September 9, 2013
You can find it in songs performed by pop music stars Rihanna and Miley Cyrus and in clubs and on college campuses across the country. The drug called "Molly" is a purified form of MDMA, the main ingredient in ecstasy. It's a hallucinogenic, popular in night clubs and music festivals.
"It gives you energy, colors become vibrant and sounds are distorted because there is a lot of serotonin and dopamine in your brain," said Dr. Christopher Holstege, the director of the Blue Ridge Poison Control Center and a professor in the department of emergency medicine at the University of Virginia. But Holstege warns the drug can cause seizures and even death.
The drug is linked to the deaths of four people in one week in Boston and New York, and the family of UVa student Mary Shelley Goldsmith says she took the drug the night she passed out in a Washington, DC nightclub and later died at a nearby hospital.
Holstege said ecstasy related cases are becoming more common in emergency rooms across the country. According to data from the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), the number of cases more than doubled between 2004 and 2011, from 10,227 ecstasy related cased in the ER to 22,498 cases.
"It's still a small percentage compared to all drugs of abuse but it is increasing," Holstege said.
Those numbers reflect what students on UVa Grounds say they are seeing on a daily basis.
"You hear of some friends are involved in that stuff, but generally it doesn't have a presence here," said Colvin Wang, a fourth year student at UVa.
Another fourth year student said other drugs were more prevalent around campus. "Some people smoke a lot of marijuana and there's a fair amount of alcohol," said Neil Molstey. "But we don't have a very large drug culture."
Health officials warn that drug dealers often mix substances when making "Molly" and users may end up taking something entirely different than ecstasy.
"It truly is kind of like Russian Roulette," said Holstege. "You may not get the right bullet and shoot yourself in the head. No one intends to die or get sick."