MARIETTA - Have you seen molly?
That is the question being asked around concerts, clubs, college campuses and more, but not by people looking for a girl.
Molly is the street name of the substitute amphetamine MDA, said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.
Photo provided by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office
This photo shows MDA, or molly, before being broken down into a powdered form. The drug, a close cousin of ecstasy, is growing in popularity due in part to pop culture references and a misunderstanding of its relative purity.
"This molly is similar to meth," he said.
Like meth, the drug causes mental effects such as excitement and lack of inhibitions, said Mincks. Because of this property, it has been known to be used as a date rape drug, he said.
It also poses dangerous physical effects. Those include increased body temperature, faster blood circulation and constricted veins.
At A Glance
* MDA, also known as molly, is the powdered white form of the chemical 3, 4-methylenedioxyamphetamine.
* A close cousin to MDMA, or ecstasy, molly creates a sense of excitement, lack of inhibitions and a general feeling of contentment.
* The drug poses similar health risks as meth in that it can create convulsions, hallucinations and extreme paranoia, strokes, and even death.
* The drug has been found locally in Washington County.
* The drug has also been commonly found in Athens, especially among the college population.
It can also lead to a stroke or heart attack, said Mincks.
Still, molly has been gaining popularity in part thanks to abundant references in pop culture. Rappers including Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Mac Miller reference the drug in their songs.
And last March, Madonna created a stir when she asked a crowd of 150,000 at a Florida music festival, "How many people in this crowd have seen molly?"
The drug's popularity is also thought to have been amplified by the misinformed belief that molly is a purer, and therefore safer alternative to its very similar sister drug, MDMA, or ecstasy, said Detective Chuck Haegele of the Athens Police Department.
"We've been getting a lot of it here, especially with our college students," said Haegele.
Unlike ecstasy, which is generally MDMA pressed into a pill, molly generally refers to the powdered white form of the chemical 3, 4-methylenedioxyamphetamine, said Haegele.
"An awareness came within the recreational drug community that the (ecstasy) tablets had a lot of other things in them," said Haegele.
Often adulterants such as caffeine, amphetamines and methylone are found in the ecstasy pills, he said.
"Strangely people who thought the tablets were not safe thought 'Well, maybe the more pure form is,'" said Haegele.
However, the idea that the powdered molly is safe from alterations is a misconception, he said.
"Test results on different samples of confiscated molly have come back all over the board," he said. "They just get the impression if it's a white powder it's going to be pure. But from our experience, this product is so wide ranging that even the users notice a big difference in the high they get from one batch to the next."
And not unlike the synthetic drug known as bath salts, tweaks in the entirely synthetic make-up of MDA have created past problems with prosecuting those found with molly, said Haegele.
"Up to a couple years ago, it was very possible to have somebody with this product and it not be illegal at all," he noted.
But recent legislation has closed up many of those loopholes. Now MDA, or molly, is a schedule one drug, said Mincks.
Possessing or selling any amount of the drug is a felony offense, the degree of which is related to the quantity possessed or sold, said Washington County Prosecutor Jim Schneider.
Just this week the Athens County Prosecutor's Office indicted 20-year-old Andrew M. Price on six felony counts pertaining to possession and trafficking of the drug, said Haegele.
The Athens police bought a quarter pound of the product from him in August, he said.
In Washington County, the Washington County Sheriff's Office has conducted a controlled buy on the drug within the past year, said Mincks.
His office has prosecuted several cases related to either MDMA or molly, Schneider added.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol has also stopped vehicles where they found the drug, said Mincks.
People on the drug have been found to experience convulsions, hallucinations, and extreme paranoia, said Haegele.