From the top of a Ferris wheel at a music festival, one sophomore began feeling the effects of the MDMA she had taken a couple of hours before. Although the experience was overwhelming as colors brightened and swirled around her, it was not her first time rolling.

Courtney, who is a sophomore majoring in education, is only identified by one of her names to protect her from legal ramifications.

As Tame Impala roared from the stage, Courtney watched pedestrians and felt serenity wrap around her from the effects of MDMA, also called ecstasy or molly, which is a stimulant and hallucinogenic drug.

MDMA causes users to feel energized and warps their perception, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Rolling is the term for when users are high on MDMA, a stimulant and hallucinogenic drug which is also called ecstasy or molly, Courtney said.

Courtney has taken MDMA 10 times since the 2018 ROW week, she said. Courtney has attended music festivals in Arkansas, Texas and Tennessee like Austin City Limits and Bonnaroo, Courtney said. She used MDMA at these events because it makes the concert experience more fun.

“It’s kind of magical,” Courtney said. “Everything pleasurable is just heightened, I feel like. You’re super love-y too. Colors are brighter, and you’re just super happy.”

If a student possesses MDMA, police can charge them with a felony charge and may impose university sanctions, said UA Police Department Capt. Gary Crain.

Outside of the legal consequences, MDMA is dangerous because it can cause users to grind their teeth, have insomnia and feel restless and experience nausea, said Zac Brown, the assistant director of communications at UA Pat Walker Health Center, in an email.

MDMA has many of the same physical effects as other stimulants in that it increases a person’s heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature,” Brown said. “This combination of effects can have unpredictable and dire consequences when you factor in physical activity, a hot environment and other drugs or alcohol.”

Extreme health effects of taking MDMA are liver, kidney or heart failure and those can lead to death, Brown said.

Ecstasy is estimated to cause 50 deaths per year, according to a 2009 report by the Peninsula Technology Assessment Group called “The harmful health effects of recreational ecstasy: a systematic review of observational evidence.”

There is a perception that MDMA makes music festivals more enjoyable, Brown said. This is because MDMA creates a sense of euphoria, increases sight and hearing, causes more extraversion and increases empathy.

The effects of MDMA last three-to-six hours, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

This is enough time for it to last through a concert, Courtney said.

MDMA causes her to grind her teeth, so she takes precautions to be safe while using the drug, like eating before and packing gum or lollipops in order to not accidentally chew on her cheek because MDMA causes her to grind her teeth.

It is easy to overheat while using MDMA, so Courtney stays hydrated and always has a friend with her, she said.

Jessica, a sophomore who is majoring in international business and is identified by her first name to protect her identity from legal ramifications, has used MDMA with Courtney twice, she said.

MDMA has made it easier to get more into the music at concerts as well as meet new people, Jessica said.  

“You just want to meet everybody,” Jessica said. “Everyone you talk to you’re just like, ‘What’s your life story?’”

Jessica rolled at the 2019 ROW weekend and met other people on MDMA, she said.

“A girl came up to me and was like, ‘Oh my God, do you have any gum or a lollipop?’” Jessica said. “Because when you’re on molly, you hold your jaw really violently and you can bite the inside of your cheek a little bit.”

Synthetic drugs can contain unknown, dangerous drugs, said Fayetteville Police Department Sgt. Anthony Murphy.

MDMA is synthetic and can contain substances such as meth, ketamine, cocaine or bath salts, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Like any drug, including ecstasy, it is possible to have a bad experience because the loose MDMA crystals or powder that are pressed into a tablet form that can contain unknown substances, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Courtney has never had a bad experience from taking MDMA but has felt fewer effects from it after using it multiple times in a short period of time, she said.

There is a misconception that molly is the only pure form of MDMA, according to the Center on Addiction website. Only 13% of molly contains any MDMA at all.

“If it’s not real molly, you may not roll,” Courtney said.

Molly uses serotonin in order to create the euphoric, mood enhancing feeling, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. When users come down from molly, they can tend to feel depression because the molly has used up serotonin, Brown said.

“The more common side effects include, unable to sleep, confusion, anxiety, depression, trouble remembering things and decreased focus,” Brown said.

Despite the side effects though, Courtney plans on doing it again at Bonnaroo this summer, she said.


Abby Zimmardi is a staff reporter for the Arkansas Traveler, where she has been a staff reporter since April 2019.

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