WASHINGTON — It goes by a few names: Molly or MDMA, among others.
Doctors say they’re all the same, though. They’re all ecstasy. And concern over its increasing use has grown after two concertgoers are believed to have overdosed on the drug at a Merriweather Post Pavilion festival this past weekend.
Now, police and state leaders are discussing what needs to change. On Monday, Howard County police said they are in discussions about what can be done in response to the deaths.
“Our hearts go out to the families as they face the unimaginable,” Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P. — a company that books Merriweather Post Pavilion — and operator of the venue, said in a statement. “We can spend every minute of the day making perfect sense to our children regarding the obvious perils of drugs, but sometimes it is impossible to convince them that this is relevant to their world.”
A 17-year-old Woodbridge, Virginia, boy was the second person to die after police believe he overdosed following Friday’s “Mad Decent Block Party” music festival in Columbia, Maryland. The teen’s name is being withheld at the family’s request.
On Friday after the concert, 20-year-old Tyler Fox Viscardi, of Raleigh, North Carolina, was pronounced dead from a similar overdose, police say.
According to WBAL, who cited a close college friend who was with Viscardi, he drank water given to him by nearby patrons. Apparently, the water contained a toxic substance.
“We are devastated by the sudden loss of our beloved Tyler,” reads a family statement. “He was the victim of a terrible mishap. This tragic accident has taken Tyler from us. He will always be in our hearts.”
In addition, about 20 people were rushed to the hospital after the concert with drug-related symptoms.
“We take safety and the protection of fans seriously, and we work hand in hand with the police department and EMS personnel,” I.M.P. spokeswoman Audrey Fix Schaefer said in an email.
She says backpacks were not permitted inside the venue, but empty water bottles were.
“We have more than a quarter of a million people come to the venue safely each year to hear music of all genres, including this type of festival,” Schaefer continues. “It is unfortunately difficult to protect fans from their own actions, particularly if committed before they enter the venue.”
The illicit drug’s seemingly increased use is prompting law enforcement officials and local leaders to have larger conversations about what can be done to prevent its use, especially as it seems to go hand-in-hand with electronic dance festivals, a police source says.
“People think that Molly is a purer more desirable form of ecstasy, but it’s not true. They are the same,” says Dr. John Sharp, a Harvard psychiatrist and neuropsychiatrist.
What the drug is cut with, or altered by, is what causes the severe side effects, he says.
“You can wind up passing out having fevers and convulsions,” Sharp says. “It’s not harmless at all. It’s a dangerous drug people should know about.”
Sharp suggests parents should talk with their teens about using the drug, which has the reputation of inducing calm.
Ask if “it’s going to be a scene where people are going to do MDMA or Molly,” he says.
Ask your teen if they’ve tried it, if they know the risks and tell them how you feel about them experimenting with a dangerous drug.
“This chemical is not benign and you don’t want to be messing around with your brain chemistry,” he says.
Howard County police are waiting for the toxicology reports to come back on the two deaths Friday and cannot confirm until then they were caused by ecstasy.
Monday night, Howard County executive Ken Ulman said in a statement that “My thoughts are with the family and friends of those who lost their lives after attending the Friday concert. … An investigation is ongoing to determine all the facts, and I have asked our public safety team and our health officer to review our practices to make sure Howard County is doing all it can to protect against these troubling incidents.”