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Brown County Report Investigates: Drug bust raises question, “What’s in your Molly?”

A recent drug bust in Brown County highlights one of the several dangers of drug use, leading one Ohio State University researcher to wonder if we need to change our approach to drug policy.

tidballAccording to a statement of facts filed in Brown County Municipal Court, on Sept 7 at 7:41PM, Hunter Tidball was pulled over on State Route 32 near Mount Orab in reference to a speed violation.

Tidball allegedly admitted to possessing a small amount of marijuana, which prompted a probable cause search of the vehicle.

During the search, Trooper Dunn of the Ohio State Highway Patrol located approximately 7.3 grams of a crystalline substance which field tested positive for MDMA, a drug commonly associated with electronic dance music parties known as “raves.”

According to the statement of facts written by Dunn, Tidball told him the substance was “Molly”, a slang term for MDMA in crystallized form.

The drugs were sent to a crime lab for further identification and the case was turned over to the Brown County Court of Common Pleas for a grand jury to return an indictment against Tidball.

On Nov 5, Tidball was indicted.

However, the indictment suggests the lab tests revealed the substance seized from Tidball was not MDMA, but a substituted cathinone, a class of drugs which recently have begun to emerge as precursors used in MDMA manufacture become harder for chemists to obtain.

It is unclear if Tidball knew the substance was not actually MDMA.

Bag of MDMA (Courtesy: Erowid.org)

Bag of MDMA (Courtesy: Erowid.org)

This case, however, demonstrates the nature of uncertainty drug users face in regards to what they are ingesting.

“These substituted cathinones usually haven’t been researched by man at all before they are produced and sold to kids for profit,” a researcher at Ohio State University told Brown County Report, “There’s no telling how dangerous they are.”

The researcher suggested these new substances could be more harmful than MDMA.

“We never really heard many reports of adverse reactions relating to Molly until these substituted cathinones came into the picture, and Molly has been around for quite some time. More often than not, we are finding the culprit is actually one of these new substances.”

The most prominent substituted cathinone being traded off as Molly is known as Methylone, an analog of MDMA where a β-ketone group has been attached to the beta position of the amine chain. At least half a dozen deaths in the US have been attributed to Methylone since 2012.

Methylone was federally banned in the US in Oct 2011, but only continues to rise in popularity.

Brown County Report spoke to Sarah, a former Molly user from Georgetown who said she noticed some batches produced different effects than others.

“Sometimes the Molly is good, but sometimes it isn’t,” she said, “The last time I took the stuff I turned crazy and tore my house up looking for an imaginary girl.”

Sarah’s story is a prime example on why it is time for a change in drug policy, the Ohio State researcher believes.

(Courtesy: PBS.org)

(Courtesy: PBS.org)

“Newer substituted cathinones start to get created the moment an old one gets banned,” he said, “It isn’t just drug dealers selling this stuff. Sometimes it’s legitimate businesses.

“We’re seeing gas stations sell these chemicals as bath salts or incense without any warning labels or listed ingredients, and so a lot of times the consumer automatically believes it’s safe.”

The Ohio State researcher believes immediately banning the substances as they emerge only opens the doors for chemists to produce drugs that could be more dangerous.

“We need to actually research these drugs instead of just playing whack-a-mole with them each time they appear. The possibilities of new drugs these chemists can make is almost endless.”

More information on synthetic cathinones can be found on the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) website.

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