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Higher Education: MDMA & Molly Abuse on College Campuses

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Higher Education: MDMA & Molly Abuse on College Campuses

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Woman taking a pill

Unfortunately, on college campuses across the country, we hear far too often about students overdosing on drugs. Recently, on the campus of Wesleyan University, 11 students were hospitalized after taking the drug Molly. We wanted to get an expert opinion concerning the reappearance of stimulants like Molly and MDMA and find out what kind of preventative measures can be taken that might be overlooked.

John D. Clapp, Ph.D., and the Director of The Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery at Ohio State University, lent us some insight into possible cause for concern with college students and what we can do to prevent future incidences like the one at Wesleyan.

In light of the recent Wesleyan University “Molly” Overdose, do you feel there’s cause for concern with our college age young adults in the use of illicit drugs like Molly on college campuses?

The use of illicit drugs among college students has long been a concern for college administrators and AOD professionals.  Although less prevalent than alcohol misuse, the recent tragic event at Wesleyan University reminds us of the potential for very serious consequences associated with certain types of drugs.  In recent years the illicit use of stimulants and opioids has become a concern on college campuses.  These drugs are often prescriptions that are being misused but drugs like ecstasy have long been used.  Street drugs like Molly add a new level of potential danger as their origin is unknown. Multiple overdoses are fairly rare but these “bad batch” incidents do happen are always a possibility with designer street drugs.

Why do you think there is this resurgence of stimulants like MDMA?

While alcohol and marijuana use rates are fairly stable—there are some changes in use patterns for these substances—drugs like MDMA fluctuate in popularity and use.  Multiple factors influence this including the availability of the drugs, price, and received risk.  When a drug becomes easy to get, is inexpensive, and is viewed as being fun and safe by students, use rates can go up.  If you look the data over the past decade or so MDMA use has gone up and down but has never exceeded 13% of students using it in the past year.  That number is still alarming given the potential risk.

What prevention measures do you see are necessary to help young adults understand the high risk consequences of this drug use?

Preventing incidents like the one we are talking about is very difficult.  Campus professionals need to be in tune with the various drugs students use and the associated risks.  Programs that challenge misperceptions of how safe drugs like Molly are, along with screening and early intervention for heavy users are probably a good first step at the campus level.  Of course, law enforcement is also another needed environmental approach to reduce supplies of such drugs.

We can’t go to every single college campus and physically prevent students from taking drugs, but we can try to better educate them on the dangers of these substances and the potential harm they can cause. All it takes is one bad batch and one time of saying, “what’s the worst that can happen?” for your life to be over. It’s never worth it.

Source: John D. Clapp, Ph.D., Director, The Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery

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