What’s the difference between molly, ecstasy and MDMA?

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MDMA is the official scientific name for this drug. “Molly” and “ecstasy” are both commonly-used slang terms.

However, since MDMA is currently illegal and therefore unregulated, anything sold as “molly” or “ecstasy” could range from being pure MDMA, to being cut with other drugs, to containing no MDMA at all.1 The molly market is one of the most adulterated illicit drug markets, meaning it often is cut with other substances.2 (See this full list of what ecstasy or molly may contain.)

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  1. AR Green et al., "Ecstasy cannot be assumed to be 3, 4‐methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDMA)," British journal of pharmacology 166, no. 5 (2012): 1521-22.
  2. See Ecstasydata.org, “Test Result Statistics: Summary Data,” (2015), http://www.ecstasydata.org/stats.php. See also, Tibor M Brunt et al., "Instability of the ecstasy market and a new kid on the block: mephedrone," Journal of Psychopharmacology 25, no. 11 (2011): 1543-47; E. E. Tanner-Smith, "Pharmacological content of tablets sold as "ecstasy": results from an online testing service," Drug Alcohol Depend 83, no. 3 (2006): 247-54; Neeltje Vogels et al., "Content of ecstasy in the Netherlands: 1993–2008," Addiction 104, no. 12 (2009): 2057-66; David Michael Wood et al., "Variability in the 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine content of ‘ecstasy’ tablets in the UK," Emergency Medicine Journal 28, no. 9 (2011): 764-65.

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Shelley's Story

Shelley’s Story

Shelley Goldsmith was 19 when she died after taking MDMA and going to a club in DC. Her mother, Dede Goldsmith, believes her death may have been preventable if drug education and harm reduction services were more widely available and accepted.

Learn more about Dede’s campaign and the work of DPA’s Music Fan program to promote compassionate, health-based responses to drug use at festivals, concerts and clubs.

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