Moral Panic

Dance Music and MDMA: The Drug Panic That Will Not Die


Nikos Koutoulas/Flickr

Grab your glowsticks and pacifier necklaces, kids: It's time to freak out about Ecstasy and raves again. Except this time, we're calling the drug Molly and the dance parties EDM shows.

The Christian Science Monitor has a nice, breathless summary of the new MDMA panic, which looks pretty much exactly like the old MDMA panic(s). When it started rearing its head again last year, it was triggered by Miley Cyrus. This time the music at the center of the controversy comes from Swedish DJ Avicii, whom the Monitor article paints as some sort of electronica-playing Pied Piper for pillheads.

"More than a hundred people have been hospitalized at concerts by Swedish DJ Avicii in recent weeks, refocusing the public eye on the electronic dance music culture," reads the Monitor article subhead. Apparently, 36 people were hospitalized after an Avicii concert in Boston on Wednesday. In May, 400 people were hospitalized and two died at a music festival in Las Vegas at which Avicii played.

The hype machine is using this to warn about the dangers of "Molly," aka ecstasy, aka MDMA. While Molly generally refers to a less adulterated form of MDMA than ecstasy, they're conceptually similar. Molly is certainly nothing new, though you would be hard-pressed to glean this from many media accounts.  

"Signs of illicit drugs, including the popular club drug 'Molly' … were apparent, with concertgoers strapped to stretchers, some still screaming and flailing their arms," reported a Boston ABC station. And from CBS Boston

"There was one kid, it took four cops to take him down," one witness told WBZ-TV. "He was on something, I have no idea." 

Yet despite all this Avicii/Molly fear-mongering, there's actually little evidence Molly was involved. Authorities in Boston say many of the concert hospitalizations Wednesday were actually due to alcohol or some combination of alcohol and other drugs. Some were simply overheated and dehydrated after dancing for hours in the packed venue. 

"There may have been some illicit drug involved, but none have been identified," said Boston EMS Deputy Superintendent Michael Bosse. He also noted that those taken to the hospital suffered no more than minor symptoms. 

Furthermore, not all of those transported to the hospital were even inside the Avicii concert. "Based on early reports from the venue it appears the majority of the transports were people outside the venue who were too impaired to be allowed inside the venue and access to the concert," said Jacqueline Peterson, a spokeswoman for Live Nation, in a statement. "Out of an abundance of caution they were transported for medical evaluation and assistance."

Out of an abundance of caution, some drunk teens hanging outside a concert venue were taken to the hospital and treated for minor symptoms. Not much of a Molly indictment if you ask me. But this is one moral panic that just keeps on giving.