Exact numbers detailing molly's use are unclear -- studies conducted by U.S. health organizations such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration usually only quantify use of MDMA or Ecstasy, not molly specifically. But molly appears to be gaining popularity.
As the owner of a film company that shoots music videos and festivals, Evan often sees molly in use at shows.
And even for someone who doesn't consider himself to be an avid drug user, he said he found it easy to get his hands on some molly.
"All I had to do was text a friend," Evan said.
Because MDMA has long been associated with raves, the mainstream popularity of electronic dance music also contributed to molly's rising reputation, DanceSafe's Messer said.
In 2011, about 25 kilograms of molly worth at least $525,000 were recovered after a DEA investigation of a large-scale drug trafficking operation based in Syracuse, N.Y., a college town. The bust led to charges against 20 people. Penn State University Police Chief Tyrone Parham said he and his officers first heard anecdotes about molly in 2011.
Parham said it's hard to get a real idea of how many students have used molly. Officers can catch users of marijuana -- the most common drug on Penn State's campus, according to Parham -- in the act because of the drug's conspicuous odor. But it's difficult to know if a student has misused molly because officers are often called after the drug has already been ingested -- if they are even called at all.
"I think it's one of those things, not just here but across the country, (that's hard) to get an understanding of how prevalent it is," he said.
A name with innocent appeal
Some consider the name picked for this white powder a clever marketing strategy: "Molly" carries both the innocent appeal of the girl next door and the implication that the drug is always pure MDMA. But because the chemical makeup of molly is often altered, taking the drug is dangerous, DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said.
"(Suppliers) are making it look like something that is safe and easy to take, but in many cases, you're playing Russian roulette," Payne said.
And although MDMA tastes, smells and affects you differently than other drugs would, without having experience with each molly variation, there's no easy way to tell if the substance you take is pure, Messer said. But even as its pure form molly, MDMA can be dangerous.
The DEA sees MDMA supplied from Asia, Canada, even the Netherlands.
"You have no idea the lab environment these chemicals or substances were produced in," Payne said. "If they knew where things were produced, they might think twice."
Some drug users have said they prefer molly over other illicit drugs because of the limited negative side effects they've experienced.
"Honestly, if I were to pick a drug out of anything else to do, I would pick molly," Evan said. "Molly has a lot to do with loud music and seeing lights -- getting excited about seeing something that's already cool and making it cooler."
There are no withdrawal symptoms associated with MDMA, and because prolonged use eventually begins to diminish users' highs, the risk of physical addiction is low, said Prentiss, the Passages rehab CEO. MDMA addictions make up less than 5 percent of the company's clientele, he said.
And hospital visits spurred by MDMA use appear to be few and far between. Less than 4 percent of emergency room visits in 2009 were because of MDMA, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, which is part of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
In fact, with its mood-enhancing properties, MDMA is even being studied as a possible treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
But the Drug Abuse Warning Network's study also found that from 2004 to 2009, there was a 123 percent increase in the number of emergency room visits involving MDMA taken alone or in combination with pharmaceuticals, alcohol or both.
Theodore Bania, a medical toxicologist and emergency medicine physician at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York, said although many of the people who take molly don't end up in the emergency room, some users experience side effects that land them in the hospital.
MDMA, even in its pure form, can produce elevated heart rates and distortion of thought processes, causing users not to realize their rising body temperature or fading stamina as they continue to party. Combining MDMA with alcohol or other drugs can also be the cause of its more serious side effects.
Bania frequently sees patients who have complications from MDMA, ranging from dehydration and exhaustion to more severe side effects such as hyperthermia, seizures, electrolyte abnormalities, cardiac episodes and comas.
MDMA also depletes the body of some of its neurotransmitters, which can lead to a decreased mood about a day or two after using the drug. Prentiss said he has even seen the drug lead to long-term depression.