'Bad Ecstasy' Rumors Are B.S.; Even Pure Molly Kills
Four suspected ecstasy overdose deaths on the East Coast in the last few weeks have put the drug, long popular in rave-crazed Los Angeles, back in the headlines.
One of the first reactions among ravers and even some sympathetic medical professionals is that whatever those victims took, it wasn't ecstasy. That has long been the stance of E's boosters -- that the substance, also known as MDMA or molly, is relatively safe.
But evidence proves time and again that ecstasy can kill all by itself, a message often lost when these kinds of deaths occur:
Labor Day Weekend's Electric Zoo electronic dance music festival on New York's Randalls Island was cancelled after the second in a planned three days when two concertgoers died of apparent overdoses.
Three days later it was reported that 19-year-old Brittany Flannigan died of a suspected ecstasy overdose after she attended a concert at the House of Blues in Boston.
The next weekend Mary "Shelley" Goldsmith, a 19-year-old honors student from Virginia died of an apparent overdose after she went to an electronic dance music club in Washington, D.C.
The deaths sparked a spate of rumors -- not only in the EDM community but among cops and even in the media -- that "bad" ecstasy was being passed around and killing young people.
Even the New York Times got on-board the bad-ecstasy train.
It paraphrased psychiatrist Julie Holland, who works with the pro-ecstasy group Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, as saying "the drug itself is not a cause of death."
That MDMA couldn't kill on its own is an outright falsehood disproved by several autopsy reports and studies.
The Times also paraphrased Holland as saying ecstasy is "easily contaminated with other, more dangerous substances and easily counterfeited," a statement that fuels many ravers' beliefs that only "bad" or "fake" ecstasy should be feared.
The New York Daily News says even Boston cops believe a "a bad batch of 'molly' is being sold in the Northeast after the synthetic drug was blamed for a rash of overdoses."
When we asked Holland if her words to the Times were accurately reported she said "not exactly." She emphasized that dancing "for hours on end" made ecstasy dangerous in rave settings. She also blamed the overdoses on other drugs parading as E. (More on that later).
In any case, the damage is done. Many E users truly think they're safe so long as they use the real deal. The advent of the powdered type of ecstasy known as "molly" might have exacerbated the notion of safe E, because the word connotes molecular purity. That's even though experts say molly is no more "pure" or safe than older, pill forms of MDMA.
"Molly is marketed as pure MDMA, but what our chemists are telling me is that it's rarely pure," says DEA spokeswoman Sarah Pullen. "Molly is just MDMA with a new name."
Even Holland, who says she believes ecstasy can be safe when it's pure and it's used in a clinical setting supervised by a doctor like herself, admits that "the recreational model is inherently dangerous."
But she buys into the myth that bad ecstasy is causing these deaths and says that, on the street, "you have no idea what it is" you're buying. Which is true.
The myth of bad ecstasy has been propagated by organizations such as DanceSafe, which encourges "harm reduction" measures for ravers, such as moderate dancing and healthy water and electrolyte intake -- both legitimate concerns when it comes to real MDMA.
The group encourages E buyers to get their pills tested for adulterants, as if there's a difference in safety between adulterated and non-adulterated MDMA.
But here's the truth: Ecstasy with poisonous additives is practically unheard of. In 2010, when 23-year-old Anthony Mata died following a rave at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, authorities seemed convinced that his dose might have been spiked with rat poisoning. Not so, said the local coroner's office: It was merely MDMA that killed him.
And while the likes of Holland and the DanceSafe crowd correctly blame dancing, overheating and, in some cases, over-hydrating (drinking too much water) for the deaths attributed to just MDMA, the drug can kill just by its toxicity alone.
It doesn't necessarily need the dancing or the overheating.
See more on how else ecstasy can kill on the next page ...