Meeting Molly under the Electric SkyReading Time: 18 minutes
I check my phone for the 4th straight time in the last 10 minutes. It’s been an hour and a half and still no magical drug effects. I don’t feel anything besides the unsettling sensation of a gaggle of butterflies playing “dance dance revolution” in my stomach. It’s hot. Even at night, June in Las Vegas can be a real scorcher. I’m sweating, I’m nervous, and I feel out of place standing in a packed crowd of “ravers.” I stick out like a sore thumb with my normie street clothes, while everyone else around me is so adorned in bright, colorful, and flashing rave gear that they could give a peacock self-esteem issues. The EDM music playing sounds repetitive and shallow, almost as if it was originating from a shitty lowrider Nissan with oversized rims, an unrealistically large exhaust, and driven by a douchebag named Chad (more on Chad later.) The Molly I took isn’t doing anything, and I’m beginning to wonder if this EDC (Electric Daisy Carnival) experiment was all a big mistake. I think I’ll get a beer to make all of this more bearable.
That’s a little snapshot of my first night at EDC… right before everything changed.
I think back to that moment, and all I can do is laugh at the anxious, uptight, old version of me. I had no idea what mindfuckery was in store for me that night. What do I mean by mindfuckery? Well, it began with a cataclysm of some of my current paradigms and beliefs, followed up with what was probably the best night of my life. Following the night of perspective shifting transfiguration, was a domino effect of changes and events that would take me on an adventure down a path I would never have predicted. As we approach the one year anniversary of that eventful night under the electric sky, I reflect on where that path has taken me. I’m 30 pounds lighter, and in the best shape of my life. I’m no longer working the unfulfilling job I felt trapped in, and I feel like my life is finally trending in the not-suck-assy direction I want.
Let’s get something straight. I’m not writing this post to jerk my ego off or attain any notoriety or praise. In fact, this transformative year has shown me how hilariously ignorant I am and how much more work I still have to do. The reason I am writing this post is to shine a light on a taboo and illegal substance which many of us are too scared or bias even to glance in the direction of- MDMA (aka Molly, Ecstacy). I want to cover some bases here that might be neat to anyone who is interested in opening their mind, healing past trauma, making meaningful personal growth, deepening relationships, or is merely just curious about the substance itself. I’ll also rave about some of my experiences at EDC as that was my initiation to MDMA, as is common with many of us in today’s current prohibition-of-psychedelics society.
I’ll take a close look at MDMA- the substance, my experiences with it, and the consequences and lasting effects of the “therapy.” If you’ve done MDMA yourself, you might be grinning nostalgically, thinking about your memories and experiences with Molly yourself.
If not, try to keep an open mind and detach the marionette strings of society for a few minutes, so I can disappoint you with my first mediocre-ish blog post about psychedelics.
First order of business- what the hell is MDMA? Glad you asked. MDMA is short for Methylenedioxymethamphetamine. Wow, that’s one bukake-sized mouthful of a word (if you don’t get that reference DO NOT GOOGLE IT). No wonder popular culture usually takes a shortcut and reverts to calling it Molly. Why Molly? Because Molly sounds like the name of a benevolent and attractive 30-something-year-old vixen who wants to cradle you in her bosom and let you know everything is going to be alright, but also has a thing for younger men and is about to take you for the ride of your life tonight. In reality, Molly is actually slang for “molecular” which is referring to obtaining the pure crystalline powder form of MDMA. Anytime this pure crystalline powder is cut with other extracurricular stuff (amphetamines, cocaine, caffeine, adderol, bath salts-yes, bath salts), it’s referred to as Ecstasy. Thanks to prohibition, these substances are purchased on the black market and are not regulated at all, which can lead to guys like Chad consuming something very different than what he was expecting. This can be easily avoided, but Chad wants to “GET LIT BRO,” so he didn’t bother testing his drugs. We will go into this a bit later, but keep in mind, this post is about MDMA, not Ecstacy.
