In fact, it's pretty much the exact same drug craze they tried to sell us a decade ago.
I first took Ecstasy as a teenager in November 2002. And while I have no idea what kids today do on this spooky club drug “molly,” I distinctly remember walking through the city’s Gayborhood thinking the streetlights were so beautiful and every stranger I talked to was the most interesting person in the world. Parched, I walked into a gay bar and said to the bartender: “Excuse me, I’m only 18, and I know that I can’t drink here, but may I buy a bottle of water?” The bartender, a grizzled, tall gay man who was clinking glasses in rhythm with the show tunes being played on the piano nearby, looked at me in disbelief and said, “Honey, I’m sure you’re thirsty, but get the fuck out.”
They’re an interesting social group in American society. There’s no specific age that marks the end of kid-hood; rather, once a person starts contributing to the accepted social order by way of taxes, votes, mortgages and adherence to society’s bullshit laws, they’ve become a grownup. Alarmingly, however, grownups more often than not forget they were once kids—and, as a result, sometimes make incredibly poor judgments on behalf of everyone else in society, including young people.
Recreational drugs are a good example. Despite the recent media furor over the idea that molly, the powdered form of the amphetamine MDMA, is a perfectly pure and thus exceptionally potent version of the drug, that’s not the real problem with it. As Playboy’s Frank Owen and Lera Gavin reported last month, the actual problem is that what’s sold as molly is often not “pure” at all, but cut with any number of different substances. And the reason that happens is that America’s draconian drug prohibition means this stuff is all underground and unregulated.
Personally, if I ever have a child, and if this hypothetical child emerges from the far end of puberty deciding that going away to college is for him—a dubious scenario a generation from now, considering the trends in post-graduation job placement statistics—I will wish him well with few words of advice: “Take risks, but don’t kill yourself in the process. Be careful.”
When I was a stupid kid, molly was called Ecstasy or E; yes, it’s a different form, but the same MDMA. You had your choice of what kind of high you wanted by way of, literally, color-coordinated pills: the green pills, probably combined with other amphetamines, or the red pills, combined with opiates for a mellower high. In both cases, the consumer consulted the dealer on his needs, and the dealer tried to meet those needs.
Curiously, major American news networks today never seem to mention that molly is basically the same substance as ecstasy—or remember that they wowed us a decade ago with such headlines as “Ecstasy Rising” (ABC News, 2004) or “Ecstasy Link to Long-Term Brain Damage” (Science Daily, 2002). “Ecstasy Rising” was, in fact, an entire documentary program devoted to the scary-to-everyone-who’s-never-used-it drug. Here’s something even more interesting: In January 2012, NBC News in Connecticut led with a story focusing on an arrest from a crime allegedly committed in 2002, offering up the headline: “Police Make Arrest in 2002 Ecstasy Death.” That is to say, the news item was that a drug-related arrest occurred ten years after the alleged crime. Here’s the thing: The article mentions the word “molly” not once, despite the fact that “Ecstasy” is decidedly old hat, both drugs are MDMA and molly is what the kids are doing these days.
Most of the mass media hysteria we’ve heard about molly this year has dwelled on this concept that it’s “pure”—the psychotropic equivalent of grass-fed beef from Whole Foods. The headlines reached a fever pitch late this summer with ABC News reporting on the shocking deaths of four college students as a result of taking “the club drug molly.” Adults nationwide, it seemed, hearing of a drug they weren’t already familiar with, began to worry that Junior and Juniorette, now away at college, might be making a bad life decision. The bad life decision here isn’t using drugs, though—it’s using them dangerously. Because all the deaths we’ve heard about surrounding the use of molly—a drug first synthesized by a pharmaceutical company in 1912!—have had everything to do with a lack of education and nothing to do with the underlying decision to get high in the first place.
One of the alluring, and potentially dangerous, effects of molly is a propensity to dance, to engage others, to have sex. With these wonderful distractions, young adults often forget to drink water. The problem with that is, MDMA raises body temperature—sometimes to frighteningly high levels. Kids often don’t know this, and a “War on Drugs” nation isn’t terribly concerned with teaching them the details of how drugs actually work. And while there are surely a few conscientious folks out there educating the younger generation on biology and chemistry—and even CPR and first aid—they’re few and far between.
Now, if the guy I had great sex with earlier that evening in November 2002, who’d first given the pills, had told me what to expect—that is, to drink plenty of water, to not play the fool in public, and to expect soul-crushing depression two days later—I would have been equipped with the tools to better experience the otherwise wonderful high. Instead, because of the social stigma and bullshit laws that surround drug use at all, I took an uneducated risk when I took the MDMA. And thanks to a combination of biology, statistics and good luck, I suffered no permanent consequences—just like the vast majority of times the vast majority of people use recreational drugs.
Those four kids this summer, though? They died. Meanwhile, our nation watches 75,000 people die annually from alcohol-related incidents.
Just as they scowl disapprovingly at Miley Cyrus behaving like, god forbid, an entertainer and a young person, grownups have decided to howl about molly rather than addressing the unintended consequences of their own inexplicable policies. In doing so, they’re buying into manufactured hype about a “new drug craze” that has, in fact, been going on for decades.
Josh Kruger is a writer and editor from Philadelphia. His PW column, “The Uncomfortable Whole,” presents stories and ideas that challenge our cultural understanding of what “normal” means in American life anymore.