huge risk.
The bottom line
MDMA can be fun, but the negative side effects are plentiful and dangerous. “The negatives of MDMA outweigh all the positives. It is not worth it. Your brain is precious—do not damage such a precious part of your body,” Gomberg says.
“College is the best time of your life and it is a time to explore and learn,” he says—not a time to damage your brain and body.