While the media is quick to point out that ecstasy is dangerous and could lead to complications with extended use, not much is actually being done for the general public in terms of drug education. Programs like DARE essentially stunted proper education about drugs in adolescents and young adults in the ’90s, opting instead for abject abstinence. This led to many drug users in college having no idea what to do about overdoses, testing, or doses in general.

The reality is that ecstasy is hardly really ecstasy anymore. What’s marketed as “Molly” in nightclubs all over the world is generally a mixture of MDMA and other novel psychoactive substances (NPS). In order to determine just what effect these NPS had on individuals, Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, an affiliate of the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) and an assistant professor of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC), set about to determine what NPS people were taking, and how much of it was actually a synthetic cathinones (“bath salts”).

Dr. Palamar surveyed 679 nightclub and festival attendees in 2015 aged 18-25. A little more than a quarter (26.1%) agreed to provide a hair sample to by analyzed “for the presence of select synthetic cathinones (“bath salts”) and some other NPS.”

Half of the samples contained MDMA.

“Of those who reported no lifetime use of ‘bath salts’, stimulant NPS, or unknown pills or powders, about four out of ten (41.2%) tested positive for butylone, methylone, alpha-PVP, 5/6-APB, or 4-FA.”

“Ecstasy wasn’t always such a dangerous drug, but it is becoming increasingly risky because it has become so adulterated with new drugs that users and the scientific community alike know very little about,” said Dr. Palamar.  “Users need to be aware that what they are taking may not be MDMA.”

“As Molly is becoming a much riskier substance, I really hope that those who decide to use educate themselves about what they’re doing. While it is safest to avoid use, test kits are available online for those who decide to use, and want to ensure that they’re taking real MDMA and not a new synthetic stimulant such as Flakka.”