Now NYC's Elite Are Poppin' Molly

By McCarton Ackerman 06/24/13

Molly's reputation as a "cleaner" version of ecstasy reportedly gives MDMA a social boost.

Not as innocent as it looks. Photo via

Once largely confined to raves and clubs, MDMA—now most commonly known as "Molly"—has been fast gaining popularity in elite New York City circles, the New York Times reports. The drug's resurgence has been partly blamed on frequent shout-outs in hip hop and pop music (even Miley Cyrus allegedly paid tribute to the drug in her new single). But the Times also attributes its ascendancy to its "re-branded" reputation as a "cleaner" version of ecstasy (MDMA is ecstasy's active ingredient). “I've always been somewhat terrified of drugs, but I'd been curious about Molly, which is sold as this pure, fun-loving drug," says Elliot, a 26-year-old New Yorker. "This is probably completely naïve, but I felt I wasn’t putting as many scary chemicals into my body.” Growing numbers of "conscientious professionals" are apparently buying into the Molly hype. Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency-room physician at Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side, says he's seen more Molly users hospitalized than ever before for reasons such as dehydration, anxiety and insomnia. “Typically in the past we’d see rave kids, but now we’re seeing more people into their 30s and 40s experimenting with it,” he says. "MDMA use has increased dramatically. It’s really a global phenomenon now.”

MDMA was first classified as an illegal substance in 1985. Public officials warned in the early 2000s that it could lead to Parkinson's Disease, lifetime depression and "holes in your brain," but many of these claims have since been disproved, according to Dr. John Halpern, a psychiatrist at Harvard who has conducted several MDMA studies. In recent years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even approved studies on whether MDMA can be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. And Dr. Halpern says that MDMA doesn't actually impair the brain—whereas alcohol does. But officials say the biggest health threat isn't the drug itself but synthetic varieties masquerading as "pure." Despite its "clean" reputation, many medical experts believe that Molly has become just as contaminated as ecstasy. “Anyone can call something Molly to try to make sound less harmful,” says DEA official Mr. Payne, “But it can be anything.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.