Mixed up with Molly

By Matthew Goodman | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Molly only ever went to clubs. The flashing lights and incredibly loud music created a perfect atmosphere for dancing. Molly encouraged others to dance as the nights went on into the early hours of the morning. People searched for Molly as if there were an Amber Alert. It usually wasn’t very hard for them to find what they were looking for. Years later, Molly has ventured out of the underground club scene and into the public eye.

The drug, methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA, has taken various scenes and groups of young adults by storm under the innocent seeming name of Molly. MDMA gained popularity in clubs, raves and other venues that feature Electronic Dance Music, or EDM. Ecstasy is a form of MDMA that has been under fire for years by law enforcement agencies all over, including the St. John’s County Sheriff’s office, because of its typically harmful lacings. Proponents of Molly praise it for being safer than ecstasy. Molly is supposed to be MDMA’s purer form.

Clubs and raves that feature music once considered to be underground, have risen to new heights in popularity as EDM becomes part of the mainstream. With the popularity of the music, the entire scene has become more popular. That means more young people have started partaking in a culture that has a stigma of drug abuse. The stereotypical user of MDMA is changing and becoming part of a more popular scene.

The drug is still used in social settings but it is no longer hidden. Whether it is coming out of the clubs, or more young adults are going into the clubs, its presence in society is becoming more noticeable to concert goers, and local law enforcement agencies.

The mainstream is fully aware of the increasing popularity of EDM and Molly. Last March, Madonna came under fire for a comment she made at the Ultra Music Festival in Miami Florida. “How many people in this crowd have seen Molly?” she asked of her crowd at one of the most popular electronic music events in the country. Artists that have admired and worked with EDM for the major part of their careers were not pleased with her candid acknowledgement of the drug.

The artist Deadmau5 used social media to sarcastically voice his opinion of Madonna’s example for the youth, saying it was a “great message for the young music lovers at Ultra.”

Artists are well aware of the drugs in their culture. Alex Giambrone, or Mr. E, started spinning discs at raves when he was 16. That was 10 years ago and he still loves making music and putting on shows in Illinois. He says that when he was into MDMA, “it was practically free.” He acknowledges that “kids are still experimenting with it,” but also notes that “it’s a lot safer than it used to be.” Orlando teen Dave, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, said the drug can be obtained safely if purchased from people you know personally. Users start getting into trouble when they buy it from random people at concerts according to Dave.

Giambrone explained that MDMA is different now because the drug is cut so many times that it can be hard to find actual Molly. Molly is viewed by users as the purest form of MDMA. It is the powder and crystal form of the original chemical compound. When it is contaminated with other drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamine, it becomes something more dangerous. When he used MDMA, ecstasy was more popular, and more dangerous. Unfortunately, both are sold under a label of Molly. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), these multiple drug experiences are becoming popular.

Sgt. Chuck Mulligan of the St. John’s County Sherriff’s office, most drug related deaths are due to such mixes. This makes it difficult to determine which drug and which dosage did the most damage. “There are hundreds of different compounds,” explained Mulligan. “Each one has a different reaction to the human body.”

Users take Molly orally. It is described as having a bitter taste. Once taken, the user will need to get water or risk becoming extremely dehydrated, according to NIDA. Dave said he has taken Molly seven times over the course of 10 months and experienced all of the symptoms described by NIDA. According to NIDA, the drug can “produce confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving, and severe anxiety.”

Dave said he doesn’t typically feel the side effects until he comes down from his high. While on the drug, lights are intensified, awareness is increased, and a general feeling of joy fills the brain through a heavy increase of serotonin. You can usually tell someone is on Molly by their extremely dilated pupils. The anxiety and depression the following day are often due to the lack of serotonin since it was used up the night before.

Users like Dave say they enjoy the drug because of the feeling it gives them. Dave describes himself as very anxious. He has trouble approaching social situations. When groups are on Molly together, something happens that Dave struggled to put into words. He collected his thoughts. “Your feeling of unity with people you’re with at an event is indescribable. You love everyone. The people I’ve rolled with are some of the people that I’ll have their back no matter what.”

Giambrone and Dave agree that it is much more than a drug craze. They both share a genuine love of dance music. “I love dance music,” Giambrone says. “I loved dance music before I found out about the drugs. I was DJ-ing before the drugs. I’m DJ-ing now after drugs.” Both have experienced concerts and parties completely sober and still enjoyed it because of their love for the music and the people that share the same love. Giambrone said he has stopped using MDMA and maintains his passion for music and the culture EDM has created.

Last year, the same Ultra Music Festival that Madonna appeared at reached a new height. A record 165,000 people attended. Tickets are just now going on sale for the 2013 festival and early sales have already sold out. Regular tickets are available for purchase, but will likely go quickly. The fandom is spreading, but the festival hasn’t been a positive experience for everyone. At the 2012 festival, Dave said he had an experience that would remind him how cautious he needs to be when taking the drug. A friend of his disappeared in the middle of a show. When Dave found him, he was smoking a cigarette. Suddenly his friend’s head fell back and went limp. His eyes began to flicker. Dave shook his friend until he become more alert and awake. Once the friend came to, Dave said he rushed and got water to sober him up. He said he has witnessed similar incidents at concerts.

Since users experience dehydration while using Molly, it should never be mixed with alcohol, Dave says. He has seen people become very sick from mixing the two. MDMA becomes more lethal when mixed with other substances. Mixing an upper with a downer, in general, has unpredictable results, according to a report by Francis W. Hughes and Robert B. Forney, leading authors on Psychology and drug abuse. Mulligan says such mixes have people waking up in hospitals not knowing what they’ve done. People describing zombies and going “completely out of their minds” are results of new mixes of chemical substances.

These dangers give the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) plenty of reason to outlaw the drug. The fact that it is a likely to be abused, with no apparent medical benefit, puts the drug onto the list of Schedule I, controlled substances, according to the DEA. That has chemists and dealers finding new ways to get around laws. “They go in and change the way the substance is made,” said Mulligan. “Therefore, that particular substance is no longer illegal. So then we have to go back and amend the state statutes.” This makes the process of outlawing the drugs extremely difficult for police and legislators.

“They know that every time we identify a new chemical compound, the way that it was chained and put together, they’re already working on a different chemical compound to package the next series (of drugs),” he said. “So when we go in and test what’s on the shelf, it’s not illegal.”

Both Dave and Giambrone are quick to mention that the dance culture does not revolve around drug use. They always get back to how the music affects people. That is the core of the culture, they say. When it comes to drug abuse “it depends on the crowd,” Giambrone said.

“Dance music and its culture are a mostly beautiful and welcoming groups of like-minded people,” he said. “These people aren’t worried about if you’re black or white, straight or gay, rich or poor; they just want to be with you and love you and share their love of the music. Drugs play a large part of this culture, although, it doesn’t and shouldn’t define it. The stigmas attached to it are unfounded and false. Listen to the emotion in the music. It’s pure, it’s unbridled, and it’s willing to share it with everyone.”

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