To learn more about MDMA, WBUR's Morning Edition host Bob Oakes spoke with Dr. Hohn Halpern, a Harvard psychiatrist who has studied the drug also known as "molly." Halpern is the director of the Laboratory for Integrative Psychiatry in the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse at McLean Hospital.
He said molly and its relative ecstasy have been around for some time, first coming onto the scene in the 1980s, but "use and abuse goes back to the mid-1970s."
"The primary danger with MDMA, with ecstasy, is that one, when you're buying something on the street, it may or may not contain any MDMA at all. It can contain adulterants that can be quite dangerous for the person. Some DEA buy and bust figures are that one out of five pills contain no MDMA whatsover," Dr. Halpern cautioned. "And also, there's no warning labels on it, so a lot of kids are snorting it, are taking multiple pills."
Halpern emphasized that the real risks are around the behaviors associated with the use.
"If you're in an environment when you're dancing at 150 beats a minute, and you're either drinking way too much water or not enough water, you're going to have a potential crisis, particularly if there's an underlying heart disorder — that's how a lot of these young people might have died," he said.
This program aired on September 4, 2013.