College officials in the northeast are greeting returning students with a warning after multiple deaths due to overdoses of Molly, a powder form of MDMA, the active ingredient in Ecstasy.
At the Electric Zoo festival in New York City, University of New Hampshire student Olivia Rotondo collapsed into a seizure on Saturday and later died after allegedly taking six hits of Molly. Syracuse University graduate Jeffrey Russ, 23, also died as a result of drug use following the concert.
The two New York deaths follow that of Brittany Flannigan, a 19-year-old Plymouth State University student who died from an overdose of Molly at a Zedd concert at the House of Blues in Boston on Aug. 28. Two others in their 20s also overdosed at the concert but survived. Another three men in their 20s were sickened by overdoses of Molly at a techno-rock concert at the Bank of America pavilion on Saturday in Boston.
At the deceased students' alma maters, officials are working to warn students about the dangers of MDMA.
"This is serious. Two New Hampshire college students have died in the last week," Mark Rubinstein, UNH's vice president for student and academic services, said in a campuswide email.
Jim Hundreiser, Plymouth State's vice president for enrollment and student affairs, told NECN that residence hall advisers will be watching for risky behavior.
"The other thing we're doing," Hundreiser said, "is we've created a care form, which is an opportunity for anyone in the campus community to alert us if they're concerned about a student."
MDMA can induce euphoria, or a psychedelic high, but also can increase heart rate and blood pressure, and can interfere with the body's ability to regulate temperature, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Research varies on MDMA's addictiveness, but some users do report symptoms of dependence and withdrawal effects.
Anthony Pettigrew, spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Agency's New England division, warned, "There's no 'good batch' of Molly."
"Dealers want to make more money, so they'll mix and adulterate the stuff with meth and any number of other drugs to addict people to it," Pettigrew told the Boston Herald.
The string of overdoses in the Boston area, which has one of the most dense concentration of colleges in the country, has officials worried as students return to class, as most users of the drug tend to be between the ages of 16 and 24.
Boston City Councilor and mayoral candidate John Connolly says he's going to request hearings with college administrators in the city. Bill Carlo, director of the Addiction Counselor Education Program at University of Massachusetts-Boston, who consults with other area colleges about substance use among students, told WBUR that Molly will be the first subject he discusses with students.
"The best way I've found to work with college kids is to have them look at their own value system, have them see what are they are getting from this drug and what are they losing from this drug? 'If I spent all my money, stayed up all night, and I wasn't able to study' -- there are consequences in everybody’s life," Carlo said. "It has to come from their point of view."