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Singing sensation Miley Cyrus recently made headlines for a racy dance on the MTV Video Music Awards. But a reference in her song to the rave drug "molly" is getting even more attention now.

At the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards (VMA) presentation, former child star Miley Cyrus garnered worldwide attention for stripping down to a flesh-colored bikini to perform her signature twerking dance moves, simulating sex acts with host Robin Thicke, groping his genitals with a foam finger. But a line in the song she sang in her performance, "We Can't Stop," is also getting a lot of attention:

"We like to party, dancing with molly."

The Miley Cyrus song isn't the only reference to "molly" in popular music. Singer Rick Ross recently released a song about drugging a woman with "molly" and then raping her. We can't show the lyrics here. In "Diamonds," Rihanna sings "Palms raise to the universe, as we moonshine and molly." In Molly with That Lean, Soulja' Boy says, ""Molly with that lean, rollin' through the streets/Molly with that lean, b---h I do my thing." On Nicki Minaj's album "Beez in the Trap," Two Chainz sings "Got your girl on Molly and we smoking loud and drinking."

The BET network has a slide show of 12 pop songs that refer to the party drug molly. But what is it, really?

What People Think Molly Is

People buy molly to get the ecstatic high provided by the street drug ecstasy. Users pop a brightly colored pill, and dance or have sex for several hours until it wears off.

Ecstasy is an empathogen, that is, its users feel emotionally close to the people around them. Users can "crash" after the high, but most don't, just feeling more depressed than usual for a few days.

Many users say the the high while the drug is active outweighs the low after it wears off.

Many users of molly believe it is a pure molecular form (molly) of the drug ecstasy, or MDMA, without added chemicals. Touted as "pure ecstasy," users may believe it is not just pure, but "natural," and safe, without side effects.

Ecstasy was a popular party drug in the 1990's. Its chemical name is 3, 4 methylenedioxymethylamphetamine, hence the abbreviation MDMA. We're not going to tell you how to make it here, but it's not hard to synthesize from chemicals that are found in pharmacies and hardware stores. The problem with using the products that can be bought over the counter is that they contain impurities. 

And people believe that the side effects of ecstasy, which became famous in the 1990's, are due to the impurities. Ecstasy/MDMA can cause impotence in male users. It can cause a condition called serotonin syndrome in both male and female users.

The way the drug produces a high is to keep a high level of the "happy chemical" serotonin in the brain. However, there is such a thing as too much serotonin. High levels of serotonin can cause serotonin syndrome. This results in nausea, then diarrhea, then high blood pressure, and in very rare instances, fatal cardiovascular events. These most typically happen when the user is also on an antidepressant such as Prozac or Luvox. Removing "impurities," unfortunately, doesn't prevent these side effects.

What Molly Really Is

Unlike most other street drugs, ecstasy, MDMA, and molly tend to be made by just a few drug dealers who have their own "brands" of illegal drugs. There are ecstasy-related websites where users rate their experiences with various brands and report adverse reactions. If you are getting a drug made by one of the big labs, there is a good chance it doesn't actually doesn't contain the methamphetamines (speed) that could be formed with the older "recipes" for the drug.

But the problem is, even illegal drugs can be counterfeited. And even the apparently "pure" form of the drug has caused several cases of brain hemorrhages in Miami. A Labor Day weekend music festival had to be shut down in New York after two deaths of users of the drug.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Duterte M, Jacinto C, Sales P, Murphy S. What's in a label? Ecstasy sellers' perceptions of pill brands. J Psychoactive Drugs. 2009 Mar. 41(1):27-37.
  • Kahn DE, Ferraro N, Benveniste RJ. 3 cases of primary intracranial hemorrhage associated with "Molly", a purified form of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). J Neurol Sci. 2012 Dec 15. 323(1-2):257-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2012.08.031. Epub 2012 Sep 19.
  • Photo courtesy of ddaa on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/legalizeit/47445350
  • Photo courtesy of StarblindKing on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/64253735@N04/5851534528