BOSTON, MA —- Until about two weeks ago we had no idea that “Molly” was something more than a girl’s name. Likely you didn’t know that either. Turns out we were missing the point.

“Molly” is the user’s slang for the drug MDMA, an amphetamine that has been used beneficially in some mental health therapies. How it came to be available, often in pills poisonously assembled by black market makers, we have no idea. How do any of these drugs, which doctors use under strict supervision, come to the street ? Yet they do.


In the past week overdoes of “Molly” have killed several dance music fans, injured others, and caused the shut down of two major dance music clubs, the House of Blues, on Landsdowne Street, and Ocean Club in nearby Quincy.

Do NOT blame the clubs. They have a hard enough time dealing with unruly patrons, underage kids, acts with attitudes, and “promoters’ who want more favors than a club can afford to grant. The clubs area to be congratulated for forging ahead through an atmosphere full of ego, muscle, bling, and intoxicants.

One can blame the users of “Molly,’ and certainly those who sell versions of it ; the makers too. Criminal penalties exist, and they should. Anyone who makes and sells bastard versions of a drug that kicks up fake joys and imposes long and various after-effects — drugs that change the serotonin component of our chemistry —  deserves punishment indeed. Yet punishment can hardly halt the impulse in young people to seek out chemical unrealities. Unreality is the deity of the young. It was so for my generation, too.

The desire to intoxicate oneself is strong in the young.  Youth gathers in cliques and social circles, seeking reinforcement from each other of each other’s worth, attraction, belonging. Young people live among insecurity and absurdity. How can life not feel absurd when one doesn’t yet know who one is, or where one belongs, or what one is going to do after the intoxicants wear off ?

Absurdity, ah yes… It chases us relentlessly. It clings to our joys. We should have joys. Should celebrate them ! As Charles Baudelaire wrote 150 years ago, one can intoxicate oneself of poetry, or of virtue, of wine.  “it is necessary to intoxicate,” he proclaimed.  “At your choice. But intoxicate, always !” In other words, do not be unexcited by life. Do not be bored or indifferent.

Yes; but intoxication should lead to something higher than an upset stomach, nobler than a quack death. Who gains by those ? Absurdity only.

But the music of “Molly” life itself expresses absurdity in its shapes, its tones, its progressions. The music knows us so well. It mirrors to us our need for intoxicates; the need to find “Molly.

Dance music fans know very well that “Molly” is dangerous to imbibe. They know now — if they didn’t know it already — that it can kill you. Especially the street-made bastardizations of it can getcha. Yet the fans imbibe it anyway.

Do not be surprised at this. My generation knew that getting dead drunk on beer was not a good outcome, that it could set you way, way back, yet most of us got dead drunk anyway. It was a cool thing to do, for many. It was there. It was what we all talked about — that and fast cars — which were plenty dangerous, too. Cars and beer. were we  any different ?

Still, cars and beer did not stop the music. Today’s drugs might very well stop the music. Do not be surprised if some clubs find it not worth their while to re-open and thus risk more “Molly” overdose deaths and the huge liability that ensues. The profits to a club from a major DJ show are enormous, yet it’s just not practical for clubs to strip-search everyone at the door; indeed, it’s probably a violation of civil rights, not to mention that few people are going to go to a dance music club if they’re going to get strip-searched. Thus the music may well disappear from club performance.

If that happens, there’ll be a lot less “Molly” overdoses -=- and a lot less dance music. As for the absurdity of young life, out of which arise both dance music and “Molly,” it will continue. Full force in the souls and bodies of the young. Life is not only absurd; it is dangerous.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere