Spotify last month ranked Penn its top college for EDM music. And with EDM comes Molly, a purer form of ecstasy that releases serotonin in the brain, lifting the users’ moods.
While Penn students might listen to Calvin Harris more than peers at other schools, their Molly use seems to be in line with the national trend. Director of the Office of Alcohol and Other Drugs Julie Lyzinski Nettleton has observed an uptick in Molly use on campus in recent years, but so have her counterparts at other schools, she said.
In addition to serotonin, the drug also triggers the release of the hormones oxytocin and vasopressin, which play a role in increasing feelings of love and sexual arousal. Studies have shown that long-term MDMA use can lead to long-lasting confusion, depression and problems with memory and attention.
“It is a powerful drug — doing it just a few times can then lead to pretty significant periods of depression afterwards,” Nettleton said. “Your brain is flooded with all of the feel-good stuff, and you do it enough times and it’s hard to feel good for a while after.”
President of the Interfraternity Council Jimmy Germi noted that the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s alcohol crackdown may have driven some students toward drugs like Molly, though he said he himself had not observed a significant increase in drug use among Greeks. The IFC partnered with the Medical Emergency Response Team last semester to educate fraternity members on drug safety, but not Molly in particular.
MERT had a special Molly training session before Spring Fling last year to prepare for a possible increase in calls related to the drug — two of the last three Fling headliners have been EDM performers. Chief of MERT Grace Kunas has seen students displaying Molly-related symptoms both at Penn and in her work at the Electric Daisy Festival last summer.
“I get that the music plays into the drug’s euphoria, but in terms of risk, an [EDM concert] is the worst place to do it,” Nettleton warned. Complications of taking Molly can alter the body’s ability to regulate temperature, especially when it is taken in concert settings that are often loud, cramped and overheated.
Kunas listed fever, increased sensory perception, touching other people, increased heart rate and rapid breathing as major symptoms of Molly use. Clenching of the teeth and jaw can also indicate a reaction to the drug.
Kunas explained that many first-time users become panicked, which leads them to voluntarily seek medical help. In addition, users can develop extreme thirst and become overheated, which requires medical attention. On campus, Molly users who seek medical attention are protected from legal ramifications by Penn’s medical amnesty policy.
But if students are found to have abused Molly, or any other drug, there are several measures that Penn takes to prevent further problems. Students who sought medical attention for Molly use are expected to attend First Step, a brief intervention counseling program with Associate Director of OAOD Noelle Martin. OAOD created a specific Molly handout to distribute to students.
Ecstasy was a huge trend in the early 2000s when rave festivals were popular, but due to media exposure depicting ecstasy-related deaths and a decrease in rave concerts, the drug went out of style. With the EDM scene, it has made its comeback.
“What I find fascinating is that [ecstasy] has been repackaged to be called Molly,” Nettleton said. “It looks different, and there is an assumption by students, which I believe to be erroneous, that it is safer and purer.”
Staff writer Zahra Husain contributed reporting.
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