LOS ANGELES – Last weekend, promoters were forced to shut down New York’s multi-day Electric Zoo music festival following the deaths of Jeffrey Russ, 23, and Olivia Rotondo, 20 who reportedly used molly.
“I just took six hits of molly,’’ Rotondo reportedly told an EMS worker before collapsing in a seizure and dying.
Molly – short for molecule – is considered the purest form of MDMA and is the essential ingredient in the street drug Ecstasy.
City officials said that at least four other attendees were in intensive care due to suspected drug overdoses related to the drug. But these were not isolated occurrences, as Molly use is on the upswing.
Last week in Boston a 19-year-old girl died of a suspected overdose following a concert. In June, a man died and dozens more were treated for overdosing on molly at a music festival in Washington state. In 2009, government data reported 22,816 emergency-room visits due to MDMA, a 123 percent increase from 2005 – and several experts say its usage is still climbing.
“The issue is mostly what it is cut with, and the fact that most people who use it abuse it. Also, it causes the body temperature to skyrocket to 105-106 and makes individuals more prone to heat stroke,” explained Dr. Jayson Calton. “While the drug makes you love life, it can also make you lose life.”
So why then are some of today’s biggest pop stars intent on glorifying molly? Miley Cyrus' song "We Can't Stop" includes the line "dancing with molly," which was bleeped out of her raunchy MTV VMA award performance last weekend. (Cyrus has said the lyric could also be heard as "dancing with Miley." Her rep did not respond to a request for comment.)
Kanye West’s new track “Blood on the Leaves,” which he also performed at the 2013 VMAs, features the phrase “when we tried our first molly and came out of our body.” His track “Mercy” contains the lyric “something bout Mary she gone off that Molly.”
Even Madonna is getting in on the act. She shouted out to her audience at a concert in Miami: “How many people in the crowd have seen molly?” The Pop Queen later insisted that she was referring to something else, yet “have you seen molly” is widely considered to be code speak for seeking out the drug in clubs and at concerts.
Some experts say this kind of tacit endorsement of the drug by some of pop music's biggest stars is incredibly dangerous.
"Miley was once a strong and powerful role model to young girls. Her transformation into someone who sings about drugs like molly is more troubling because of her oversize influence on younger music fans,” sociologist Dr. Hilary Levey Friedman told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “A drug like molly is deceiving because many think it's safer than others, like cocaine, but death is possible even from the related form of ecstasy. That fact, combined with the previous Disney incarnation of Hannah Montana, creates a potentially toxic combination especially for young, female music fans."
Christopher Crosby, CEO of Florida-based addiction treatment facility, The Watershed, agrees.
“Young fans are more likely to try drugs if they see their idols doing it, but it’s more than just the use of drugs – it’s the emotion behind the use,” he said. “If these teens are in a place where they are looking for acceptance and a sense of belonging, they will most likely be at a greater risk of drug abuse.”
But not everyone thinks songs about molly are enough to make kids take the drug.
“It is no different than seeing ‘Scarface’ with his noise deep in a mound of coke in the movie,” added rapper and CEO/Founder of M.Republik Music Group, Allen Forrest. “Anyone who condemns an artist freedom of expression should think again.”
Other experts note that illegal drug use is nothing new, and that individuals need to take personal responsibility as to whether or not they use them.
“People need to take individual responsibility,” said attorney Anahita Sedaghatfar. “The choice to not use drugs shouldn't solely be based upon their illegality.”
But singing about the drug is not without its career risks.Rapepr Rick Ross learned the hard way that name-dropping molly can cost you cool hard cash when anti-rape activists called on Reebok to dump him following the release of “U.O.E.N.O” in which he seemingly promotes date rape, rapping: “Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it. I took her home and enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.”
Despite Ross’s apology, Reebok terminated its contract with him in April, leading to what experts anticipate to be a $3.5-5 million loss for the performer.