Iowa trailing in molly trend


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A new trend in the realm of pill-popping drug use that in recent months has gained a cult-like following now appears to have consumed high-school and college crowds across the nation.

However, officials say Iowa City is not following this trend.

Molly — also referred to as Ecstasy, X, or rolls — is a man-made hallucinogen that causes its users to first feel alert or hyper. It can also cause a person to lose track of time or experience a change in perception such as an enhanced sense of touch. In addition, some people may experience negative symptoms such as agitation, anxiety, and feeling faint or dizzy.

Hallucinogens such as LSD, MDMA, Ecstasy and Molly are used by 1 million people nationwide, according to most recent National Institute on Drug Abuse survey data as of December 2012.

People between the ages of 18 to 20 have the highest use of illicit drugs.

Despite its growing popularity, the drug, whose scientific names include MDMA, and 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine, isn’t new to the market. After being patented by Merck pharmaceuticals in 1914, familiarity did not reach the masses until the 1970s, when psychotherapists began giving it to patients as a way to bring out emotions.

“There’s not a lot we’ve seen in Iowa yet,” said Steven Lukan, director of the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy. “It is currently already a banned substance, but the first step of part of the overall strategy is to stress to parents to talk to youth.”

The Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy launched a new communication tool dubbed “The Connection” on Sept. 5 to inform Iowans about new and emerging drug concerns.

The new initiative aims to provide regular updates through a monthly newsletter, as well as online updates.

As of Sept. 12, Lukan said, just six people in Iowa have been arrested due to cases related to Molly in fiscal 2012.

One of the trends, he said, has come forward as sellers and dealers are starting to sell Molly with methamphetamine and other drugs.

Bath salts are currently one of most common cases seen at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics emergency room, as well as other K2 drugs, said Andrew Nugent, a clinical professor of emergency medicine.

So far in 2013, there has been just four incidents in which Molly has been confiscated in the Iowa City area. Iowa City police Sgt. Vicki Lalla said law-enforcement officials treat Molly cases as they do any drug case.

Although the drug has been banned for a number of years, Lukan said, the state has seen several versions of the drug from dealers, which makes it difficult to make the drug fully illegal due to the change in chemicals.

At a Sept. 3 meeting, the Iowa City City Council passed a proclamation that named the week of Sept. 23-29 Synthetic Drug Awareness Week.

And while Johnson County’s largest municipality has seen some movement on the drug, other surrounding cities have yet to see the presence of Molly at all.

Diane Venenga, the interim chief of the North Liberty police, said city officials have yet to see any cases of the drug as of Sept. 12.

However, the city of roughly 14,400 residents has witnessed some cases dealing with individuals driving under the influence of bath salts in recent months. Venenga said most recent interactions with those cases trace back eight to 10 months ago.

But regardless of the scarcity of synthetic drugs being seen in the area, North Liberty officials are preparing for the effects of synthetic drugs.

“We’re sending an officer to narcotics training to because a drug-recognition expert because we think it will be beneficial as these drugs are becoming more popular,” she said.

Coralville police Sgt. Mike Barney said officials have seen cases of synthetic marijuana but have not seen cases of Molly.

Even with all the safety measures some officials are taking, some students remain torn as to whether or not Molly will become a problem in Iowa City.

UI sophomore Russell Valentin said synthetic drug use should be marked with the same severity as drugs such as marijuana and cocaine.

UI sophomore Rachael Hale had contrasting responses.

Hale cited recent references of the drug in pop-culture news as a outlet for people to use to familiarize themselves with. 

“I know that songs labeled Molly have been an influence on people my age, and even younger, to be really curious and what it is, because I know I didn’t know what it was until people were like, ‘Oh, have you heard that song,’ and then they were like, ‘Oh, let’s try that,’ ” she said. “My friends in my circle don’t go out and try Molly because of the song, but I have seen people in my age in particular go trying it because of what they’ve heard.”

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