“Molly” is anything but the girl next door. This lethal combination of pure MDMA and other toxic substances is sweeping the electronic dance music (EDM) scene – leading to a spate of deaths in recent years as concertgoers mix alcohol and Molly in deadly amounts.

“Molly” Linked to Two “Electric Zoo” Festival Deaths

Last September, two drug overdose deaths caused the cancellation of New York City’s major electronic dance music festival “Eclectic Zoo”. The two deaths, along with four hospitalizations, were linked to “Molly”, a designer drug gaining popularity on the music festival scene.

Molly is a mix of the “pure” powder form of MDMA (used in ecstasy) and other dangerous synthetic drugs. The deaths are an important reminder about the dangers of drug use, which is frequently touted as a “rite of passage” for EDM festivalgoers.

From the original music festival – Woodstock – to today’s 3-day weekend EDM festivals, the music scene and drug use have long been intertwined. Despite safety checks from event promoters and strict rules banning illegal drugs, however, there is little that concert promoters can do to stop drug use from happening at music festivals.

Young people continue to views drugs as an essential part of the music festival’s “out-of-this-world” experience. The Electric Zoo festival’s ban on “large bags”, “bad attitudes” and “illegal substances” clearly did little to stop rampant drug use and abuse. It’s all too easy for concertgoers to conceal drugs when entering an event.

Worse, many of the individuals using drugs at music festivals are casual or one-time users with little previous experience. They may be unaware of the dangers that come with mixing drugs like Molly with Ecstasy and alcohol. For concertgoers already under the influence of drugs or alcohol, popping another pill may seem like a perfectly harmless activity — without fully understanding the implications of such abuse.

Can Concert Drug Use Be Stopped?

While music festivals may not explicitly promote drug use, by turning a blind eye to the use and abuse of drugs, concert promoters are effectively condoning their use. According to a New York Times investigation, despite the “ban” on drugs, festivalgoers were openly buying, selling and using drugs, in addition to drinking alcohol.

Many festivalgoers were puking, collapsing, or lying on the ground – and not attended by any medical staff. With “raves” going mainstream in the form of EDM festivals, so too has a belief that drug abuse is essential to enjoying the festival experience.

September’s Electric Zoo deaths are not the first from Molly at a festival – and they are unlikely to be the last. In 2010, a fifteen-year-old girl died as a result of a drug overdose at Los Angeles’s Electric Daisy Carnival festival. A year later, two festivalgoers died in Vegas, and another one died in Texas.

Despite the recent deaths, pop culture continues to glamorize drug use as an important part of the festival experience. Miley Cyrus openly sings about Molly on the summer jam “We Can’t Stop”. Madonna drew criticism for asking Ultra concertgoers how many of them had “seen Molly” when she took the stage in 2012.

Madonna song on drugs
While Madonna later clarified that her remarks were a reference to a Cedric Gervais song – and not meant to endorse drug use – the fact remains that “Molly” is as prevalent on the EDM scene as glow sticks and DJ’s.

Following Madonna’s controversial remarks, legendary DJ deadmau5 called on Madonna and other music acts to stop advocating drug use, even with veiled references. As long as concertgoers continue to believe that festivals can only be enjoyed with drug use, however, the risk for overdose deaths – like those at Eclectic Zoo – remains a serious concern. Festivalgoers must understand that no illegal drug is ever safe – or necessary to enjoy a concert.