Cop shares 16-year-old cousin's scary encounter with mood-altering pill

Molly has crawled onto the doorsteps of a police constable who, as a result, is now reiterating warnings against usage of the mood-altering drug.

The cop, who reached out to the Jamaica Observer last Tuesday, on condition of anonymity, shared that his 16-year-old cousin's encounter with the drug at a pill party sent their family into panic mode and ultimately resulted in her having to seek professional help.

"It has slowly mushroomed into something much bigger than just one and two persons taking it. If there is no media pressure or media coverage, law enforcement don't want to look at it until it hits home or snowballs out of control. This is personal to me, because one of my family members actually took Molly and entered into a bit of a psychosis. Her brain wasn't functioning properly after that. We didn't know what was happening… You know when you see somebody and they are acting all jittery and paranoid? That was it at that time," the constable said.

"She was feeling euphoric and everything, and after that she stated that she had what is called a come down and she had some crazy thoughts rummaging through her head. She felt like she was losing her mind," he added.

The growing use of Molly pills at parties was first brought to national attention by the Sunday Observer in July this year through a series of stories and a video documentary entitled Molly Predicament.

The print and video productions featured health professionals from Heart Institute of the Caribbean, Pharmaceutical Society of Jamaica, and the South East Regional Health Authority warning that use of the drug poses serious threats to the heart and the brain.

At the time, the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) declined to comment on the development, saying that it would issue a comprehensive release on the matter "very soon".

However, it wasn't until September 1 that the NCDA, during a press conference at the Ministry of Health & Wellness, released a risk assessment study on Molly use which it said was conducted in 13 parishes and high schools among 160 students in grades eight to 10.

The NCDA shared that Molly, vaping and edibles were among the top three sources of substance abuse among teenagers.

Last month, the Sunday Observer also highlighted another reckless trend among young people who mix medication containing diphenhydramine with white rum, icy mint candy, and clear carbonated soda to make a high-inducing drink.

On Wednesday, the constable explained that initially, his family was oblivious to the fact that Molly was the reason behind the 16-year-old's behaviour change.

"Here, in Jamaica, we don't have a lot of experience with this. We blamed marijuana and said probably somebody gave her a spliff. But no, she actually took a pill," he told the Sunday Observer.

"She explained what happened and when they called me in I found out that it was Molly. You know they talk about breaking the pill in two, and so what she did, she took half, didn't feel anything, and immediately took the other half. So she got one full dose. She is 16 years old," he lamented.

He said she had to be taken to a therapist because of the effects.

"She had mild hallucinations, she kept saying that she was seeing things and all that. So we definitely went to the therapist after that. The thing is, when you start hearing other stories, you start to find out that this is out there more than you think it is. You probably think it's a one-off situation until you start hearing other stories."

Additionally, in terms of enforcement, the law man said, the same emphasis placed on marijuana and cocaine abstinence should be placed on Molly and described the use of the pill among young people as an epidemic.

"The way how they flag them, they should upgrade Molly to that level. Right now it isn't even being looked at as a class one drug. It's prevalent. It is out here. The pill parties… there is an all-inclusive party where you pay one money and when you go there they actually give you a pill upon entry. That was my cousin's experience," he said.

"This is so easy to hide that when the kids are actually going out, and they tell you that they are going somewhere, you are not, in your wildest dream, thinking about such a dangerous drug being at a house party. The worse you would think is that they might get alcohol there. It's crazy out there," the cop lamented.

Superintendent Aaron Fletcher, former commanding officer of the St Andrew North Police Division, told the Sunday Observer that there was no strategy to tackle the Molly issue in that division as the police did not receive any complaints or reports on the matter.

"For St Andrew North where I was commander up to maybe a week ago, we never had any such drive towards focusing on this drug or any other similar party drug. We at St Andrew North, whilst I was there, didn't have such a drive towards taking down that. We didn't really have any complaints so to speak. Notwithstanding, I know it pays to be proactive," he said.

Senior Superintendent Gary Francis, who is assigned to the Police Emergency Communication Centre, pointed to the Dangerous Drugs Act as a rule book in treating with illegal drugs. The Act prescribes a number of penalties for offences under the legislation.

Commenting on the NCDA's assessment, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton pointed to the country seeing first-hand, a normalisation of drug use, especially among young people.

In 2019 there were 52 calls to the NCDA helpline, which is primarily for individuals who are either struggling with substance abuse or someone who wishes to seek help for addicts. By 2020, the calls spiralled to 361.

Dr Kevin Goulbourne, director of mental health and substance abuse in the Health Ministry, had told the Sunday Observer weeks ago that this is an area of concern.

Further, Tufton revealed that the ministry was financing a $16-million national drug prevalence survey as part of efforts to assess the use of new and emergent psychoactive substances, including Molly, among children and adolescents.

Two weeks ago, in an interview with the Sunday Observer, family therapist Dr Beverley Scott renewed calls for more attention on mental wellness.

"The talks are flying over the people's heads. We have a lot of talk on mental health, but it's flying over heads. We need to get to their level. If you want to help people you have to first get to their level. You can't help somebody unless you have walked in his moccasins. When you go beside the person, and put your foot inside his shoe, you will be able to help him," she argued.

"As long as the talks keep flying over people's heads, the people are not going to be helped. So, what you need to do is go in the communities and sit down on the street corner with the youth, go into the communities and go to the meetings, go through the community development officers, talk to them and get there with them," she said.

Dr Scott likened dealing with mental health issues to dealing with toddlers, saying more calculated efforts are required for effectiveness.

"When you're teaching children and you're talking to them, you don't stand up and talk to them. You kneel down or you stoop you get right on the level with them. That's how they feel comfortable. That is what our Government needs to do. Stop talking over the heads of the people and go where they are and start from where they are," she said.

The National Council on Drug Abuse has released a risk assessment study on Molly use which it said was conducted in 13 parishes and high schools among 160 students in grades eight to 10. The NCDA shared that Molly, vaping and edibles were among the top three sources of substance abuse among teenagers.
Molly use has slowly mushroomed into something much bigger than just one and two persons taking it, says a police constable whose cousin took the mood-altering pill.
Romardo Lyons

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