A recently released study by NYU confirms something that should have been obvious to anyone whose brain hasn’t yet jumped ship waving a white flag: You shouldn’t trust that whatever white, powdery substance you think you’re putting in your body to actually be that substance. A recently released NYU study determined that 40 percent of people who thought they were popping molly—the supposed pure form of ecstasy’s main ingredient, MDMA—actually had unwittingly ingested synthetic cathinones, the active ingredients in bath salts, “and/or” other psychoactive substances new on the market, “intended to mimic the effects of traditional illegal drugs.”

Researchers took a hair sample from respondents of a survey they conducted outside of nightclubs and music festivals last year. Participants were asked if they used ecstasy/MDMA/molly, and whether they had ever “knowingly used any of 35 listed ‘bath salts’ or other novel drugs.” From NYU’s report on the study:

The researchers focused on the hair samples provided by 48 participants who reported ecstasy use. While half of the samples tested positive for MDMA, half tested positive for “bath salts” and/or other novel psychoactive substances. The most commonly detected “bath salts” were butylone and methylone—common adulterants in ecstasy/Molly.

“Among those who reported no use of “bath salts” or unknown powders or pills, four out of ten tested positive for “bath salts” and/or other novel drugs,” said [Dr. Joseph J. Palamar]. “One sample also tested positive for alpha-PVP—the strong stimulant known as ‘Flakka’ that has made headlines in the last year. A lot of people laughed when they gave us their hair saying things like, ‘I don’t use bath salts; I’m not a zombie who eats people’s faces.’ Yet our findings suggest many of these people have been using ‘bath salts’ without realizing it.”

For years, there have been reports of molly made dirty by the presence of bath salts (or bath salts being sold as molly), and here’s some science to back it up. Something else to back it up is common fucking sense. As trustworthy as you may think your dealer is, he or she could fail you. You could cautiously hang back, observing as your more drug-adventurous friends to take whatever powder you’ve all decided to share and then determining from their responses if it is actually what it’s supposed to be. (In that case, of course, you’re then trusting the word of people who are on drugs.) Or you could get a pricey test kit, which is exactly what Dr. Palmar suggests:

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As Molly is becoming a much riskier substance, I really hope that those who decide to use educate themselves about what they’re doing. While it is safest to avoid use, test kits are available online for those who decide to use, and want to ensure that they’re taking real MDMA and not a new synthetic stimulant such as Flakka.

Of course, you could also keep risking it, reasoning that bath salts don’t quite turn a person into the face-eating zombie that the government would you believe they do. And if the government would regulate the drugs that people are only going to do anyway, we could stop worrying about dirty molly, and get back to focusing on the music and waiting for the drop.


Photo via Kondor83/Shutterstock. Contact the author at rich@gawker.com.

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