What is Molly? And How It Became Millennials' Drug Of Choice


Update (9.1.13): New York City's popular EDM festival Electric Zoo has been cancelled after two people died and and four are in intensive care from drug overdose. They are suspected to have used MDMA, or molly.

If you’ve been to a concert or DJ set at a club, let alone a music festival in the past few years, you’ve probably noticed certain attendees who seem to be having that much more fun than everyone else.

They are dancing that much harder, sweating that much more, drinking that much more water, and the look on their face is one of … oh, I don’t know, let’s call it ecstasy. You may very well be one of these people. If you’re in your twenties and frequent music events — specifically those of the electronic or rave variety — you have more than likely been one of these people at some point in time. For those of you who don’t know, these happy, sweaty dancing people are likely “rolling”, or in other words, have taken MDMA. MDMA is the chemical in ecstasy pills, although these days the drug is commonly seen in a pure powder form known as “molly”, and either taken in capsules, eaten, snorted or parachuted (swallowed inside of a folded tissue). The chemical induces a release of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which makes users energetic, empathetic, and euphoric.

While ecstasy was popular in underground nightclub raves in the nineties, molly has, in recent years, become the drug of choice for millennials. In a sense, this was bound to happen. Every generation is characterized by one drug or another: the sixties and seventies with pot and hallucinogenics, the eighties with cocaine, and so on. But why molly?  How does a generation choose their drug?

Popular music reflects the culture of the moment, and the drug of a given time period goes hand in hand with the prevalent music trend. In the mid-sixties, the Grateful Dead frequently provided the musical backdrop at Ken Kesey’s Acid Tests.  Similarly, today’s electronic music DJs curate the best of popular songs and pair them with original melodies and beats in a sequence that enhances the up and down, or “rolling”, feeling that molly produces. Taking molly increases the user’s energy and sociability levels which enables he or she to stay up later, dance for longer, and bond with others — qualities perfectly suited for crowded, late-night rave culture.

Modern technology has lead to the rise of an unprecedented DJ scene: thousands of teens and twenty-somethings clad in neon flock to arenas as massive as Madison Square Garden and three-day festivals like Ultra Music Festival in Miami to see their favorite DJs “perform.” Jumping and swaying in a giant, sweaty mosh pit while dubstep blares from speakers and colored lasers soar above is a far cry from the bluesy-psychadelic rock at a Grateful Dead show, but the sense of a shared experience based on a live music performance is the same.

And for a generation defined by hyper social activity and electronics, the appeal of sharing the experience of an electronic music show with thousands of your peers is apparent. The fact that molly heightens each person’s sense of community and connection to one another and to the music makes it the obvious drug choice for this generation.

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Emma Greenberg

Emma is a freelance culture writer and new contributor to PolicyMic. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2009 with a degree in English and Creative Writing.

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