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine is not only a mouthful, but can also be pretty misleading because MDMA is not an amphetamine. Nor is it a Hallucinogen. It’s such a unique substance that it warranted its very own classification of drugs called an Empathogen. Empathogens are a class of psychoactive drugs that produce experiences of emotional communion, oneness, relatedness, and emotional openness (empathy or sympathy).
MDMA is also considered an Anxiolytic, meaning it immediately decreases anxiety. MDMA is also the only Anxiolytic that is not sedating. In other words, you can instantly reduce anxiety without having to wake up with shit in your pants when the horse tranquilizer prescription you got puts you out for two days.
When the DEA proposed the prohibited scheduling status of MDMA back in 1984, they got a ton of pushback from many psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and researchers. Also, the administrative judge presiding over the hearing and trials during scheduling recommended a schedule 3 status for MDMA which would still allow medical use and research to occur. Despite all of this, the DEA administrator overruled the judge and MDMA was given an emergency schedule 1 status. With all of this taking place during Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, we have plenty of propaganda to thank the Reagan’s for. MDMA has been on the naughty list for all of the 33 years since.
So MDMA has been chilling under schedule 1 since before many of us were even born. In case you live under a rock, here is what that schedule 1 even means:
- The drug has a high potential for abuse.
- The drug has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the US.
- There is a lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug under medical supervision.
So it sounds like the government (and Nancy) are saying: “Hold the fucking phone. Don’t try this shit, don’t think about this shit, don’t even research this shit, because NOTHING good can come from MDMA. If you do this shit-substance, your life will fall to shit, your brains will get shithouse-scrambled, and if we catch you, it’s off to the shit-pen to test your receiving skills with Dirty Mike and the Boys.” Yikes. That’s a little shitty Nancy. Do you kiss Ronald with that mouth?
So what is happening to your brain when you take MDMA that makes Nancy feel like someone pissed in her Cheerios? MDMA causes the increase and release of three neurotransmitters in the brain that produce a cascading rush of emotion and energy. Namely, Serotonin, Dopamine, and Norepinephrine. Our brains are essentially ultra-complex biochemical machines, and MDMA cranks up the knobs of all the fun, lovey-dovey shit ( as well as the bass of course.) Serotonin affects your mood, appetite, sleep, empathy and emotional closeness. It also triggers some hormones that influence sexual arousal. Dopamine causes a surge of energy and euphoria. Norepinephrine increases heart rate and blood pressure. After taking a dose of MDMA, it typically takes 30-60 minutes to kick in (longer for me that first time), and usually peaks after about 2 hours of consumption. This peak feeling will then begin to plateau, but the effects last for an additional 2-4 hours. Next, let’s take a look at what all of this even means on an experiential level.
The first time I walked out of the tunnel and into the Electric Daisy Carnival, my jaw noticeably dropped. The sheer magnitude of that place makes other music festivals seem like an awkward office karaoke party where everyone is standing around waiting for the booz to kick in. I don’t care what your musical preference is, after showing up to EDC you have to admit that those guys know how to throw-the-fuck-down.
Plus, where else on Earth do that many people get together to decompress and let it all hang out (rave booty included)?
Ten different stages ranging from art cart to gargantuan main stage, all playing different styles of electronic music, going at all times. The largest stage- Kinetic Field, can host roughly 80,000 people at one time. Let’s take a second to process that. Imagine a massive football stadium filled with 80,000 people dancing, singing, and smiling in concert. That’s just ONE of the ten stages. In addition to the ass pounding of music and dancing, the festival grounds are filled to the brim with other little goodies as well. Ferris wheels, swings, rides, art displays, virtual reality booths, and chill out areas litter the enchanted fairyland. There is also more food, alcohol, and -treats than 250,000 Molly-ed up people know what to do with. EDC is essentially a giant playground for grown-ups who don’t have to “act their age” for this one momentous weekend.
