By Enza Macherone
On Sunday, Sept. 1, Electric Zoo, an electronic music and dance festival held on Randall’s Island in New York City, was canceled. During the previous two days of the festival, two deaths and several other illnesses were reported.
The culprit, according to the New York City Medical Examiner’s office, was MDMA, commonly termed “Molly.” Due to the deaths, the city asked the festival to not continue on its last day and ticket-holders were refunded.
As stated in an article on the Inside Higher Ed website, “MDMA is a stimulant that produces feelings of increased energy, euphoria and empathy and creates distortions in sensory and time perception … Symptoms of MDMA use include confusion, a racing pulse, muscle spasms and seizures. Molly is supposedly a purer form of ecstasy, but is often mixed with other drugs, compounding its negative effects.”
MDMA, short for 3,4-methyldioxy-methamphetamine, acts like other amphetamines in that it stimulates the central nervous system. The effects that the various types of amphetamines have on the brain have not yet been completely revealed, although many scientists believe that severe dependence can result from prolonged amphetamine use.
The deaths of 20-year-old Olivia Rotundo of Providence, R.I. and 23-year-old Jeffrey Russ of Rochester, NY were caused by an overdose of Molly combined with MDMA-induced hypothermia.
Rotundo attended the University of New Hampshire and Russ was a graduate of Syracuse University. Both were pronounced dead at nearby hospitals in New York City following the Electric Zoo festival.
While it is a popular belief among college students that Molly is safer than “hard” drugs such as cocaine and heroin, the truth may not be so simple.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “For most people, a ‘hit’ of MDMA lasts for three to six hours. Once the pill is swallowed, it takes only about 15 minutes for MDMA to enter the bloodstream and reach the brain.”
About 45 minutes later, the person experiences MDMA’s ‘high.’
That is when the drug is at its peak level. People who use MDMA might feel very alert, or ‘hyper,’ at first. Some lose a sense of time and experience other changes in perception, such as an enhanced sense of touch.
Others experience negative effects right away. They may become anxious and agitated. Sweating or chills may occur, and people may feel faint or dizzy. MDMA can also cause muscle tension, nausea, blurred vision and increased heart rate and blood pressure.
Forceful clenching of the teeth can occur, and individuals at clubs have been known to chew on pacifiers to relieve some of the tension. Many Union students were present at Electric Zoo, though no one is known to have been hospitalized.
Director of Union’s Counseling Center Marcus Hotaling, Ph.D, said that he is “too aware that our students use Molly every weekend.” In an interview, Hotaling expressed concern over the unsafe use of drugs like MDMA.
He made it clear that his position was not one of judgment, but of wanting to educate students on how to be safe should they choose to use drugs. He explained that most students use the drug because they believe it to be the purest form of ecstasy.
However, he said, “in a study by Chris Hostleege of the University of Virgina’s Blue Ridge Poison Center, it was shown that 75 percent of MDMA pills are not even ecstasy at all.” When students take these pills, whether ecstasy or not, there is a dangerous risk if you “hydrate too little or over-hydrate,” Hotaling said.
“We don’t condone this,” he said, “but we want students to be safe if they choose to use drugs. Have a sober friend and be smart about it.”
Hotaling also pointed out that alcohol actually acts as an inhibitor when taken with Molly, causing users to want more to increase the high, which can lead to overdose and adverse effects.
Higher amounts of drugs mixed with alcohol further increases the risk of serious illness or even death.
While there are no official statistics outlining the use of Molly and other controlled substances on campus, Hotaling and the Health Center want students to know the facts and be educated about the drugs they are putting into their bodies before using them so that tragedies such as those that occured at Electric Zoo don’t hit so close to home.