Molly is not new, exactly. MDMA, or 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine, was patented by Merck pharmaceuticals in 1914 and did not make much news until the 1970s, when psychotherapists began giving it to patients to get them to open up. It arrived at New York nightclubs in the late 1980s, and by the early ’90s it became the preferred drug at raves at Limelight and Shelter, where a weekly party called NASA later served as a backdrop in Larry Clark’s movie “Kids.”
Known for inducing feelings of euphoria, closeness and diminished anxiety, Ecstasy was quickly embraced by Wall Street traders and Chelsea gallerinas. But as demand increased, so did the adulterants in each pill (caffeine, speed, ephedrine, ketamine, LSD, talcum powder and aspirin, to name a few), and by the new millennium, the drug’s reputation had soured.
Then, sometime in the last decade, it returned to clubs as Molly, a powder or crystalline form of MDMA that implied greater purity and safety: Ecstasy re-branded as a gentler, more approachable drug. And thanks in part to that new friendly moniker, MDMA has found a new following in a generation of conscientious professionals who have never been to a rave and who are known for making careful choices in regard to their food, coffee and clothing. Much as marijuana enthusiasts of an earlier generation sang the virtues of Mary Jane, they argue that Molly (the name is thought to derive from “molecule”) feels natural and basically harmless.
A 26-year-old New York woman named Elliot, who works in film, took Molly a few months ago at a friend’s apartment and headed to dinner at Souen, the popular “macrobiotic, natural organic” restaurant in the East Village, and then went dancing. “I’ve always been somewhat terrified of drugs,” she said. “But I’d been curious about Molly, which is sold as this pure, fun-loving drug. This is probably completely naïve, but I felt I wasn’t putting as many scary chemicals into my body.”