Hypothetical Chad is licking his protein powder dusted chops in anticipation. Meanwhile, Nancy is squirming in disgust at the thought of all those free-thinking fairy rave princesses gallivanting around in pasties and thongs, not giving one single fuck about all the social norms and programming they are obliterating.
The beginning of EDC started out a bit overwhelming and uncomfortable for me. I felt out of place and awkward, as I mentioned before. My ego was in hyperaware highschooler mode. “How do I look? Are any of these girls into me? Am I doing this EDM dance shit right? Why in the motherfuck did I blow $400 on a ticket to this shit? God, I feel sober.” I was overthinking everything, and frankly, not having much fun at all. That’s when the Molly I had taken finally kicked in. (Disclaimer: No actual drugs were consumed for the making of this post. All characters in this story are fictional) *winkface
A pure rush of Euphoria and heightened sensation hit me like a tidal wave. I let out a long sigh and closed my eyes. It was like every feeling or stimulation was something I was experiencing for the first time. The breeze against my sweaty skin was blown in from heaven by Aphrodite herself. The lights were a captivating spectacle shining with some new divine shimmer and glow about them. Suddenly I realized the beauty of the music that was now being absorbed by my body through some osmotic process that began to animate my arms, legs, and hips. Now I was really dancing. I couldn’t stop myself.
As I breathed deeply, a grin began to spread across my face. How had I forgotten how fucking good it is just to be alive? I realized in that instant how silly and unnecessary it is to hold back from existing entirely in the present moment. In a mere manner of minutes, the towering ego that had been anxiously glancing around Kinetic Field now lay in a pile of rubble at my feet. I was free. Truly free. No social anxiety, no pre-judgments about others, no self-hate. Nothing was holding me back.
The next 6 hours were some of the best moments of my life. I’m talking, better than the first time I watched The Lord of the Rings trilogy, extended blue ray edition. I felt like a 12-year-old having a go at masturbating for the first time. Eureka! Running around EDC from stage to stage was like being a little kid in a candy store, but the candy comes in the form of love exchanged between humans, and the store is an enormous enchanted playground for grown-ups. Chewing a piece of gum or licking a sucker was a new adventure with re-discovered novelty that took me back to being a kid.
Embracing my friends one by one, I let each of them know how much I loved and appreciated them. I felt this connection and love to everyone around me and ended up tightly embracing several strangers as well. I knew that the MDMA was making me feel this way, but I STILL FELT IT. I meant it. Never had there been more true interactions in my life. I felt connected with every other human being in the crowd, and I felt love, empathy, and respect for each one of them.
This gushy, rollie-pollie rave experience may sound corny or fruity, but it opened my eyes to the reality of how much love and genuine expression we withhold from each other. For some reason, I had let social norms and weird programming prevent me from expressing myself authentically to others, even the ones I loved and with whom I considered myself close. I was scared of being vulnerable or letting people see who I was, but all of that melted away under the panorama of fireworks, lights, and music out in the Nevada desert. As we all held hands together and watched the electric sky come alive with the most spectacular firework display I’ve ever seen, I felt tears begin to well up in my eyes. I had everything I needed right here. I felt extreme gratitude for the relationships in my life, my body that carries me through this existence, and the beautiful game of life itself. This night was my new beginning… my rebirth.
I was on a residual high for several weeks following EDC. I had renewed vitality for life. Shit, I even felt myself choking up a couple of times when recounting my experience to others. Those moments resounded with me, and even now, almost a year later, I can’t help but grin to myself while writing this. So I took a “love drug” and ran around like a weirdo giving out free hugs at a festival in the desert. Who the hell cares right? Well, the craziest part of the whole experience was the lasting change I was able to generate in the aftermath of that night.
