All about Molly

Busting myths and misconceptions about a recreational drug that has seen its popularity rise in Syracuse.

If you've lived in the Syracuse area over the past year there's a chance you've heard the name, "Molly."

Sold as pure MDMA, Molly is a drug that has gained a reputation as a safe alternative to Ecstasy because it's not cut with other drugs or fillers. It's popularity has been on the rise, and it's been found in Walnut and Thornden parks around Syracuse University, according to law enforcement officials.

And it's not just regulated to the SU campus. A n 18-month-long investigation led to a major raid by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency at the Orange Line Gallery downtown on April 25.

But how widespread is Molly use in the area? What are its effects? And is there any way to know what it's actually made of?

For this project we conducted a nonscientific survey of 390 SU students and analyzed the results of the 320 students who provided their year and major.

The responses showed that Molly isn't a drug on the fringe:

  • 50.6% of students have heard of Molly. Of those, 49 students, or 30.2%, said they know its effects. That means more than two-thirds who have heard of Molly have no idea what it does.
  • And that wasn't everything - 20.4% of students who have heard of Molly, or 33, said they have tried it. Of those, 10, or 30.3% said they do not know the drug’s ingredients. That means about one-third who have tried Molly have no idea what they ingested.

The stories below paint a picture of Molly use on campus, what Molly actually is and the technical terms concerning its legality.

Explore the issues through the features below.


Is it legal?

Molly is currently legal under federal law, and New York state has not banned the drug. However, if Molly is tested and classified as an imitation controlled substance, the person in possession of it can be charged. An imitation controlled substance is a substance, other than a prescription drug or a controlled substance, which by color, shape or size is represented to be a controlled substance.


Molly myths

There’s much confusion about what Molly actually is, and perceptions about the drug differ. After talking to forensic experts about what substances are in Molly after it is tested, we found that there are differences between what the drug is perceived to be and the effects it can cause. This chart lists perceptions and realities we discovered about Molly through our research.

Molly Myths


A student's perspective

Listen to what an SU freshman had to say about her experience with Molly.

An expert's perspective

Dessa Bergen-Cico, addiction specialist at Syracuse University, explains how Molly affects users and why it has appeared in Syracuse.

Where is Molly?

Molly use is on the rise in Syracuse. Law enforcement agencies have seized Molly from private residences on and near Syracuse University’s campus. This culminated with a major raid on the Orange Line Gallery in April after an 18-month-long Molly investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and local state and federal agencies. View a map that shows where Molly has popped up around the area.

View Molly in Onondaga County in a larger map

The Molly Drug project was produced by the Newhouse School's spring 2011 Advanced Editing class. Participants included Shawn Arrajj, Marissa Bholan, Bethany Bump, Jason Krakower and Andrew Petrie.

Molly videos and resources


We've incorporated all the available videos, map and content on this page now. Thanks for your interest.


Where is the series

Not able to access the series nor the student perspective. Have the videos been taken down?

Hi there, This is a great

Hi there,

This is a great resource!

I'm an MNO student at Boot Camp right now writing about the uprise of Molly in Syracuse suburbs. Could you please tell me anyone you encountered who might be helpful in piecing something together?

Thank you!

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