Roll at your own risk

Illustration by Dan Nacu.

Hannah Morgan Guest Columnist

In light of the four recent deaths on the East Coast related to the drug Molly, I would like to offer the VCU community my perspective.

I want to preface my story by telling you a little bit about myself: I do not view illegal drug use as a black and white issue, nor do I have little experience with drug experimentation. I realize that is taboo to say, but I think it’s time we all were more honest about the effects of recreational drug use, and that takes being honest about our involvement. I know firsthand that VCU students are far from strangers to Molly and that many of you reading this may enjoy the experience of rolling at concerts, of connecting with friends, music, and life on a heightened sensual level.

There is no doubt that the drug has strong appeal. But it can also be dangerous.

It was through my high school’s newspaper that I first met Shelley Goldsmith, a 19-year-old University of Virginia student who was one of the four people who overdosed on Molly in the past month. I was copy editor during my senior year and Shelley was new to the newspaper staff as a freshman, though her wisdom far exceeded that of any 14-year-old.

The first time I met Shelley, I was in awe of her poise, her articulateness and her powerful presence. Within just a few seconds, I knew that she was exceptional, not simply because of her intelligence, but also because of her humility and lovingness. She made me feel like I was important, and she listened to and understood me in a way so sudden and full that it was shocking.

Shelley went on to become a Jefferson Scholar, gaining a full scholarship to U.Va. by being a dedicated student and someone with a lifelong conviction to help those who are marginalized in order to make the world a better place.

That her promising life was ended by a simple party drug is still unbelievable to me. Shelley was not a “party girl;” she was an intelligent and giving individual who made one small mistake in the hope of having a night of fun with friends. She, like all users of Molly, did not think that doing what her friends were doing, and likely had done before, would kill her. I wonder if she even had the chance to know she was dying.

I also have a friend, at the time a VCU student, who collapsed at a concert in Richmond earlier this year. It was her first time using Molly. She was rushed to a hospital, and survived by a thread that can only be attributed to chance.

There are plenty of reasons to think you won’t be the person to overdose: You’ve done it a hundred times and so have many people you know. The people who died just happened into a bad batch; you’re comfortable with your dealer’s product. The people who died were stupid and let themselves become dehydrated and overheated; you’re not a heavy drug user, and you only want to try it once or a few times.

These reasons might seem reasonable in a culture where everyone is rolling and collectively agreeing that some condition or event outside of the drug must have been the actual cause of deaths related to Molly use.

It’s important, however, to take a step back and examine what you really know versus what you’ve been socialized to believe.

Do you know where your product comes from? Whose hands has it passed through? What it has been cut with? Each time someone doses, how much they’re risking death depends significantly on the mystery substance they’ve ingested, a potentiality that they have little, if any, ability to gauge.

Away from medical technology, we can only know what stresses our bodily systems are experiencing by the overt signals our bodies provide us. When our brains are pumping out feel-goods, or when our bodies don’t have time to warn us, it’s hard to know where the line of “too much” lies.

Like everyone, you are capable of changing lives, of making the world a more accepting and loving place; everything you do, every interaction you have with another person, counts more than you can even see.

It is a loss for us all when people like Shelley forfeit their powerful agency early in life because of something so trivial in comparison. If you feel you cannot bear to not have nights where you “let go,” consider safer alternatives such as alcohol in moderation or marijuana. However frowned upon these substances may be, a night of smoking weed or having a few beers hardly runs the risk of causing your early death.

I don’t know what percentage of Molly users die from using, nor can I predict how Molly will affect you personally. I only ask that you weigh the value of your life against the use of a drug that is unregulated and unpredictable. The only thing I know for certain is that people die after using Molly. People who were sure they’d see another day.


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