One of the most profound insights I took away from that night of raw experience, is that I needed to show my body some love. I wasn’t in the greatest shape, and two days of dancing and skipping around like a gazelle on meth had decimated me. My body hurt, and I understood exactly why. I wasn’t taking care of myself. I was drinking alcohol much too often, eating shitty carbs and sugar, and rarely getting to the gym. I determined to go on a diet for two months, pick up a regular gym routine, and make sure I was better equipped for future adventures that life had in store for me…And it all worked. In fact, after the two months were over, I just kept rolling with it. I started to feel as if I was reaching a more heightened sense of life the healthier I got, and I haven’t looked back.
Getting a better body is something that changes your entire life. You literally turn into a different physiological creature that sees the world through different eyes. I had been living submerged in a carby-fog of mediocre health and didn’t even realize it. This is something that’s shaken me so much I’ll probably do a separate post about this later, but the motivation and insight I took from that MDMA experience physically transformed me. I’m down about 30 pounds and 10% body fat from my pre-EDC self. I either workout, hike, or do hot yoga pretty much daily, and it’s easier than ever to say no to alcohol and other substances. (I’m still a whore for coffee, but one battle at a time right?)
In addition to getting in a groove physically, I also began to refine and cultivate my relationships with others. The human-to-human connection I felt while sweating and raving it out with thousands of strangers, has made me re-evaluate my interactions with others. I began to take a more in-depth look at how I was treating people and began feeling more empathy for others. I started to ask myself what I could do to help the ones I loved and began reaching out and making an effort to encourage and assist others. Over the last year, I have removed toxic relationships from my life and strengthened the ties that I deeply value.
Both the physical and interpersonal improvements that have come about since EDC are a result of something a bit more profound which I realized that night. (Brace yourself for the new-agey magic missile coming your way)- I realized I am enough. I deserve love as much as anyone else. So do you. We all do. MDMA revealed how harsh I had been towards myself. All the negative feedback and self-talk had done a number on my self-esteem and confidence. After experiencing this connection to pure self-love, I wanted to go forward into life and fuck shit up. I wanted to level up my body, enhance my relationships, and rescue a distressed princess from an evil undead lich king, then ride off into the sunset on my unicorn/lion hybrid mount named Shadowfax. Because life kicks ass, and why the fuck not?
Once again, this post isn’t intended to shine a light on me individually. I’m writing this because I’ve seen the firsthand benefits of my MDMA experience and I feel like it’s worth sharing with others. I have also realized that we can all shape our lives into whatever we want them to be. No, I’m not going to quote The Secret or ask you to join my cult, but for the vast majority of us, your destiny truly rests in your own hands. MDMA helped make it clear to me what changes I wanted to make, and also forced me to ask some critical questions. Why haven’t I been loving myself and taking care of my body? What is stopping me from re-shaping my current reality? What bullshit stories have I told myself about how I’m not good enough or not worth it? What propaganda and opinions have I bought into just because my parents or peers have? Sometimes getting a birds-eye view of your life and seeing it through the eyes of love, empathy, and charity can dramatically reroute your course. Also, rave butts.
I’m not promoting any substances blindly to anyone (quite the opposite actually), and everyone should do their research, weigh the risks, and make an educated decision before they put ANYTHING into their body. How many of us demonize and ridicule substances we don’t understand or have never experienced while we are smoking, drinking, and eating our way to an early grave. I’m sure I’ll rant about this in another post, but alcohol, sugar, and opioids are the real killers in today’s modern society, not MDMA and psychedelics.
I passed on EDC two years in a row because I didn’t feel comfortable with the proposition of taking a new substance at a massive festival with thousands of strangers. It took months of research and flip-flopping on my decision before I finally committed to going. I’m so glad that I went, but this post would be amiss if we didn’t talk about the risks.
On a chemical and psychological level, there are risks with MDMA, much like there is with any substance. Most, if not all of these risks can be dramatically reduced or eliminated by only taking the substance responsibly and in moderate doses. An average dose might look like 100-200mg with several weeks in between treatments to give your brain time to reset back to baseline. Taking higher doses or not giving yourself adequate time between uses can be risky. In other words, if you abuse MDMA, it can fuck you up. If you abuse anything, it can fuck you up. So be smart and be responsible. Also, vitamin supplementation and a healthy lifestyle also contribute to reducing risk.
