You might even see her in the hands of partygoers at UNC in powder or pill form.
Her name is Molly.
Molly is a slang term for the crystalline pure form of MDMA, a chemical also used in the drug Ecstasy. And conversation about its use, particularly by college students, has been prominent recently across the country.
Britta Starke, the programs director and addictions therapist for UNC Hospital’s Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program, said people who have come in for using Molly are all between the ages of 17 and 23. She added that Molly is not usually the only drug they are using.
According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, from 2004 to 2009 there was a general 123 percent increase in the number of national emergency room visits involving MDMA.
However, it’s unclear how prevalent the drug is in Chapel Hill from a numbers standpoint. Mike Mineer, a drug recognition specialist and a Chapel Hill alcohol law enforcement investigator, said the police department has not had any drug charges involving Molly in Chapel Hill.
“Molly has been on the radar for a while,” Mineer said. “But just because we haven’t had any cases here doesn’t mean that it’s not in Chapel Hill because I am sure it is.”
Lt. Joshua Mecimore, spokesman for the Chapel Hill Police Department, said the department categorizes Molly under the amphetamine or methamphetamine category, adding that drug-related data can be complicated because there are many drugs under each category.
But he said there have been a few drug charges described as “MDMA” or “Ecstasy.”
Even though the Chapel Hill Police Department hasn’t come across Molly specifically, many students said they have seen it on multiple occasions.
A., a UNC student and Molly dealer who asked to remain anonymous, said he has sold Molly to close friends to make money.
He said most people will spend about $20 for one night’s worth and it can be snorted in its powder form or swallowed in its pill form. He added that most people take about .2 or .25 grams.
“It’s definitely popular on UNC’s campus,” A. said. “It’s the kind of drug that you do once and then you think, ‘Wow, that was actually worth it.’”
But that’s not the only opinion on the drug.
Robert Goldsmith said he and his wife learned a lot about Molly last year after their daughter, Mary “Shelley” Goldsmith, a University of Virginia student, died after taking the drug at an electronic dance music concert in Washington, D.C.
“The stereotype that many of us have about drug users is that they are antisocial and underachievers, but this is a high-achieving, popular person who seemed to be doing everything right,” Goldsmith said.
He added that most adults do not know much about Molly and that young people think they know.
“When we got the call that we needed to go to the hospital, her friend said she had taken Molly,” Goldsmith said. “My wife’s response to that was, ‘Who’s Molly?’”
Dave Nichols, an adjunct professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy and previously a professor at Purdue University College of Pharmacy, said taking Molly a few times most likely won’t have long-term damaging effects on the brain if it is pure MDMA and taken at a reasonable dose. However, he said it can cause more harm if the drug is used often.
“Studies have been done on people that have taken it 400 or 500 times,” Nichols said. “There’s a hint that there may be long-term effects on cognition, but nothing has been clearly established.”
Depression is also a long-term effect, said Mineer.
“When you take MDMA it’s causing this flood of good-feeling serotonin endorphins to be produced,” Mineer said. “So when people come off of it, this feeling depletes and makes some people feel depressed.”
Goldsmith said his impression is those who use Molly don’t think it is dangerous.
“It is like playing Russian roulette,” Goldsmith said. “You have one chance of getting what you think and being safe and many chances of getting something that isn’t safe.”
Nichols said there are other dangerous side effects to molly, including dehydration.
“When people take it at dance clubs and dance for three or four hours, people end up becoming dehydrated and some of them have died,” Nichols said.
But Holland said there is actually a lot of confusion surrounding hydration.
“It is generally understood in the rave community that they should rest and drink water,” Holland says. “But the biggest risk of MDMA-related death is actually from drinking too much water.”
MDMA causes water retention, Holland said. She said obsessive hydration can cause a dilution of the blood and can cause death from a lack of sodium in the bloodstream.
A. said the Molly he has come across isn’t usually pure MDMA.
“I have come across cut Molly more often,” A. said. “People will mix it with cocaine a lot of the time or even just vitamin B as a filler.”
“Unless you actually knew the person who was manufacturing it, the chance you would get pure MDMA is pretty slim even if they do call it Molly,” Nichols said.
A. also said people who take Molly usually take other drugs with it.
“Most of the time when I do it, I am drinking too,” A. said. “ I will take like .2 grams of Molly and drink and maybe smoke weed on top of it.”
Dr. Julie Holland, a psychiatrist in New York City and author of “Ecstasy: The Complete Guide,” said people who take MDMA feel a kind of embodied joy.
Mineer said synesthesia is also a common symptom of MDMA.
“Senses start to combine so people hear colors and feel sounds,” Mineer said. “Think about raves with all the glow sticks and techno music which is all majorly intensified with MDMA.”
At raves, people call it the “love drug,” Mineer said.
“Normally in life, if we liked one another and I am hugging you, it feels good,” Mineer said. “If I am hugging you on MDMA even if I don’t like you, it feels great.”
Mineer speaks as a guest lecturer in psychology classes at UNC. He said it is one of the best places for him to learn information about new drugs he might not know about.
“I tell them, ‘Hey, you aren’t going to get in trouble but if you know anything about this drug, here is my email and phone number,’” Mineer said. “I always get a lot of feedback from those students.”
A. said he thinks some people want to take Molly because of its positive publicity in pop culture. Artists like Trinidad James and Miley Cyrus have glorified the use of the drug by singing about it in their songs, “All Gold Everything” and “We Can’t Stop.”
“Even rappers talk about it so kids want to get their hands on it,” A. said. “Wiz Khalifa talks about smoking weed so kids want to smoke weed, it’s the same kind of thing.”