This weekend, 10 students and 2 visitors were hospitalized at Wesleyan University from what was deemed to be a bad batch of MDMA, a drug more commonly known as Molly.
According to speculation, the “overdoses” arose from the sample containing unknown substances and other designer drugs, which were harmful in combination. On Monday, two of the students were in serious condition, and two were critical. In the wake of these incidents, four Wes students were arrested for possessing substances and paraphernalia. It is unclear what the ties are between these students and last weekend’s hospital influx. The students have been named and linked to photographs in this Rolling Stone article.
Naturally, this incident will be a major conversation point for Wesleyan’s campus, but with the popularity of this club drug, and the publicity of the hospitalization, the effects may be far reaching. In the context of Brown University, a Herald Poll indicates that less than 10% of Brown students have ever used MDMA. However, as the article touches on, perceived usage is much higher for many students on campus, especially during times like Spring Weekend.
On Spring Weekend, Molly engages both experienced and novice users. Here are some quotations from Brown students who have taken it before, on how the recent incident as Wesleyan will affect their future usage:
“I’ve always tested my drugs so I’m not worried.” – ’15
“When I was doing [Molly] regularly, I tested every batch with a kit that anyone can buy for $60 online. The funny thing about drugs is that it’s usually not the regular drug users who get in trouble–it’s the ones who do it once with non knowledge and without bothering to educate themselves on what they are putting in there bodies.” – ’16
“I don’t plan on doing Molly again; it is an incredibly dangerous drug and I think college students don’t realize just how dangerous it is.” – ’17
“I have leftover stuff from last year, but I’m probably never buying anymore.” – ’16
“Molly is dangerous because it’s illegal, and there’s no fear of being fined/jailed for giving out faulty or dangerous products, because you’re gonna be jailed for selling it regardless.” – ’16
As one student pointed out, testing kits are essential to look into the purity of your purchase. A New York Times article investigating the phenomenon in 2013 warned that “despite promises of greater purity and potency, Molly, as its popularity had grown, is now thought to be as contaminated as Ecstasy once was.”
You can purchase testing kits online (one student suggested dancesafe.org) or request one–anonymously and for free–from Brown’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
To be clear, the organization is not in favor of substance abuse; instead, they promote a public health, harm-reduction centered approach to dealing with drug usage. They pushed very hard for the accessible, free water that you see on the sidelines of Main Green during Spring Weekend. The administration does allow them to administer the testing kit (possession of which is not illegal), but it’s a grey area as to how affiliated with the University it can be.
Student groups are technically funded by the University, so the more distance the better. To overcome the hurdles, SSDP has a separate Gmail account to reserve the testing kit, firstname.lastname@example.org.
An important note: the organization never takes your drugs. They provide you with the kit, you test your stuff privately, and then you return the kit the next day.
The main problem from pure MDMA–what Molly is supposed to be–is dehydration. To counter that, you could also excessively drink water, and end up with a dangerously low level of sodium in your body, known as hyponatremia. Psychological effects can vary from experiencing panic attacks to depression-like symptoms in the following days from a lack of serotonin (it was overproduced while you were rolling, hence your brain is short on it). And the danger of the drug can be increased ten fold as soon as it’s mixed with other substances, even alcohol. There isn’t a lot of research on the drug–particularly not much on long term effects.
Many are resistant to or unaware of the availability of drug tests, assuming that their dealer is trustworthy. SSDP president Diego Arene Morley ’16 commented:
“[Molly is] unregulated, it’s kept on the black market, there’s nothing binding on your dealer… Not to say all your dealers are out there trying to kill you–you can be fond of them–but it is in their best interest to cut the product with other things to sell more of it. The risks are so big of what you put in your body, it seems like a no brainer to do your homework and get it tested.”
But what does testing your Molly entail? Well, the plastic vial is not going to print out a label of nutrition facts. Popular testing kits check for the presence of MDMA and other active ingredients in a given crystal or tablet. Mixing a bit of the drug with the provided reagent will produce a variety of colors that align with different substances present in the sample. For example, you can test for the presence of methamphetamine, bath salts, or PCP. You cannot possibly know 100% of what’s in the substance you’re ingesting, but testing does lower the risk of ingesting the cocktail of junk that much of the MDMA market is currently comprised of.
We contacted the public health department of Brown’s administration to get an interview, but have yet to hear back. As of now, the University has issued no official statement on Molly usage on campus.