Virginia Not Immune to "Molly"

Sep 9, 2013

Police are waiting for results of an autopsy before closing the case of a 19-year-old University of Virginia student who died over the Labor Day weekend after taking a dose of the street drug known as Molly.  Police are warning the public against it.

Shelley Goldsmith was an honor student at UVA, and her father says she wasn’t one to use drugs, but shortly after midnight, at a rave in Washington, D.C., she may have ingested a powder known as Molly.

“It’s Ecstasy is what it is – MDMA.”

That’s Lieutenant Joe Hatter with the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement Task Force.  He says Molly is supposed to be a particularly pure form of ecstasy, a drug that sparks the brain to produce more serotonin, causing feelings of euphoria, bursts of energy and sometimes hallucinations.  But, he says, drug dealers often mix the powder with something that looks similar – methamphetamine or caffeine for example, and some of the added ingredients can be toxic.

“When you buy it, you don’t know what you’re getting.  You really have no clue what’s in this stuff.”

At UVA’s Blue Ridge Poison Center, Dr. Chris Holstege says the drug can also be harmful for other reasons.

“This can interact with other medications and cause toxicity and the potential for seizure and other medical problems, and people have genetic variations in how they metabolize drugs, which can also put them at risk.”

And because it’s a stimulant used at dance parties, it can lead to dangerous changes in metabolism:

“So if I’m at a rave party, and I’m really dancing and I’m drinking a lot of free fluid, your sodium can drp very low, and you can seize and die from hyponatrimia or very low sodium.”

Dr. Holstege says ecstacy is gaining popularity nationwide.

“For example, in 2004 there were 10,000 cases approximately that were seen in U.S. emergency departments.  In 2011, that doubled to 22,000 cases.”

But here in Central Virginia, Lt. Hatter says it’s not as prevalent:

“It’s here. Don’t get me wrong, and you can go out and buy it.  I think you could find it pretty easily.  But I don’t think it’s still the drug of choice in this area.  We still deal mainly with cocaine and crack.”

The coroner in Washington, DC plans an autopsy on Goldsmith to determine her exact cause of death.  Meanwhile, police in New York and Boston have linked three more deaths and many overdoses to what could be a bad batch of Molly.