5 Things You May Not Know About Spice and Molly

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Dr. Whitfield at Phoenix House Open HouseDuring a recent Open House held at Phoenix House Academy Los Angeles, the Medical Director of the Academy, psychiatrist Jonathan Whitfield, M.D., gave a presentation about teen drug abuse, new trends, and current dangers concerning addiction and substance abuse in Los Angeles County. Below are five alarming facts we learned about substances abused by teens from Dr. Whitfield’s presentation.

For teens, we have to be aware of the additional dangers posed by drugs on the development of their young, malleable brains. They have a major negative impact on children and youths, especially those suffering from trauma. The rising use of marijuana is a well-known fact. One in fifteen high school seniors use marijuana daily or almost daily. The use of club drugs including many new drugs is highly widespread, and these include Spice and Molly.

1. Spice is made up of dried leaves and chemicals.

In these drugs, shredded dried leaves of plants are saturated with a variety of synthetic chemicals that are always changing, to avoid detection. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) declared five active chemicals in “spice” illegal and the manufacturers replaced those substances with others of a similar nature, but with unknown health impact and effects. Spice is twice as popular among boys as it is among girls and has been used by 11.3% of high school seniors (compared to 36.4% that have used marijuana).

2. Spice is also known as K2, Fake Weed, Yucatan Fire, and Moon Rocks.

We have been aware about the dangers of Spice for quite some time. Dr. Whitfield participated in the County’s lecture about these drugs a year ago. Essentially, “Spice” is a name for a diverse group of substances that produce effects similar to marijuana. These substances are labeled as “not for human consumption”.

3. Spice can cause a heart attack and result in emergency room visits.

In 2011, Spice was mentioned by over 28,000 patients in the emergency room. That is more than a 200% increase from the previous year. It’s harmful ingredients are at the root of this. Spice can increase the heart rate and reduce blood flow to the heart, thus raising blood pressure. There have been cases where it was linked to heart attacks and death. Individuals who use Spice may experience symptoms of withdrawal and addiction.

4. Most Molly pills don’t even contain MDMA.

Another new synthetic drug called “Molly” is not – as is often listed – pure MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy. Molly is dangerous and untested, and consists of a diverse array of chemicals. According to the DEA, only 13% of Molly seized contained MDMA and the alphabet of chemicals included in those compounds was quite long and complicated: Methylone, MDPV, 4-EC, 4-MMC, and MePP. The drug causes a euphoric high, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, sweating, and irregular heartbeat. These drugs may cause panic attacks and psychosis; after they wear off they may cause deep depression.

5. Molly’s harmful ingredients are always changing.

Molly is marketed to teens age 12 to 17 and is often distributed as pills at raves and electronic dance music parties. These teens are unaware of what ingredients are really in the ingested pills. Molly is usually packaged in capsules but may be in powder or injectable form. The fact that this drug contains a toxic mixture of chemicals is deeply troubling. As soon as one compound is made illegal, another is formulated to replace it, creating a life-threatening pill. While we do not know how bad this drug can be, we do know it has already caused deaths.  Pills are manufactured in China and other foreign countries before being imported to the U.S.

We need to stay alert and pay attention to what our teens are doing, who they spend time with, and what they do at parties – are these supervised by adults and safe? We need to educate teens and parents alike in how to hold safe, drug-free parties with music and fun, but without drugs that can kill or permanently damage the brain.

At Phoenix House Academy in Los Angeles we use many approaches to help teens and parents deal with effects of substance abuse. We offer evidence-based treatment, family services, fitness activities, drug education and prevention services, and much more. Our services are tailor-made to address the individual needs of our clients. We are here to help.


If you need assistance with addiction or would like to help a troubled teenager using drugs, please call 1 888 671 9392.

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