Just months after the sale of dangerous bath salts became illegal in Palm Beach County, local officials say the synthetic drug is making its way back on the streets and into the hands of young users.
And this newest form is falling under the name Molly, which on the street is believed to be Ecstasy, another synthetic drug that is popular among people between the ages of 13 and 30 and is found at rave dance parties and outdoor concerts.
The twist is that many people taking Molly likely don’t know that this new form is being made with the drug that is linked to making bath salts, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office’s lead toxicologist said.
The new form of Molly has authorities here and all over on high alert after it was linked to three deaths during Miami’s Ultra Music Festival, a multiday electronic dance music event in March. Some even questioned whether the drug would be a problem at SunFest in West Palm Beach, which ended last week, but so far there is no evidence of that.
“The whole thing is dangerous,” said Mia Ro, a spokeswoman with the Drug Enforcement Administration. “It’s not new. It’s just they’ve changed.”
Contents vary with drug maker
The first thing to know about Molly is that these days, no one is really sure what is in it, said Jeffrey Bernstein, medical director of the Florida Poison Information Center and a physician in Jackson Memorial Hospital’s emergency room in Miami.
Molly — named after “molecule” — was known decades ago to users as a capsule containing pure MDMA powder, also known as Ecstasy, a psychoactive drug known for inducing feelings of euphoria followed by side effects of anxiety and paranoia.
As time wore on and laws have changed, the makeup of that capsule marketed as Molly has morphed.
Some manufacturers still put pure MDMA powder in it, but more often than not, the Molly user is ingesting other drugs that are far from what is expected, local authorities said.
“Even in medical literature sources don’t agree on what Molly is. Molly by definition is a drug that somebody is making,” Bernstein said. “That’s the biggest problem — you don’t know what you’re getting.”
Local authorities said the drug can contain anything from caffeine to methylone, the drug linked to bath salts. Like the Ultra festival in Miami, Molly is showing up more this year at local festivals and music events.
“The bulk of Mollys submitted to the laboratory is methylone, which is bath salts, not ecstasy, which the term was originally designated for,” said Dustin Yeatman, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s head toxicology manager.
Since January the sheriff’s lab has seen 41 submissions of Molly containing methylone and seven submissions of Molly containing ecstasy. Last year, the lab saw 37 cases of Molly containing methylone and 44 containing ecstasy for the entire year.
Yeatman said the dramatic increase of Molly containing the bath salts drug could be directly related to bath salts recently becoming illegal in Palm Beach County. The Palm Beach County Commissioners in October 2012 banned the selling of synthetic marijuana and bath salts.
“This occurred along the same time line around the scheduling of these drugs,” Yeatman said. “As with most illicit drugs, it’s buyer beware.”
Either way, there have been recent cases involving the alleged sale if Molly.
Greenacres police arrested Christopher Pasahow on Wednesday after law-enforcement officers allegedly conducted undercover buys from the 21-year-old. In one of the buys Pasahow allegedly said, “I have Molly on deck” and the officers later purchased the drug at his house.
Authorities arrested a man in March who was allegedly selling hundreds of grams of Molly to people in Palm Beach County and shipping the product from Canada. Vicente Loyola was arrested after federal agents were notified that he was flying down to Florida for spring break and was possibly attending the Ultra Music Festival.
Side effects strong, potentially lethal
Possibly the only aspect of Molly that has stayed the same over the years is that it is still a popular drug to use at raves and to ingest while dancing to high-energy music.
Nathan Messer, a project manager for DanceSafe, a California-based nonprofit, used to take Molly. So he knows why the drug is so popular at music festival settings.
“It makes music sound really good. It makes you feel really connected socially to the people around. The music is fast, and it’s a stimulant sort of drug. They just have this great interplay,” Messer said. “It can make a normal night out at the club that’s pretty OK fun into the best night of your life.”
While the drug may make users feel good when dancing, Molly has a definite crash. Messer says it’s difficult to get to sleep, and the day after taking the drug, the user tends to chew the inside of gums, feels a need to urinate but not be able to and clench his or her teeth. The user also feels “emotionally monotone,” he said.
Another side effect is that body temperatures can rise as high as 108 degrees and, as a consequence of the hypothermia, the user can bleed out, said Cindy Magnole, a registered nurse and the injury-prevention coordinator at Jackson Health System.
“Every opening in your body — ears, nose, mouth, everywhere that has an entry way — just starts to bleed through,” she said. “This is very, very hard to reverse.”
Along with the three people who died at this year’s Ultra Music Festival, the poison center received eight calls regarding Molly during the weekends of the festival.
That left some here worried about SunFest, which draws thousands of young people.
“It’s a very similar type of event, just because of the type of venue it is and the fact that it was reported to be found at Ultra,” Yeatman, with the sheriff’s office, said.
The fact that there is no quality control and the manufacturers are creating the Molly with whatever they want in it makes it similar to bath salts and synthetic marijuana, Bernstein said.
“That’s been the problem for the past couple of years — staying ahead of the designer chemist,” Bernstein said. “We’re creating new substances that kind of escaped the law because they haven’t been named or they haven’t been scheduled and there’s no official law against it. People are altering the basic molecule to create a new drug.”