The third and final day of New York festival, Electric Zoo 2013 was canceled after two concert goers reportedly died from apparent overdoses of refined MDMA, a.k.a. “Molly.”
Olivia Rotondo, 20, and Jeffrey Russ, 24, died after attending the high-profile EDM music festival. Rotondo reportedly told an EMT that she had taken six "hits" of Molly before she collapsed in a seizure. Four more concertgoers were hospitalized and 31 others were arrested on drug charges before the event promoters canceled the final day of the festival on Sunday.
A spokeswoman for New York City’s chief medical examiner said the office is awaiting the results of toxicology and tissue tests before determining the official causes of death. The four concertgoers who became critically ill at the festival are expected to recover.
While forms of MDMA have been around for decades under other names, such as Ecstasy, it’s continually experiencing an uptick in popularity. Molly’s reputation as a safe party drug and its prevalence on the EDM music scene have given it a newly high profile. Pop stars and rappers have embraced Molly, with references appearing in lyrics by Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and even (to some people’s dismay) Miley Cyrus, who sings in her single “We Can’t Stop” what sounds like “We like to party, dancing with Molly.”
In its latest incarnation, Molly, often sold as a crystalline white powder, is a supposedly “pure” form of MDMA. However, the drug is often cut with contaminants. According to ecstasydata.org, a laboratory pill testing program co - sponsored by Erowid and Dancesafe, Molly can contain amphetamine, mephedrone, methamphetamine, ephedrine, caffeine and other additives. Unless you know who made your Molly, you’re running the risk of taking an adulterated drug.
In the wake of Sunday’s festival cancelation, even as people expressed sympathy for the family and friends of the two people who died, others wrote on Twitter and Facebook that they should not be “punished” for others’ mistakes, blaming irresponsible drug-taking for disappointing tens of thousands of other concert goers.
What, then, are the guidelines for rolling responsibly? Some sound advice comes from “The Truth About Molly,” a conference held at Columbia University in March of this year by the Columbia University Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Drug Policy Alliance. “Guidelines for safer use” presented at the conference included:
- 1. Know what you're taking isn’t regulated. Even the person you got it from may not know what's in it.
- 2. It's very tough to judge dosage with powder-form Molly. A typical amount of 80-125 mg is about the size of a dime. Aim low -- risks increase the more you take.
- 3. Molly takes 40 minutes to an hour to take effect. Novice users often miss the first signs of an oncoming high. Resist the urge to take more because you're "not feeling it."
- 4. If you're dancing or engaged in other physical activity, take breaks. Overheating causes a large percentage of medical emergencies.
- 5. Drink water -- but not too much. Most of the other medical emergencies result from people drinking too much water too fast, i.e., more than one bottle of water an hour.
- 6. Don't mix Molly with other drugs, including alcohol and caffeine. MDMA dehydrates; adding alcohol and caffeine to the mix makes it worse.
- 7. Buy a test kit, learn to use it, and use it correctly on every single batch of drugs except marijuana that you or your friends use.
MDMA is here to stay. While a small number of people do die from MDMA use each year, it is often from heatstroke, a fatal electrolyte imbalance from drinking too much water, mixing it with other drugs or a massive overdose. And while there are always risks to taking street drugs, following these simple guidelines for safer use may help you stay out of trouble and have a good time, without ending up in the hospital.