Molly users versus nonusers in a sample of college alcohol drinkers: Differences in substance-related harms and sensation seeking

Subst Abus. 2016 Jul-Sep;37(3):474-479. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2015.1137536. Epub 2016 Jan 28.


Background: Molly is one form of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine) that is touted to be more "pure" and potentially less harmful than other forms, such as ecstasy. Media reports and case studies suggest that this drug is popular among college students and is related to adverse health problems. The current study sought to address the knowledge gaps about Molly by examining whether users differ in substance use outcomes and sensation seeking than nonusers. Specifically, this study tested whether Molly users engaged in heavier use of other substances and experienced more substance-related harms in general than nonusers. Further, the current study investigated whether Molly users exhibited higher levels of sensation seeking than nonusers. Lastly, this study examined whether Molly user status would be associated with substance-related harms beyond the confounding influence of other substance use and trait sensation seeking.

Methods: Participants were 710 (71.9% female) college alcohol drinkers who completed self-report surveys about substance use (i.e., Molly, alcohol, and other drug use), substance-related problems, and sensation seeking.

Results: Results revealed that approximately 12% of the sample reported lifetime Molly use. Molly users compared with nonusers reported higher levels of other drug use, alcohol use, substance-related problems, and sensation seeking. Further, Molly users reported experiencing poorer substance use outcomes (e.g., blacking out, academic/occupational problems, and withdrawal symptoms) after accounting for sensation seeking and other substance use.

Conclusions: These findings indicate that Molly users are higher in sensation seeking and that use is uniquely related to greater risk for substance-related harms. These preliminary findings demonstrate a need for correcting possible misperceptions regarding the purity of Molly and educating users on the potential for experiencing associated harms. Such information could be used to develop efficacious prevention programming for college students.

Keywords: Alcohol; MDMA; Molly; college students; ecstasy; substance-related problems.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking in College / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / adverse effects*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Southeastern United States / epidemiology
  • Students / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult


  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine