Drugs and partying are closely associated in popular culture. Cocktail parties fueled by alcohol and cigarettes, the “Summer of Love” in the 1960s powered by LSD, and raves or underground electronic music parties, which are associated closely with a wide range of synthetic drugs referred to as club drugs. The most famous forms of these club drugs are ecstasy and Molly, which appear to have similar effects and problems.

When people refer to either ecstasy or Molly, they are referring to essentially the same chemical: MDMA, or 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine. This chemical was discovered in the early 1900s, but it did not become popular until the 1970s, when psychiatrists began using low doses of the substance as an antidepressant. By the late 1980s, the drug had made its way into pop culture due to its euphoric effects. In fact, MDMA was legal as a therapeutic substance until 1985, when the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) moved the substance to Schedule I.

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By itself, MDMA has properties that are similar to both stimulants and hallucinogens, increasing a person’s energy, happiness, and trust. The drug can also distort a person’s sense of time or sensory perceptions, like visual, tactile, or auditory stimulation. Although the base chemical for both ecstasy and Molly is allegedly the same, the drugs have some differences. The primarily difference is that the term Molly, short for “molecular,” was a rebranding of ecstasy introduced in the early 2000s, after numerous people complained about the impurity of ecstasy. There are additional differences between the two substances, detailed below.

The Drugs are Taken in Different Forms


MDMA by itself is typically found as a white, tan, or brown powder, according to drug information from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. This powder can then either be sold in pressed tablets, which is ecstasy or as a “pure” powder, which is Molly.

The powder does not bind well into pill form by itself, so ecstasy involves at least some fillers to maintain its shape. In many cases, this means other active ingredients, which can have an intense effect on the person taking the ecstasy pill. Because MDMA is a stimulant, other stimulants are often added with the assumption that they won’t be detectible, even though the other effects of stimulants – like paranoia, aggression, and addiction – are not effects associated with MDMA.



Ecstasy developed a reputation for being cut with a lot of harsher and more addictive chemicals, so when Molly came on the scene a decade later, the powder was allegedly purer than the pill. Molly is ingested orally, like ecstasy, but rather than binding it into a pressed pill, Molly is put into a gel capsule. Since the pill form of MDMA requires fillers to bind the main ingredient, the implication of powdered Molly is that the drug has not been cut or changed in any way. However, this is rarely the case; a report published in the Wall Street Journal in 2013 found that only 13 percent of powdered Molly had any MDMA whatsoever.

Popular at Different Times


As mentioned, the original, therapeutic form of MDMA was popular in the 1970s and 1980s until the substance became popular in larger doses as an intoxicant. The substance became an integral part of rave culture, which peaked in the 1990s. By the early 2000s, the term rave was out of fashion, although large dance parties involving hours, or even days, of electronic music were still incredibly popular.



It was around this time that Molly was introduced as a supposedly purer form of MDMA. Although people still take ecstasy pills, many do so knowing that the drug is laced with other chemicals. People who take Molly often assume that the substance is pure, which is simply untrue. Molly seems to have hit a peak of popularity in 2012, but it is still a very popular substance at electronic dance music (EDM) parties.

Cut with Different Drugs

Since ecstasy and Molly have been popular in different eras of designer drugs, they are typically cut with different substances. MDMA has stimulant properties, so to maintain or enhance that effect, both substances are often cut with the least expensive or detectible stimulants available.

Ecstasy Ecstasy is often cut with:

  • Caffeine
  • Sugar
  • Speed
  • Methamphetamines
  • PMA, or para-methoxyamphetamine


Molly, being a newer designer drug, is often cut with other synthetic drugs. The most common of these are:

  • Bath salts, or synthetic cathinones, which mimic cocaine
  • Spice, or synthetic marijuana
  • Methylone, MDPV, 4-MEC, 4-MMC, Pentedrone, and MePP

Reports of MDMA’s potential for addiction or abuse vary, but as an intoxicating substance that changes brain chemistry, it can lead to serious problems, even in its most pure form. Because forms of MDMA like ecstasy and Molly are often cut with other, very dangerous stimulants, it is difficult to know what drug is being ingested. This can lead to overdose, hospitalization, and even death. MDMA can lead to overheating and dehydration, which can rapidly cause physical damage and organ failure.

It is important to find professional help to overcome addiction and substance abuse patterns. A rehabilitation program can help with the entire process, from detox to aftercare.