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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Molly destroys student lives

Published: September 13, 2013
Section: News, Top Stories

When Brittany Flannigan, a 19-year-old sophomore at Plymouth State College, died of an overdose on Aug. 28, her family and friends could not believe the news. A business major who enjoyed dance and volunteering, Flannigan died after taking a lethal dose of a drug called Molly, a form of ecstasy, at a concert at the House of Blues in Boston. The concert hall closed its doors for a day of respect for Flannigan, and her family created a charity in her name. But Flannigan is still gone, and she is not the only one to have died in connection with this drug.

Molly overdoses among college students in the past few weeks have prompted many universities to send out warnings to their students, and this does not exclude Brandeis. Dean of Students Jamele Adams sent an email to all students on Sept. 9 warning of the effects of this potentially lethal drug.

“We want to remind our Brandeis family to be aware of the possible presence of this drug, particularly at social gatherings, its dangers and the need to be safe and make choices beneficial towards good health and wellness,” said Adams in the email.
In addition to Flannigan’s death, Molly has been connected to the death of Olivia Rotondo, a University of New Hampshire student. Rotondo was attending the Electric Zoo Concert in New York when she overdosed. According to the New York Post, her last words were spoken to an EMT before she collapsed into a seizure and died. “I just took six hits of Molly,” the 20-year-old said. A Syracuse graduate was also found dead of the same cause after the concert. Three men in their 20s also overdosed on Molly at the Bank of America Pavillion on the same day.
The drug, common at raves and electric concerts and promoted by celebrities like Miley Cyrus, has hit the college community hard. “Molly is a slang term for MDMA … you may also hear it called Ecstasy, X, E, or Mandy,” Alcohol and Other Drug Counselor at the Brandeis Health Center Lauren Grover said. “Molly was a term used originally to describe pure MDMA. This is no longer the case, as Molly often contains a number of substances which mimic the effects of MDMA.”
As Molly is a “designer drug,” the risks associated with it are higher. “These drugs are produced without regulations and with unknown purity and potency to the user,” Grover said. “They can contain anything, so you really do not know what you are ingesting.”
Faculty at Brandeis believe the campus-wide email reminding students of the dangers of Molly was a necessity, according to Associate Dean of Student Life Maggie Balch.
“I think for us, it is understanding what is hitting college campuses everywhere and trying to figure out how to keep our students safe and healthy,” Balch said. “We learn a lot by watching other universities and keeping up to speed on these things. Health and safety is really what it’s about. That is the top priority to me.”
Grover believes that if Brandeis students know about the dangers of Molly, they will avoid the toxic drug. And if students have friends who are still intrigued by the prospect, she has some simple advice: “I would suggest that people talk to their friends about this before going to a party or getting into a situation where MDMA may be offered. Do not wait until the moment arises. I would say to remind your friends about the consequences of using the drug. Make a plan with your friends, and stick to it.”
Balch recommends calling BEMCo if on campus or 911 if your friend is off campus. “Make sure they get the help they need, and then, try to figure out where it came from; that would be the next question,” she said. “Is this an isolated incident, did it come from somebody on campus or off campus, so we can make sure the [Brandeis] community is safe.”
Both Balch and Grover insist that Brandeis has many resources for students seeking help, either about drugs like Molly or if they just want to learn more. The Psychological Counseling Center, the Health Center and even the Student Affairs offices are all within reach if students choose to visit. “I think our students do a nice job of regulating and helping other students and letting us know about students they’re concerned about,” Balch said. “We talk with them about choices that they’ve made and try to figure out what that student needs to continue to be making good decisions.”
Grover pointed out there are so many activities that Brandeis students could be involved in that do not involve Molly. “There are so many events on this campus that obviously do not involve drug use! Get involved! In addition, Boston is an exciting city to explore and have fun in without the use of any mind-altering substances,” she said.
Balch has had plenty of experience coaching students she knows toward making the right decision. “It’s the informal, it’s life skills, we’re teaching people how to communicate and empowering them to find the answers within themselves.”