Pure version of MDMA called 'Molly' increasing in popularity after pop culture references

If you have never heard of Molly and you have kids in college or even high school, it's a good bet that they have.

"Molly" is the street name for a drug that's been getting more and more popular in the club scene, and it's been linked to several deaths just in the past few months.

A lot of parents may have heard of ecstasy -- a popular club drug especially back in the 90's.  The active ingredient in that drug is called MDMA. More recently, drug dealers on an increasingly large scale have isolated that ingredient and sold it as its own separate drug.

Instead of MDMA they called it Molly. And for many young people, it is now as much a part of the nightclub experience as the music and the lighting.

"You dance for like three hours in the blink of an eye and you feel the beat in your chest. There's a guy there selling it. And it's not hard to find him," said a man we're referring to as "Edward."

We've agreed to conceal his identity. Edward is now in his late 20's. He used Molly regularly, starting in college.

Edward said he still does use the drug, but only just couple times a year.

"You feel close to the people in your vicinity, you feel close to the people who are in that same moment with you," he said.

A closeness, experts say, fueled the drug's manipulation of the chemical serotonin in the user's brain.

Normally, serotonin helps regulate mood, appetite and sleep.

On Molly there is increased sensitivity to touch, a need for stimulation and other changes in perception.

"That fuels itself and you just say this is just the best time ever," Edward said.

Molly is made in a laboratory. It is MDMA in its pure "crystalized" form. It can be sealed into gel caps which are then swallowed by the user, or it can be ground up and snorted.

Experts say the prevalence of Molly in pop culture has increased dramatically; singer Rihanna mentions it in her hit song "Diamonds."

And then there's Miley Cyrus -- who Edward still remembers from her Disney days.

"Now it's mainstream. What happened when Hannah Montana picked up the microphone was, she brought a lot of attention to it," said Edward, referring to Cyrus.

Molly increases the heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature, sometimes to dangerous levels -- often compounded by hours of dancing and drinking alcohol inside of a hot, sweat-filled nightclub.

Over the summer, two people died at a music festival in New York -- the deaths were linked to Molly.

Then in August, University of Virginia honors student Shelly Goldsmith boarded a party bus from Charlottesville to a dance club in Washington, D.C.

On the bus, she told a friend she planned to take Molly that night.

Hours later, her parents got a phone call from the hospital.

They talked about their ordeal, on the "Katie" show.

"Her eyes were rolled back in her head, the area around her mouth was black and blue," said her father, Robert Goldsmith.

Like many parents they tried to prepare Shelly, who died after taking the drug, for living away from home.  Molly was a danger they never got a chance to address.

"This was something that never ever came into the conversation it was something we never ever knew about," said her mother Dede Goldsmith.

Investigators still don't know whether it was really Molly that Shelly Goldsmith took.

Police say drug dealers have taken notice of the drug's popularity, and they've begun to use the name Molly for just about anything they sell.

"Part of the danger to this is that you have these kids thinking they're getting Mollys or ecstasy when in fact they're actually buying something totally different," said Gary Tuggle, the special agent in charge of the Baltimore Office of the DEA.

He calls Molly a major threat -- and he says the feds are working with state and local partners to try and stop it.

"Once we identify these clubs we're going to try to infiltrate them. And we're not going to make a secret of that. If they're doing it we're going to come after them," Tuggle said.

Edward says he thinks he knows how to keep himself safe. 

"I got into it pretty heavy for a while and I sort of came out of it unscathed," he said.

But he thinks parents should be aware of the danger -- and talk about it with their kids, not down to them.

"When you tell someone not to do it that just drives the mystery and makes it that much harder to get them to not do it," he said.

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