School District and local Prevention Council representatives have teamed up to warn parents about a high-powered type of Ecstasy that has contributed to the deaths of four individuals in New York, Boston, and in Washington, D.C., since the beginning of September.
Martha Shilstone, Newtown student assistant counselor, and Judy Blanchard, co-chair of the Newtown Prevention Council and district health coordinator for Newtown Public Schools say that parents may not be aware their children are consuming the drug, because they are acquiring and using it when they are attending concerts formerly known as “raves.”
It is most commonly taken at dance parties featuring electronic dance music.
The final day of the recent Electric Zoo electronic music festival on New York’s Randall’s Island was canceled after the deaths of two festivalgoers. New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s office issued a statement September 1 saying two concertgoers had died and at least four others became critically ill and were placed in intensive care at area hospitals.
“Definitive causes of death have not yet been determined; however, both appear to have involved the drug MDMA [Ecstasy, or Molly],” Mayor Bloomberg stated.
Three people reportedly overdosed on Molly at the Boston House of Blues club during a recent concert, including a college student from New Hampshire who died. Boston police said they are concerned there may be a bad batch of the drug being sold in the Northeast after multiple overdoses in Massachusetts and New York.
Boston police know the House of Blues patrons bought their drugs before they got to the club from someone outside the city, police Superintendent William Evans said. Two men were subsequently arrested September 6 on charges stemming from that incident.
Mr Evans said it is a “very difficult task” to stop drugs from getting into clubs.
The Washington Post reported that D.C. police are also aware of the casualties in the Northeast and think that the death of Mary “Shelley” Goldsmith, 19, an honors student from Virginia, could be linked to the same drug or a similar one. Goldsmith had been at a rave concert at a club prior to her falling ill.
And as recently as September 5, police in an Atlanta suburb say they stopped more than $3 million worth of Molly from reaching the street when officers served a search warrant at a house in Morrow, GA and discovered a massive stash of the drug.
According to a September 10 report on National Public Radio, Molly — short for “molecule” — is billed as a purified form of MDMA, the main ingredient in Ecstasy. It boosts both serotonin and dopamine, making a person feel happy, and enhancing the pleasure of touch.
“It exaggerates the multisensory effects of the concert,” Ms Blanchard said.
Medical, Suicide Risks
Harvard Medical School Professor John Halpern says side effects can range from dehydration to even overhydration.
“You can become overhydrated and even die from that; it’s called polydipsia,” Mr Halpern said in the NPR report. “There’s risk of having a cardiac abnormality, [and] there are reports of seizures occurring in some individuals. And there are aftereffects.”
Ms Blanchard said she is also concerned about the aftereffects, Molly hangovers which have been dubbed “Suicide Tuesdays.” Ms Shilstone said the drug can also cause a total loss of inhibition and that young people who consume it are prime targets for sexual assault or worse.
“A Newtown student I talked to said the effects are well beyond those of alcohol. It eliminates inhibition - she said 'you’re ready to do anything with anyone' - it’s a huge risk because you feel so good,” the local counselor said.
Experts say even more dangerous is the fact that users do not really know what they are getting when they by Molly off the street.
“I can’t stress it enough — this stuff is dangerous and deadly, and you are playing Russian roulette,” Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the federal Drug Enforcement Administration told NPR.
Ms Blanchard echoed that concern, saying that individuals manufacturing the drug are putting “a lot of other dangerous ingredients in it.”
She said many parents assume Molly is a new drug on the market, but Ecstasy in other consumable forms has been around for many years. She said Molly may be enjoying renewed notoriety because it is being mentioned in songs and videos by popular music artists.
Hidden From Use
Ms Shilstone said she has talked with Newtown students who have either experimented with Molly, or who know someone who has.
“The older students I’ve talked to are very concerned about the younger kids who think it’s a fad,” she said. “But a lot of times these younger users are very inexperienced — they haven’t even experimented with alcohol or marijuana, so they have no idea how the drug will affect them.”
She said there is also a lot of bragging going on about using Molly on various social networks viewed by teens, which could incite them to try the drug themselves.
Ms Blanchard said because the use of Molly is almost exclusively tied to electronic music concerts, it is critical for parents and caregivers to scrutinize the acts featured at these shows, before allowing teens or even older students to attend.
“If they are getting it and doing it at these concerts or raves, there is little chance that parents will find evidence of it once the kids leave the show.”
As a result, the Prevention Council officer said if parents have not heard of the bands, or they cannot find out much information about them online, they should really need to talk to their kids about the dangers they might face once they are inside the concert.
“I think kids are tempted to take [Molly] because they have a certain comfort level about it,” Ms Shilstone added. “They have heard it is fun to ‘roll,’ and that it is safe to experiment with it.”
“We’re looking at students as young as 13 or 14 experimenting with it,” Ms Blanchard said. “So if you have young people and you are dropping them off at a concert or similar public event, you really have to talk with them specifically about the dangers of trying Molly.”
Associated Press, Washington Post and NPR content was used in this report.