In August 2013, Shelley Goldsmith, 19, was a happy, healthy student at the University of Virginia. But all of that changed when she went to a concert with a group of friends and took a dose of Molly, or MDMA.
Molly’s widespread use in the party scene is nothing new. It’s been sold for decades under the name Ecstasy. But despite the new name, the drug is accompanied by the same risks as ever.
Dosage purity and overheating are two of the biggest risks associated with MDMA use. MDMA capsules and powders are often cut with other substances. As in Goldsmith's case, these unknown additives can have fatal effects on users. Overheatings is a risk even for users taking more pure doses. MDMA spikes the body’s temperature. Combine these elevated body temperatures with a hot venue like a night club or a summer music festival, and users can die from overheating alone.
Soon after Goldsmith took her dose of Molly, she overheated and dropped to the ground. A few hours later, she died.
Shelley’s parents refuse to let her death go in vain. That’s why they’re speaking out in a new documentary on the need for harm reduction policies. In a nutshell, harm reduction policies reduce the penalties given to users who seek medical help during dangerous drug episodes. Currently, many people avoid medical help in the midst of adverse drug reactions due to fear of facing criminal charges. If you reduce or eliminate the threat of criminal charges, the reasoning goes, people will be more likely to seek help when they need it.
“She is a good messenger,” says Shelley’s mother, Dede Goldsmith. “She was a great kid. She was smart, she was affable, she was musically-inclined, she was the whole package and it happened to her. If it can happen to her, it can happen to your kid.”
Rob Smith, Shelley’s father, says many of the kids dying from lethal drug doses aren’t addicts and abusers. They’re intelligent, healthy kids looking for a fun night out.
“The connotation of drug user implies it’s someone who uses drugs all the time,” he said in the video. “She used drugs to enhance her experience and was looking to have a good time and to feel close to people around her. The war on drugs hasn't worked. Harm reduction is our only viable option.”
Dede Goldsmith chimed in with similar sentiments.
“These are really smart kids. She was a smart girl,” she said. “There is a need for education but a lot of information that is put out is not accurate so the only practical response is Harm reduction.”
To see more of the Goldsmiths' interview, watch this clip: