Powell: Students shouldn't dismiss dangers of Molly

We can't persuade college students to abstain from We can't persuade college students to abstain from drug use, but at the very least we should be honest with ourselves about what we're risking. Photo Credit: iStock

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We all delude ourselves into thinking that something bad for us is actually OK sometimes. We eat too much fast food, carry on in unhealthy relationships, send text messages while driving. A voice in our head may tell us it's wrong, but we ignore it.

Lately among my peers, though, I've noticed a widespread willingness to accept claims that the illegal designer drug Molly is safe. With other drugs, there's at least an acknowledgement that the substance is harmful. With Molly, students happily swallow what friends say: "It's a pure and safe form of ecstasy."

Molly has gained popularity in the past couple of years, partly due to cultural references -- like in Kanye West's "Mercy" -- and the return of the electronic dance music scene. And in theory, it is indeed made only of 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methamphetamine, or MDMA.

But even if the capsules do contain only MDMA -- and there are good reasons to believe they don't -- it's ridiculous to think that because something is deemed pure, that means it's harmless, too.

The allure of the active ingredient is that it causes users to feel euphoric, with increased energy and warmth toward others. It enhances lights and sounds. But the Drug Enforcement Administration classifies MDMA as a Section 1 controlled substance, meaning it has no medical use, has a high potential for abuse and is illegal.

MDMA can interfere with the body's ability to regulate temperature and cause dehydration, confusion, nausea and anxiety. And because it depletes the brain of serotonin, a mood regulator, users typically feel depressed in the days after ingestion.

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On top of that, regardless of its "pure" reputation, there's no easy way for users to make sure that the Molly they're buying isn't cut with other drugs. Ecstasydata.org, an independent pill-testing laboratory backed by the nonprofit informational websites Erowid Center and DanceSafe, has found that pills sold as Molly often contain no MDMA at all, or include a variety of other ingredients ranging from caffeine to bath salts to detergent. White powder-filled capsules being marketed as Molly can contain just about anything.

Buying in to the misconception that Molly is harmless is, well, dangerous. And it perpetuates the drug's popularity.

Demand for the drug has skyrocketed in the last year on the Stony Brook University campus. I've seen it among my peers. Molly costs as little as $25 for a 0.2-gram capsule.

A counselor at the campus' Center for Prevention and Outreach said the center has noticed a surge in the use and discussion of Molly among students and is concerned about inaccurate perceptions about the drug. While the center tracks reported drug use on campus, it breaks down numbers only as illicit or prescribed, so there are no hard statistics on Molly.

But a student survey conducted at Syracuse University recently found that 20 percent of participants on that campus had tried Molly, and a third didn't know the actual ingredients of the drug they consumed.

The use of Molly and the misconceptions surrounding it are widespread -- going well beyond Stony Brook and Syracuse. Drugs go in and out of vogue and Molly may not stick around much longer. But it's important that in the meantime everyone -- users, parents and college officials -- accepts reality. It's popular and it's dangerous.

We can't persuade college students to abstain from drug use, but at the very least we should be honest with ourselves about what we're risking.

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