Chad is over here boofing (the art of ingesting drugs via one’s asshole) a handful of untested pills he just bought from some shady character calling himself Morpheus, because “YOLO BROOOOO.” Don’t be like Chad.
Short-term side effects of MDMA consumption may include:
- Dehydration- MDMA raises your body temperature causing you to sweat more and lose more H2O. Also, you might find yourself dancing like you’re the lead in Step Up 7 or some shit, so make sure you drink enough water.
- Hyponatremia– Buuuuuut not too much water. The leading problem people run into with MDMA is Dehydration, but ironically, drinking too much water can be just as bad. Your cells actually retain more water while on MDMA, so overdrinking can cause sodium levels to drop along with that sick bass you’re thumping to.
- Hyperthermia- some people have a hard time regulating body temperature. Once again, this can easily be avoided by not being a fuckwit and taking 5 points of MDMA to counterbalance the blow you snorted to bring you up from the Xanax you boofed before that. (Please, for the love of God, just never boof anything.)
- Insomnia, Increased sweating, Increased heart rate- It can be somewhat hard to fall asleep after taking MDMA, which is why so many ravers afterparty like it’s 1999. Melatonin and good old-fashioned Mary Jane can help with this. Marijuana. Mary Jane is Marijuana.
- Nausea, Diarrhea, Loss of appetite- Typically Nausea is a result of drinking too much water, and let’s not forget the real risk of Diarrhea here: Milk. Fucking IBS.
- Rave blues- After taking MDMA, your brain is pretty depleted of Serotonin and Dopamine. This can cause some people to feel depressed or down for a day or two and is also typically a side effect of taking too much Molly, poor diet, sleep deprivation, and vitamin depletion. If you are rolling titties three days in a row at a festival and partying until the sun comes up, Monday is going to be an evil, twisted succubus trying to steal your soul. I’m pretty sure that’s something that all benders have in common.
Long-Term Risks of Abuse of MDMA may include:
- High doses: brain structural and functional deficits, lesions (brain damage) in serotonergic neural pathways. Studies show that brain damage from MDMA is only found in subjects that have taken High doses and have taken more than 50-lifetime doses. In other words, when rolling is life, life is brain damage.
- Regular use: impairments in cognition, attention, learning, and memory, long-term depression. These effects are linked to regular lifetime use and can be avoided by not putting MDMA in your cheerios on a Tuesday!
The last risk I’ll mention here is addiction. The substance itself isn’t addictive (i.e. alcohol, cocaine, opioids), but the psychological effects can be very tantalizing for some people. MDMA abuse starts when individuals don’t want to face reality and are using the substance as an escape from their problems. They take too much and take it too frequently, then begin to lose the magical effects due to depleted and damaged Serotonin receptors. This is called “chasing the dragon,” or trying to re-create an experience like the one they had that first time. This also leads to boofing random pills in a port-a-john with Chad. Don’t go there.
If you choose to take any psychedelic, do it in moderation and respect for the substance, protect your brain and your body, and apply what that experience teaches you into your life, instead of searching for the next basement rave at which you can get cross-eyed and slammered.
From just limited personal experience with MDMA, I’ve seen glimpses of the vast potential the substance has to offer. It has helped me catapult my life into a better direction, and I’ve witnessed others transform as well. This potential for growth with MDMA is as prevalent as the individual makes it. Experiencing feelings of oneness, empathy, compassion, openness, and euphoria can dramatically change a person who may be battling constant anxiety, depression, lack of purpose, or stagnation. When Molly reminds you of the tremendous beauty of life, somehow that soul-crushing line at the DMV instills a little less misanthropic rage. Many people also believe that MDMA can be a tremendous catalyst for spiritual growth and a potent tool in meditation and introspective settings. It helps individuals to wake up to their reality with a fresh perspective and renewed vitality.
