Most parents know the dangers of alcohol that their kids will face when they go off to college, but few realize that club drugs are becoming a growing problem around the nation.
According to findings from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 0.2 percent of the population used Molly in the prior month. Data compiled by the 2015 Global Drug Surveyreports that that percentage has only increased since, from 0.3 percent in 2013 to 0.6 percent in 2014 to 0.9 percent in 2015.
Molly, which is also called MDMA or ecstasy, is a synthetic drug that alters perception and mood. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), it is similar in chemical composition to hallucinogens and stimulants, and it simulates feelings of energy, pleasure, and warmth while distorting time and sensory perception by increasing levels of serotonin, epinephrine, and dopamine in the brain.
MDMA is especially popular to take at raves because it allows users to stay up all night dancing, and the intense euphoria it provokes makes partygoers enjoy the electric dance music on an entirely different level. Users typically take it orally in capsule or tablet form, which means it is incredibly discreet. MDMA can result in feelings of emotional and physical closeness, but those feelings rarely last. Like any drug, taking Molly has both short-term risks and long-term consequences, and even the occasional user can experience life-threatening complications.
Many college students experience a newfound freedom when they go off to school, and that often leads to experimenting with substances. Taking Molly is dangerous regardless of the situation, but like any drug, mixing it with other substances can significantly increase the risk of adverse side effects or even death. According to NIDA for Teens, students who take Molly without any other substances may experience:
- Distortion of light, sound, and touch
- Increased body temperature
- Raised blood pressure
- Faster heart rate
- Lack of appetite
- More energy
- Muscle cramping
Many college students combine Molly with other drugs or alcohol. According to the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania, the risk of experiencing negative side effects and even death increases significantly when combining multiple substances over a short period of time.
With MDMA and alcohol for example, the risk of alcohol poisoning increases because the stimulant masks feelings of intoxication, so users tend to drink far more than they normally would.
When mixed with alcohol, the pleasurable feelings that MDMA provokes may feel a little stronger at first; however, users will typically experience a crash once the effect of the neurotransmitters wears off, and that crash often includes depression, anxiety, and trouble sleeping. Alcohol also affects the body’s ability to control its own temperature, which means overheating is likely. Despite the dangers, some college students still mix alcohol with Molly every time they go out.
According to SAMHSA, ecstasy-related emergency room visits for people younger than 21 increased between 2005 and 2011 by 128 percent, and an average of 33 percent of those visits also involved alcohol.
Long-term Effects of Molly
Though the law acknowledges that people are competent adults at the age of 18, a 2010 report originally published in HHS Public Access found that the adolescent brain continues to mature well into the 20s. That means even college-age kids don’t fully grasp the consequences of their actions, and they may not be forward-thinking enough to consider the long-term affects that Molly might have on them with continued use.
Some long-term effects of taking Molly are more dangerous than others. The most pressing health concerns include kidney failure, hemorrhaging, convulsions, and cardiovascular collapse. Some effects that may not reveal themselves immediately nor require emergency care include brain damage, memory loss, depression, and degenerated nerve endings.
Other Club Drugs
Molly and ecstasy are not the only club drugs used by college students. Other types of club drugs include ketamine, GHB, methamphetamine, LSD, and Rohypnol. According to an assessment of club drug use in college students, almost 23 percent of college students who use club drugs attested to using them at least seven times in the prior year. Men in college are more likely to use club drugs than women, and use of club drugs increases alongside use of alcohol and marijuana.
Each type of club drug carries its own set of effects and dangers; however, there are some effects that are common across the general category of drug. Stimulant club drugs, such as methamphetamine (crystal meth), bring similar effects to ecstasy or Molly, including:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Inability to sleep
- Teeth grinding
- Slurred speech
- High body temperature
- Poor coordination
Club drugs in the sedative or hypnotic category, such as LSD, ketamine, Rohypnol, and GHB, generally cause different effects, such as:
- Depressed breathing
- Slowed heartbeat
Signs of Addiction to Molly and Other Club Drugs
The decision to stop taking Molly or other club drugs might be up to the individual, but family and friends can make it easier to make that choice by offering their encouragement and support. First, they have to recognize and identify that there’s a problem. Signs of addiction to club drugs include:
- Having unusually high levels of energy
- Portraying abnormally friendly behaviors
- Going out to party more than usual
- Having dilated pupils
- Experiencing frequent and seemingly random exhaustion
- Having trouble sleeping
- Neglecting old friendships in favor of new ones
- Lying, cheating, or stealing in order to obtain more Molly
It may be hard for family members to spot the initial warning signs of addiction, especially if their loved one is away at college, but eventually the signs will be impossible to hide.
The first step to fighting a club drug addiction is entering a medical detox program. During medical detox, the body will flush itself of the drug, and the user may experience withdrawal symptoms. Molly doesn’t carry the same dangerous physical withdrawal symptoms as other substances, like alcohol, but medical detox is often recommended to cope with the psychological withdrawal symptoms. Common withdrawal symptoms from Molly are anxiety, confusion, cravings, depression, fatigue, hallucinations, insomnia, irritability, mood swings, paranoia, and loss of appetite. Though withdrawal may be uncomfortable, clients who enter a medical detox program will have access to healthcare professionals 24/7 who know how to treat the most severe symptoms, as well as how to make their clients as comfortable as possible.
Following medical detox, people trying to quit using MDMA or other club drugs may enter a residential program, where they will attend various types of therapy and group meetings to address the root causes of their addiction. Some individuals have success in outpatient treatment, where they attend treatment while still living at home. This can allow college students to continue attending classes and progressing academically while getting the care they need. In cases of severe addiction, or co-occurring disorders, residential care is preferable since it allows individuals to step away from daily life and fully focus on recovery.
It can be especially challenging to get through to college students regarding MDMA addiction because socializing is such a huge part of college life. For many college students, “socializing” translates to partying, and that partying often involves substance abuse, including use of Molly and other club drugs. Family members need to remember that addiction is a treatable disease. With comprehensive treatment, support from loved ones, and continuous encouragement, college students can stop using drugs and achieve balance in sobriety.