The Truth About Molly, One of America's Top Party Drugs

Ignorance abounds about the recreational drug Molly, or MDMA.

The abundance of misinformation perpetuated about the recreational drug Molly could give way to harsher legal enforcement if steps are not taken to give Americans an idea of what the drug actually is and what it does. That was the takeaway from "The Truth About Molly," a conference held by Columbia University Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Drug Policy Alliance at Columbia University on Wednesday evening.

Shop ▾


When Madonna asked the audience at Ultra Music Festival in Miami last week "Have any of you seen Molly?" her seemingly cavalier attitude toward a drug that is as serious as cocaine resulted in uproarious cheers from the crowd and backlash from an unlikely source: house music producer Deadmau5, whose songs no doubt serve as the soundtrack for many "rolling" on Molly (or, as it is known by its pharmaceutical acronym, MDMA).


"Very classy there, Madonna," he posted on Facebook. "Such a great message for the young music lovers at Ultra. Quite the f'in philanthropist, but hey, at least yer hip and trendy." The producer added, "can't smack my head hard enough."


Speakers could not agree whether or not musicians have a responsibility to avoid glamorizing potentially dangerous behavior like experimenting with Molly. At one point, Brittany Lewis, senior music editor at Global Grind, said, "Rappers have no responsibility." Yet later she added that "rappers should be mindful" of the impact their lyrics have on their listeners. Dr. R. L'Heureux Lewis-McCoy of City College of the City University of New York contended, "It's not about making rappers responsible," emphasizing that people should know "just because you've done something it doesn't make you informed." 


What speakers could agree on was that awareness of the drug is attributed largely to hip hop. Few rap songs released in the last year have been devoid of references to Molly. In "Mercy," Kanye West says "something 'bout Mary she gone off that Molly." In "All Gold Everything," Trinidad James raps "popped a Molly, I'm sweatin." Lil Durk and Wiz Khalifa released a track called "Molly Girl." Problem, featuring Gunplay and Trinidad James, have a song called "My Last Molly Song Ever, I Promise." Tyga, featuring Wiz Khalifa and Mally Mal, released one called simply "Molly."


This week, Rocko, Future and Rick Ross released what is perhaps the most controversial song to reference use of the drug yet, due to seemingly encouraging date rape. On "You Don't Even Know It," Rick Ross raps "put Molly all in her champagne, she ain't even know it. I took her home and enjoyed that, she ain't even know it." 


The conference also addressed the actual chemical makeup of Molly and what was actually empirically established about its impact on the brain and body. Allison Turza Bajger, a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, explained, "Amphetamine is the grandfather of Molly," and went on to outline how meth and MDMA increase heart rate, euphoria and stimulation so similarly that subjects in experiments are often unable to distinguish between the two drugs. Bajger attempted to cut through the speculation about Molly using scientific data. She told me that "drug effects are predicable. The danger of any drug (i.e. MDMA, d-amphetamine, cocaine, etc.) depends on the dose at which it is taken. At one dose a drug can be therapeutic, and at another dose it can be toxic. In this respect, Molly is no different than any other drug."


Ingmar Gorman, a doctoral candidate at the New School for Social Research, recounted the history of Molly. According to his studies, MDMA was patented by the pharmaceutical giant Merck in 1912, and despite some assumptions was not intended to be used as an appetite suppressant, but rather as a blood-clotting agent. Its earliest documented illicit use was in 1970, when it was rediscovered by the pharmacologist and chemist Alexander Shulgin. Shulgin passed MDMA pm to psychologist Leo Zeff, who passed it on to other psychologists. The substance was then used in psychotherapeutic sessions between the mid-1970s and early 1980s. It is estimated that 500,000 doses of MDMA were employed as therapy tools during this time period. MDMA was legal and unregulated until 1985, when it was classified as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning it had no medical value, high potential for abuse and was unsafe even when its use was supervised. 


While it was hard to find a consensus among the speakers about future policy or regulation of the drug, there was agreement about immediate advice to those experimenting with the drug. The "guidelines for safer use" read: 

  • Know what you're taking is not regulated, and even the person you got it from may not know what's in it. Stay alert to unexpected symptoms. 
  • With Molly (powder form of MDMA) it's very tough to judge dosage. A typical amount of 80-125 mg is about the size of a dime. Aim low -- risks increase the more you take.
  • Molly takes 40 minutes to an hour to take affect. New users often miss the first signs of an oncoming high. Resist the urge to take more because you're "not feeling it." 
  • If you're dancing or engaged in other physical activity, take breaks. Overheating causes a large percentage of medical emergencies.
  • Drink water. But not too much. Most of the other medical emergencies result from people drinking too much water too fast (more than one bottle of water an hour). 
  • Don't mix with other drugs, including alcohol and caffeine. Molly dehydrates, and adding alcohol and caffeine to the mix makes it worse.

Olivia Nuzzi is a freelance writer who has also particpated in speechwriting and media relations.