Dr. Timothy Wilens, director of the Center for Addiction Medicine and Substance Abuse Services in Pediatric Psychopharmacology at MassGeneral for Children, discusses Molly, the new club drug that’s been associated with overdoses in New England.
The truth about Molly
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What is Molly?
Molly is an abbreviation for “Molecule” and it generally refers to a “purified” form of ecstasy. Ecstasy is also referred to as the chemical MDMA or methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine. Essentially Molly and ecstasy have two types of action: a “psychogenic type effect” plus an amphetamine or “speed” like effect. Molly is more potent than ecstasy, hence increasing the psychedelic and amphetamine like component. Molly may be “cut” or mixed with pure amphetamine or methamphetamine since there is no quality control on the manufacture of these illegal drugs. The amphetamine component of Molly can be very potent. Ecstasy and Molly have been used to enhance one’s state of well being (the empathic/psychogenic component) while giving users more energy/arousal (the amphetamine like component).
What does it do?
How the drug effects the brain is not well known. Serotonin and dopamine are the chemicals in the brain connected with mood and emotion, and regulate appetite, sex, aggression and cognitive function. Reports indicate that there is stimulation of both serotonin and dopamine in the brain with short term use; with depletion of these neurotransmitters over time.
Is it addictive?
Molly appears to be addictive; as is ecstasy. The addiction appears to be more psychological than physiological since there are not clear withdrawal symptoms from a single use. Some suggest that certain individuals continue to have depression, anxiety, and sometimes hallucinations after taking substantial quantities of this drug.
Why do teens and young adults perceive that it’s safe?
Ecstasy has been around for a long time and used in clubs and bars without overdoses or fatalities being associated with it. Since Molly is only seen as a more potent ecstasy many think it is safe. However, Molly has the reputation of being more potent and often mixed with other compounds. For instance, overseas in Europe and the Middle East, Molly is often synonymous with meth-amphetamine because of the high levels of amphetamine used in its production. Users in these areas suffer from many of the short and longer-term problems associated with methamphetamine abuse.
How do I talk to my kids about Molly?
The first lesson is to stay away from prescription and illegal drugs. Molly is particularly dangerous because it’s difficult to know what was actually mixed into the drug. Parents should have an open dialogue about the moral and ethical issues of using drugs. They should also discuss the realities of drug or mixed substance abuse that can result in serious consequences, such as blackouts, ending up in dangerous situations and locations, overdoses, or longer term persistent effects of “bad drugs.”
What signs should I look for to determine if my teen/young adult is ingesting Molly?
Short term, Molly produces an excitable and often talkative state. Teens who are using Molly often attend overnight parties often referred to as “raves” and seemingly “disappear” –sometimes for 24-36 hours. Over time, academic decline, irritability, depression, change in patterns of interactions with other friends and parents may occur. Parents who are concerned should talk with their kids. If parents notice changes, they should talk with their child’s doctor, or psychologists at their school to find localized addiction care. At the MassGeneral Hospital for Children, we have a specialty service for addiction in teens and young adults referred to as the Addiction Recovery Management Service (ARMS) and AddictionAnswers.com
Where can I get more information?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has a wonderful website devoted to all types of substances of abuse.
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