So far we have only discussed “recreational use” without a guide or professional implementing MDMA in a controlled setting. The potential for healing with MDMA in an occupational therapy setting is nothing short of miraculous. Being an Anxiolytic, MDMA could be the secret weapon therapists need to slay the twin dragons of Anxiety and Depression. It could also be vital in marriage and relationship counseling, as couples can reach a level of honesty and intimacy rarely attainable under normal circumstances. Additionally, MDMA allows you to revisit experiences and memories of pain, fear, and anger without letting those emotions control you. It has shown to be very useful with just one treatment and could replace much more expensive, and unhealthy drugs used to treat mental health disorders and trauma.
Speaking of that ol’ bitch trauma, the recent clinical trials of MDMA as a treatment for PTSD would make even Nancy Ragen double take and re-consider the substances current scheduling status. Many of the subjects in these trials have “treatment-resistant PTSD,” and most of them are war veterans or rape victims. To emphasize, NO TREATMENT has helped them process their trauma, and they are living with the tremendous pain of being raped or seeing heinous scenes on a battlefield. MDMA really may have been their last resort, as 20 veterans tragically commit suicide each day. The PTSD problem is a giant issue, and this initial trial produced results with an astounding 83% response rate to the treatment. Nearly all of those who were treated showed NO SIGNS OF PTSD after treatment. Even more remarkable, 74% of those patients still showed no signs of PTSD at the one year follow up session, meaning this could very well be a viable long-term solution. Here is an uplifting article showing a more detailed report of some of the PTSD studies.
The Wrap Up
MDMA at a rave can be a tremendously profound experience, but I don’t see raving as the highest potential with which to use the substance. Used with clear intention, in a positive setting, and potentially with the right guidance, MDMA can be an extremely useful tool for personal growth, healing, and even enlightenment. We are finally starting to perform real studies and research after decades of prohibition and ignorance towards the substance.
But why is this conversation just now starting to take place? We’ve known about MDMA for a long time, and we chose to ban it as a schedule 1 drug rather than research the substance further and search out its capabilities. The recent work to bring Cannabis out of prohibition has caused many people to re-think their current stance on illicit drugs. When I research and experiment with psychedelics like MDMA, it makes me question the status quo more than ever.
Prohibition of MDMA has been an absolute disaster. After all these years of all-out war on (nontaxable) drugs, MDMA is more available than ever on the black market, and we are finding ourselves setback 30+ years of research. Prohibition also creates an environment where sketchy dealers do the production and distribution of the substance without regulation or proper safety. We are giving money to drug dealers instead of reputable labs and professionals. Individuals take substances cut with who-the-fuck-knows-what because it’s not regulated by the FDA or anyone else. Meanwhile, any of us can walk into a gas station and buy enough cigarettes, alcohol, painkillers, and sugar to skullfuck an elephant.
This current system is an incarcerating, narrow-minded, propaganda-fueled, money-whoring piece of shit, and we need to fix it. I believe it all starts with having openminded and honest conversations about these substances like MDMA. MAPS is an organization that is making tremendous strides in the psychedelic environment, and if you are interested in their progress, you can check them out here. Another really awesome resource for information on MDMA and other psychedelics is the documentary: Neurons to Nirvana. It’s the most informative and interesting doc on this subject that I’ve found so far.
Meeting Molly under the electric sky changed my life forever. I gave myself a physical makeover, deepened my relationships, and re-considered my path in life. I’m now writing a blog post about all of this shit, something I would never have dreamed I would be doing a year ago when I was sitting in my office, hammering out mortgages on repeat. I can say that I am an entirely different person now, not because MDMA is some magic, fix-all, snake oil remedy, but because it showed me where I had gotten off course and helped me navigate towards True North.