When you hear "Molly," what do you think of?
A lot of people might say a child's classmate or just a popular name for a girl. But if you ask most young adults and teenagers what they think of they'll probably have a much different answer.
"Molly" is now slang for a popular ecstasy-like stimulant drug, and teens are using it right here in Mid-Michigan. This deadly drug trend is more common than most people think.
Molly is trendy. Molly goes to Hollywood parties. Miley Cyrus sings about Molly. But the question isn't who is Molly, it's what is Molly?
"Molly is short for "The Molecule," which could be just about anything," said Dr. Aimee Nefcy of the Michigan Poison Control Center. "You don't know what you're going to get from dose to dose."
Even though it's marketed as pure MDMA, better known as the drug ecstasy, Molly could be filled with any number of dangerous addictive substances like cocaine, meth, or synthetic drugs. Those chemical changes make it an altered form of the drug, so it falls outside the law and becomes a lot more appealing to celebrities, and maybe as a result, to youth.
"I know a couple of people that have used Molly, yea," a 19-year-old Lansing Community College student said.
Molly was one of the most popular baby names in the U.S. In the mid-90s. Now that those babies have grown up, Molly is just as popular for very different reasons.
"Probably if we were going out doing something or if it was like a party situation," the LCC student said.
A party doesn't necessarily mean a rave or music festival though. It wasn't hard to find local college students and teenagers who use the drug. Some don't want their identities revealed, but they were very open about their experiences. They say Molly is easy to find, usually just a few text messages away.
"It makes you want to talk to people. It makes you social. So, I think that's why. People want to be more social," a teen Molly user said.
"I have tried Molly a couple times. Get relaxed, be nice to everybody, makes you real fun, nice and happy," another teenager said.
But poison control doctors say the side effects can be anything but nice and happy.
"Agitated, confused, sometimes violently combative," Dr. Nefcy said.
Add to that hallucinating, delusional, covered in sweat, and so much muscle activity that it can do permanent damage and lead to death.
"They end up with severe hyperthermia, which is a toxic fever, and when your brain gets so hot that it can't handle it, it swells, and there's not a lot of room for swelling in the skull, and that's how people die," Dr. Nefcy said. "So, I would say that even one dose can be potentially fatal."
Most recently two deaths at a New York music fest in August were reportedly Molly overdoses and an incident at Boston's House of Blues caused the city to issue an alert about the drug.
Michigan's poison control center reported 60 cases of Molly last year, but said the number is probably much higher than that because it's based on voluntary information from patients at the hospital. State Police are trying to crack down on Molly use.
"Our metro squad here locally has had a couple cases recently that they're in the process of investigating," Lt. Tim Gill of the State Police Drug Task Force said.
Lt. Gill said Molly is particularly difficult to investigate because drug manufacturers are constantly cooking up different chemicals and marketing it in new ways. There's even a "Molly pop," a sucker coated in the drug.
"These are the kind of things that change pretty rapidly, so it's very hard to keep up with," Lt. Gill said.
So parents at home: Don't feel bad. Doctors say even the drug makers aren't familiar with the product they're churning out.
"They don't have time to test them, whether on themselves or their friends or anything," Dr. Nefcy said. "They're basically using the drug user, the end user, as a guinea pig, as a lab animal. So, effects can be entirely unexpected."
That's risk isn't totally lost on some teens.
"I imagine it's probably terrible for you," the LCC student said.
Users often point to the expense as a deterrent, not the health risks. At around $20 per pill, it can be costly.
"It was fun, but it wasn't something I like," one teen said about his experience. "I wouldn't spend that much on it. I'd rather invest my money in something else."
Doctors warn that Molly can be just as addictive as meth or other dangerous drugs. There are clinics in the Mid-Michigan area that handle rehabilitation for Molly.