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A Closer Look: Q&A with Frank Greenagel

Frank Greenagel Photo Frank Greenagel is a clinical social worker who specializes in addiction and recovery treatment. He works full time as the recovery counselor at both Rutgers New Brunswick and Newark, where he oversees recovery housing and coordinates student and alumni activities. Greenagel is an adjunct professor at the Rutgers School of Social Work. He was appointed to the Governor’s Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse (GCADA) in 2011. In 2012, he was named the chairman of the New Jersey Opiate Task Force on Heroin & Other Opiates. Greenagel served in the United States Army while studying history and English at Rutgers.

1.  Please briefly describe what Molly is, its history, and its relation to MDMA.

Molly is a new name for ecstasy (also known as MDMA). MDMA became illegal in 1985, but its popularity increased throughout the 1990’s. It was very popular at raves and as a sexual enhancement. Its use declined in the early 2000’s, but resurfaced with a vengeance in Syracuse, New York where it was sold as “Molly’s Plant Food.” It was rebranded in order to evade legal detection and also to take the stigma away for ecstasy. People will often describe Molly as legal, pure and safe. Molly is not legal. Molly has been marketed as pure MDMA (so basically, a more potent version of ecstasy), but it is almost never sold on the street in pure form. Pure MDMA is also not safe or legal.

2. What are the dangers of Molly?

Molly is a stimulant and hallucinogen. The stimulant properties of the drug usually lead to increased heart rate, higher blood pressure and rapid breathing. Body temperature often increases, and dehydration is a real danger. Ironically, people can over-hydrate while on Molly as well. The high blood pressure, high body temperature and dehydration combination can cause organ seizure, which is extremely dangerous. Moreover, people can make some very bad and/or dangerous decisions when they are under the influence of a hallucinogen.

3. Which populations are more susceptible to the exposure of Molly and why?

When ecstasy reappeared as Molly, it was primarily used by upper middle class, white suburban teenagers and twenty-somethings. It spread quickly among this population in upstate New York as people told each other that it was a “safe, pure and legal form of ecstasy.” Over the last three years, the use of Molly has spread outward from upstate NY, and I am now seeing an increase in my caseload of clients from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds who report using it. Basically, people that are susceptible to marketing strategies are more likely to fall for Molly.

 4. Have specific risks been identified for using Molly while pregnant?

I have not read about any specific cases or studies about a pregnant person using Molly. I’m sure it has happened though.  The danger is probably very similar to using cocaine, crack, meth, nicotine or other stimulants while pregnant. A fetus’s health and development largely depends upon the health and safety of its environment. Additionally, that environment is greatly shaped by the mother’s behaviors. And of course, high blood pressure, high body temperature, and increased heart rate can all damage the fetus, which are all possible dangers of using Molly.

5. Has any research been conducted on Molly-exposed newborns?

None that I’m aware of. I must reiterate that we can infer a lot by looking at the effect of a mother’s stimulant use on a fetus.

6. In your opinion, what should be done to help prevent or warn against the use of Molly?

A large percentage of the drug-using population believes Molly is safe. We need to get the word out that it is not. A Nancy Reagan-like “Just Say No” or “It’s Bad!” campaign won’t work. We need to systematically educate people (especially youth) about the dangers of Molly.

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