Who’s Molly? Hip-hop’s newest designer drug

Rapper 2 Chainz performs onstage during the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards at Staples Center on September 6, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Rapper 2 Chainz performs onstage during the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards at Staples Center on September 6, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Molly isn’t as innocent as she sounds.

References to Molly in hip-hop lyrics – such as Kanye West’s in “Mercy” (“Something about Mary, she gone off that Molly”) and those of 2 Chainz in “Beez in the Trap” (“Got your girl on Molly and we smoking loud and drinking”) – leaves listeners wondering who or what she is.

The moniker Molly was intended to refer to capsules of MDMA, also known as ecstasy. However, a wide range of white powder-filled capsules containing any variety of substances are being marketed with the same name.

“It’s a brand name that doesn’t really mean anything,” says Dr. Susan Smolinske, director of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Poison Control Center. “You don’t know what you’re taking and it’s probably not what you think it is.”

Testing on Molly capsules this year from Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Miami and Boston found that Molly did not contain MDMA at all, but methylone — an active ingredient in the recently publicized “bath salts.” Some capsules contained nothing more than caffeine.

“Methylone scares me a lot. We had a death from it,” says Smolinske. “[The patient] bought what she thought was ecstasy. She ingested two capsules… She was seen to have a seizure, had a body temperature of 107 degrees, [her organs failed] and she died two days later.”

The 24-year-old woman left two capsules that the center could analyze, and researchers found two types of “bath salt” chemicals, including methylone.

Some who use and market Molly claim it’s safer because they believe it is a purer form of ecstasy. However, there is chemically no difference in what both Molly and ecstasy intend to be: pure MDMA.

Unfortunately for Molly users, it seems that Molly has developed the same problem ecstasy did – being combined, or even replaced, with other chemicals.

Previously known as a nightclub drug, MDMA heightens one’s senses. It also causes increased feelings of intimacy with others, elation and less anxiety, all with a slight boost in energy, hence the draw.

“You’re disinhibited, but it’s unlike alcohol which also makes you open, but sloppy and tired,” says Dr. Lewis Nelson, emergency medicine physician and medical toxicologist at New York University School of Medicine. Nelson and his colleagues, though, are seeing Molly users whose symptoms aren’t typical of MDMA use.

“If you took MDMA [either Molly or ecstasy], you should get more introspective, more interpersonal, but you don’t get wired, you don’t get violent,” he adds, suggesting those capsules contained other ingredients.

While data on Molly is limited, the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Poison Control Center reports four bad reactions to Molly capsules so far. All four users were between 18 and 21 years of age, and most of the capsules were purchased at music festivals. Other centers report Molly users developing bleeding in the brain.

Across the country, older adolescents and college-aged kids are the most frequent users of Molly. Nelson says that while Molly has made its way through different urban and suburban neighborhoods, he hasn’t yet seen it take hold in inner-city communities.

Smolinske suggests that if someone has ingested Molly and develops shakes, high blood pressure, a fast heart rate, dilated pupils or high fever, they should seek treatment immediately. She also warns that, depending on the chemical in the capsule, it can be habit-forming, and even lead to violent, psychotic behavior.

Dr. Tyeese Gaines is a physician-journalist with over 10 years of print and broadcast experience, now serving as health editor for theGrio.com. Dr. Ty is also a practicing emergency medicine physician in New Jersey. Follow her on twitter at @doctorty or on Facebook.