Detail of pills of MDMA (Extasy) distributed by drug dealer seized by legal authority

A synthetic drug that has both hallucinogenic and stimulant properties, Molly is the slang name for the drug 3,4-methalynedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA). Molly is short for “molecule,” and the drug is supposedly a pure version of the popular club and rave drug ecstasy.

Found in pills, tablets, capsules, powder, and crystal form, Molly is rarely pure MDMA, however. It often contains other chemicals and toxins, such as methylone and MDPV. In fact, only 13 percent of all Molly seized in New York between 2011 and 2015 actually contained MDMA, CNN reports.

Molly (and MDMA) is an illegal drug within the United States with no approved medicinal uses. As such, it is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

As a stimulant drug, Molly increases focus, attention, alertness, excitement, and pleasure while raising heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Appetite is decreased as is the need to sleep. Molly tends to remain active in the bloodstream for 3-6 hours, although its residual effects may continue for several days to a week, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) warns. The hallucinogenic properties of Molly enhance emotional closeness, sexual libido, empathy, mood, and sensory perceptions.

Molly works by elevating the activity of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the brain. These naturally occurring brain chemicals regulate moods, energy, movement, appetite, and functions of the central nervous system. Molly can be an extremely dangerous drug even when used as little as one time, and individuals may never know exactly what chemicals or toxins are in the particular version of Molly they are taking.

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Impact of Molly on Brain and Body

Between 2004 and 2011, emergency department (ED) visits related to MDMA abuse jumped 128 percent for Americans aged 21 and older, NBC News publishes. Over 20,000 people received treatment in an ED for an adverse reaction related to MDMA abuse in 2011, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports.

Molly can cause a dangerous spike in blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate, which may lead to heart, kidney, liver failure, or severe dehydration. Molly also impairs a person’s ability to make good decisions, which may result in increased risk-taking behaviors or unsafe sexual practices that may raise the risk for contracting a sexually transmitted or infectious disease, such as hepatitis or HIV/AIDS.

Additional side effects of Molly can include:

  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Sleep issues
  • Difficulties with focus
  • Irritability
  • Aggression or hostility
  • Memory problems
  • Impulsivity
  • Blurred vision
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tremors
  • Nausea
  • Faintness
  • Muscle tension
  • Distorted sense of time
  • Involuntary teeth clenching
  • Decreased sexual performance and enjoyment

Molly may also be addictive, and withdrawal side effects can include fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression, anorexia, and trouble concentrating. MDMA can significantly deplete levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Chronic use may damage the serotonin system and cause a person to have difficulties feeling pleasure at all, the DEA warns.

As a “party drug,” Molly is often taken in combination with alcohol and/or other drugs, which can significantly increase all of the potential risk factors for overdose and other potentially harmful, or even life-threatening, complications.