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4 Side Effects of Molly You Should Know

By Michael Howard
Molly, also known as ecstasy, is commonly used by young people as a “party drug.” We asked an expert about the side effects of Molly.

Molly is a slang term for MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methylamphetamine), a synthetic drug that has stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. It is popular among adolescents and young adults, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Usually taken as a tablet, Molly is known as a “party drug” due to its ability to enhance feelings of euphoria, empathy, and sexuality. But it also produces a range of adverse effects, some of which can be dangerous. Read on for more about four side effects of Molly.

Increased Blood Pressure and Heart Rate

Molly contains norepinephrine, an adrenaline-like chemical that can cause sharp rises in blood pressure and heart rate.

“This may be experienced as palpitations and is particularly risky for those with underlying medical problems,” Karen Jubanyik, MD, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at Yale University, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

Jubanyik adds that while pure MDMA has been studied as a potential treatment for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, much of the MDMA sold on the street is actually a cocktail of several drugs.

“It is often synthetic cathinones (bath salts) or MDMA laced with other substances that are stimulants or hallucinogens, including cocaine, methamphetamine, and ketamine,” Jubanyik says.

Elevated Body Temperature

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that MDMA disrupts the body’s ability to regulate temperature. This effect is compounded by the fact that people often use Molly in warm, crowded environments such as dance clubs.

In severe cases, Molly can lead to hyperthermia, a life-threatening condition that occurs when your body’s cooling mechanism stops working.

“This can lead to severe dehydration and damage to critical organs including the kidneys, liver, and heart,” Jubanyik says. “It is often potentiated by the dehydration caused by sweating. People can die from this.”

Higher Probability of Risky Sexual Behavior

A link exists between MDMA use and risky sexual behavior, according to NIDA.

Studies have shown that people are more likely to engage in unsafe sex while taking Molly. For instance, one study cited by NIDA found that both men and women who use MDMA are more likely than those in an alcohol-only control group to engage in risky behaviors like unprotected sex. 

Issues with Mental Health and Brain Function

“MDMA changes the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain and this is how the drug causes its effects—both the desired as well as the undesired,” Jubanyik explains.

Specifically, MDMA increases serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels in the brain. This likely accounts for the euphoria and sense of well-being felt by people shortly after taking Molly, according to NIDA.

However, once the short-term effects wear off, the brain is left with a deficiency of these neurotransmitters—serotonin in particular. As a result, many people experience mood and memory problems for several days after taking Molly. Common after-effects include:

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Poor memory
  • Attention deficit

NIDA notes that these symptoms can become chronic in people who use MDMA regularly

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