Emergency Department (ED) visits related to the drug MDMA have exploded recently, fueled by the popularity of Molly—a powdered form of the drug often celebrated in popular culture. A recent report from U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that among young people, ED trips for MDMA have increased 128 percent between 2005 and 2011.
Molly, which doubles as both a stimulant and hallucinogen, gives the user a euphoric high but can also dangerously increase the heartbeat, spike blood pressure, constrict blood vessels and disrupt the body's ability to regulate and recognize temperature.
But despite all its dangers, Molly maintains a soft public image.
"There's this common misconception that because Molly is supposedly pure MDMA, it's somehow less toxic," says Sharon Levy, MD, MPH, director of Boston Children’s Hospital Adolescent Substance Abuse Program. "That’s a ridiculous notion. For starters, Molly is an illegal drug. There is no way to know exactly what is in it. Secondly, MDMA is very dangerous in its pure form. It can cause seizures, cardiovascular instability and severe liver damage, and it has been reported to cause fatal reactions even the first time a person tries it."
Molly has been linked to several overdose deaths, including one in Boston this summer. While tragic, Levy says parents should use news coverage of these deaths as a way to talk to their children about the drug’s dangers. To make the message stick, she suggests parents approach the topic as a conversation, not a lecture.
"It's easy to say 'drugs are bad so don't do them'. While that should be the implicit message of the conversations, straight lecturing may not be the best way to get your opinion across," she says. "A frank, open discussion about the drug's risks and your expectations as a parent is more effective and engaging. Drugs like Molly are serious and require legitimate, two-way conversation."
And it's a conversation that needs to happen often. Molly's increasing popularity will mean that many teens will likely encounter it, but they will be less likely to use it if they've discussed the drug with a parent even before they ever see it. And since “pro-Molly” messages pop up in many different settings, the anti-drug messages have to come from many places as well.
"Teens should be hearing about the dangers of this drug not just from parents, but from schools, coaches and other respected adults too," Levy says.
But before you bring Molly up with your children, Levy suggests you take a moment to think about what your expectations are. Would you forbid your teen from hanging out with someone who has been caught with the drug? Would you restrict them from going to a concert or party where you suspect the drug will be sold? Whatever your parameters are, it's important that they are thought out in advance. This way, when it comes time to talk about Molly with your children, you can explain yourself as clearly as possible and be better prepared to handle your child’s questions. When defining your expectations, Levy suggests you do so based on what you want for your child, not what you think may happen.
"Some parents may feel it's unrealistic to expect their children not to try drugs, so they set lax boundaries or avoid the topic all together. But I don't think parents should adjust expectations based on what their child’s peers are doing," she says. "It reminds me of the old parenting standby: 'If all your friends jumped off the roof, would you do it too?' Of course, when talking about something as serious as drugs you'll want to rephrase and elaborate on the statement, but the same principles apply and are still important to stress."
For more information visit the website of Boston Children’s Hospital Adolescent Substance Abuse Program or call 617-355-2727.