An old club drug with a new name is catching on in a big way with teens and college students in the Bay Area and it's getting plenty of free advertising from popular culture.
The club drug, known simply as Molly, is supposed to be the latest way to really “feel” the music. Singer Madonna seemed to be talking about it at a concert in Miami last year. Now hip-hop artists like Kanye West have taken it to a new audience.
“Obviously, it's becoming a big hit. Everyone's doing it. I've definitely been up for a whole night off Molly” said one 17-year-old teen. KTVU did not identify him because he is a client a drug rehab center in Oakland. He's also among Molly's new generation of users.
Molly is an innocent nickname for MDMA, known for giving users a feeling of euphoria and empathy toward others. It's chemically the same as the drug ecstasy, which comes in pill form and can be mixed with other drugs. But some claim molly in powder or capsules is pure MDMA.
“You hear Molly in the songs -- 'Pop the pill and you're sweating' -- and they're like, ‘Hmm, something they're interested in’ and they want to try,” said Rochelle Collins from Project Eden.
Collins is program manager at Project Eden in Hayward. She says more teens, even middle-schoolers, at her outpatient center have mentioned experimenting with Molly in the last three months. Collins compares it to a spike in ecstasy's popularity a decade ago fueled, in part, by the late Bay Area rapper, Mac Dre.
“They talk about the heart palpitations, the sweating, but they actually enjoy the feeling because they mix it with marijuana which mellows them out. That's where the concern is at,” said Collins.
MDMA causes the brain to release a surge of Serotonin leaving it depleted of this important chemical. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, side effects can include confusion, depression, sleep problems, drug craving and anxiety lasting for days or even weeks.
Joseph Pred is an expert in special event medicine in San Francisco and warns young people that they should beware of claims that Molly offered to them is pure MDMA.
“Anytime you're taking an illegal substance, you don't know what you're putting in your body. There's no easy way to test for purity short of a mass spectrometer and most kids don't have that in their back pocket,” said Pred.
One teenager told us cost makes Molly even more attractive. He's seen it go for $5 to $20 dollars a pill.
“It's affordable. So, if your parents give you $5 dollars a day for lunch, there you go! That's enough to be able to get you some Molly for the day,” said Rochelle Collins by Project Eden.
But what the purchaser might not realize is that it’s a cheap thrill that could come with high costs not included in the price.