Karina Barriga Albring
To the beat of electronic music, in a sweaty loft, party boys and girls shake their bodies non-stop. Near the end of the semester, papers are due and projects keep coming up; however, Keene State College’s night scene is still in full swing.
With a smile tattooed on her face, a female KSC junior said, “Before I came [to the party] I was tired.” She had worked on an essay for hours, but now, “as long as the music is going, we’ll keep dancing.” She just bought a dose of MDMA. She hangs out with “Molly.” The girl sticks a white powder to her gum. One of her friends, a male sophomore, said he prefers to inhale it, “because it hits you harder.” Another sophomore said, “It tastes really bad. Eating it makes the effects last longer, but it takes more time to hit you.”
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According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine), better known as “Ecstasy,” is a synthetic, psychoactive drug that produces feelings of increased energy, euphoria, emotional warmth, and distortions in time, perception, and tactile experiences. Molly is a street name, which refers to MDMA that has not been combined with any other substances. An anonymous sophomore said, “You can get Molly, but it is hard because it is pure MDMA. It is easier to get it cut [mixed] with other stuff.” The National Institute on Drug Abuse web site for teens says many times MDMA has been related to the music scene. It is known to be consumed in “raves” and other festivals. A sophomore said, “A lot of people do it [consume MDMA] during the summer or spring break in festivals like the Ultra in Miami. Then they bring it to college.” He said on big party weekends in Keene, “like Pumpkin Festival, when there is a lot of partying already going on, a lot of it [MDMA] comes into play more often.” According to him, MDMA “is here [in Keene State College] in a consistent basis. I wouldn’t say it is everywhere, but there is definitely a steady flow of MDMA in Keene.”
Molly, however, has sneaked away from the Campus Safety Log as well as the Keene Police Department police log.
According to Campus Safety Director Amanda Warman, in the recent history there have not been any reports related to the use of MDMA. She said the drug-related calls Campus Safety gets “are usually related to alcohol and marijuana.” Warman said, “Students are using drugs, they are using all kind of drugs, we know that,” however, they cannot always address the issue. “If they keep it behind closed doors, if they are going to a party, unless somebody gets sick or ill or injured, we usually don’t find out about it,” Warman expressed.
KPD has received 120 drug related calls this semester. According to the College Liaison Officer Katie Corbett, “Ninety [calls] were college-related, on campus or involved college students. They were all about marijuana or hash.” She explained these are easier to address due to the odor. Officer Corbett said she believes the use of Ecstasy is “very uncommon in the college and in Keene altogether.” She said, “I’m sure that things happen that aren’t reported, but I honestly don’t think many people are using it in these days.”
Another KSC sophomore said, “If you know the right people, then you can get it consistently.” He explained, “The price depends on who you know. It is about the same [price] as cocaine.” He said pure MDMA costs around 30 dollars to 40 dollars for half a gram. He said, “It can also be sold like 0.1, 0.2 grams… like a 0.2 [grams] will get you the effects and you can spend $15 to $20.” Another male sophomore said a gram would be anywhere from 70 to 80 dollars. “That would be enough for three to five people. You would need anywhere between 0.1 and 0.3 of a gram to start feeling the effects really nicely,” he said. He referred to MDMA as “the kind of drug that makes you want to get up and move, so people usually want to go to a party or be in a very active social environment when they take it.” He explained, “The usual effect is that you get very emotionally bonded with other people. It makes your body feel really good. It eventually melts problems away.” The student continued, saying, “Smoking marijuana heightens the effects. If you take them both together, then it makes the effect of the Molly more intense.”
Another source said he didn’t like to mix Molly with anything else. “Alcohol doesn’t work well with the drug, but a lot of people do drink with it.” He described the effect of Molly as “just like the feeling that you get before Christmas type of thing. You can’t really take the smile off your face.”
Dr. John Finneran, health science professor and expert in addictions, explained, “MDMA is a dopamine and serotonin agonist, which means that it helps the productions of those neurotransmitters in the brain. Dopamine is associated with reward and pleasure. Serotonin is associated with certain sensory experiences.” A student said, “The next morning the hangover isn’t like a hangover you get from drinking. It is more of a depression hangover. You feel like a little bit down. Bored with everything.” Finneran said, “Most drugs go in a particular way and, when they leave the body, they go out the opposite way. When people stop using MDMA, the body tries to rebalance itself. For a period of time, they might not have enough dopamine or enough serotonin in their brains.” According to Finneran, a lack of dopamine can cause people to have low energy, and a lack of serotonin can cause a person to be clinically depressed.
The Drug Enforcement Administration labels MDMA as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which means it is completely illegal.
Students that shared experiences with MDMA agreed the criminalization of certain substances increases the risks when consuming them. One source said, “Because it is illegal, you never know what it [the drug] was cut with, there are no guarantees.” He stated, “The drug itself is bad for your system, but death comes when you definitely overdose or when you do it without any knowledge or precaution. That happens because it is an underground thing.” He explained that “if you do MDMA, and you don’t drink enough water, your body temperature raises and you can dehydrate and die.”
Finneran corroborated the student’s statement. “One of the dangerous side effects of ingesting MDMA is that there is a tremendous rise in blood pressure. It is a fatal symptom called malignant hyperthermia. The person needs immediate attention,” he said.
Another student said, “For people that are under 21, sometimes it is much easier to find MDMA than alcohol because the drug dealer doesn’t want to see an ID. As long as they are getting money, that’s fine.” Finneran concluded, “There needs to be more scientific research done before talking about legalizing a certain substance.”
As KPD and Campus Safety officers chase the odor of cannabis, Molly sneaks in and remains as a guest that doesn’t require a valid pass.
Karina Barriga Albring can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org