The Full Story
MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), commonly known as "ecstasy" or "Molly", is a "club drug". It is popular in nightclubs and "raves" (all-night dance parties). "Molly" is abused for its stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. Usually it is taken orally, as a pill or powder.
The name "Molly" may sound harmless. In reality this is a dangerous and unpredictable illegal drug. Often, it contains one or more street drugs. Typically, they are mixed with other substances: legal drugs, illegal drugs, even household products like soap, sugar, and baking powder. People who take "Molly" often abuse other drugs at the same time, especially alcohol, marijuana, and LSD.
Within an hour, "Molly" can produce feelings of increased energy, euphoria, emotional warmth, and empathy toward other people. Time and space seem distorted. Unpleasant effects include panic attacks, feeling jittery and being unable to sleep.
Dangerous effects include a fast heartbeat and high blood pressure. Intense sweating and fever can lead to severe dehydration. This can cause kidney failure, possibly leading to death. An irregular heart rhythm, heart attacks, and seizures can occur; these also can be fatal. The risks are greatest in a hot environment, as occurs in a crowded club with a lot of active/frenzied dancers.
Long-term effects include a "crash", feelings of severe depression that can last for days or weeks. Ongoing research suggests that permanent changes in the liver and brain may occur months or even years later.
There is no safe dose of "Molly". Preventing poisoning means avoiding the drug, of course. It also means being smart in a group or crowd; never leave a beverage unattended. It's easy for someone to spike a drink.
Preventing harm to people who use "Molly" means watching them closely. If they become very hot and sweaty, with a fast heart rate, call 911 for immediate help. Victims of "Molly" need to be cooled down quickly and given IV fluids to prevent kidney damage. Of course, also call 911 if they are having seizures or become unconscious.
For more information about "Molly" call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.
Take Home Message:
- "Molly" is slang for an illegal street drug.
- "Molly" is often thought to be a "pure" form of the illegal drugs Ecstasy or MDMA. However, capsules or powder called "Molly" often contain other illegal drugs, legal drugs, sugar, baking powder, soap, or other household substances.
- Taking "Molly" can be fatal. Even first-time users have died.
Robert Porter, BS, MPH, PharmD
Certified Specialist in Poison Information
Burgess C, et al. Agony and ecstasy: a review of MDMA effects and toxicity. Eur Psychiatry. 2000; 15(5):287-94.
Carvalho M, Carmo H, Cosa VM, Capela JP, Pontes H, Remião, Carvalho F, Bastos MdL. Toxicty of amphetamines: an update. Arch Toxicol. 2012;86:1167–1231.
National Institute on Drug Abuse: The Science of Drug Abuse & Addiction [Internet]. Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse. DrugFacts: MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly); 2013 Sept [cited 2020 Oct 27]; [about 5 screens].
Pourmand A, Armstrong P, Mazer-Amirshahi M, Shokoohi H. The evolving high: new designer drugs of abuse. Human Experimental Tox. Published online before print February 5, 2014, doi: 10.1177/0960327113514100
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [Internet]. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The DAWN Report: Ecstasy-Related Emergency Department Visits by Young People Increased between 2005 and 2011; Alcohol Involvement Remains a Concern; 2013 Dec 3 [cited 2020 Oct 27] [about 2 screens].
White CM. How MDMA’s pharmacology and pharmacokinetics drive desired effects and harms. J Clin Pharmacology. DOI: 10.1002/jcph.266.