UI Police see spike in MDMA related charges on campus

By Jessica Ramos

The University Police Department is seeing an increase in charges related to MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy or “molly.” In the 2013-14 school year, there has been a total of nine charges relating to MDMA — six of which took place from Feb. 1 to April 13.

In the past, police have typically charged students with alcohol and marijuana use. Detective Joe McCullough, who supervises Street Crimes and Narcotics, said he believes drug-related trends start in high school when some students begin to use experimental drugs, which are later introduced on the college campus. 

However, the increase of MDMA use poses a great concern, McCullough said.

“The trend is disturbing — the uptake of the trend. The problem I foresee is that sometimes the drug is substituted with other unknown substances, or ‘the bath salts,’” he said. “There’s a synthetic version that people have been taking and snorting. There is no quality control over the drug, and the problem we see is that if a bad batch is ever put out on the street that the injuries could be pretty bad or they could be sometimes fatal.”

While on MDMA, an individual feels the effects of a stimulant, as they enter a hyperactive state where the heart begins to beat faster and blood pressure rises. 

University Police Sgt. Joan Fiesta mentioned that when a person is on MDMA, their core temperature rises and the individual becomes very thirsty. A person’s body is not designed to handle the effects of the drugs, she said.

“They feel no pain, so it’s very difficult for an officer to deal with them. And the chances are very good of somebody — a suspect or police officer — being injured,” University Police Captain Roy Acree said. “That’s when Tasers come into play.”

In the most recent case, a 21-year-old male was arrested on the charges of aggravated battery and criminal damage to property, according to a University police report. The man admitted to taking the controlled substance MDMA. The man was seen acting wildly; he ran from the police, climbed the fire escape to the roof and resisted the officers’ attempts to remove him, which took several firefighters with ladders to seize him. 

Deputy Chief Skip Frost mentioned that in this instance, one of the police sergeants was injured while trying to subdue the offender.

McCullough said the use of tasers on offenders is not always effective because of their “hyper state.”

“There was several minutes of officers trying to restrain the individuals under the influence, and we’re very careful on how (that is) done. Sometimes it’s in such a confined and closed area (that) there’s little control that the officer has,” he said. “Sometimes our control tactics or Tasers are less effective or ineffective on somebody who cannot feel pain.”

Possession of MDMA is considered a felony. Frost said there have been several high profile instances on campus for possession with intent to deliver or where a person is under the influence.

“There are instances, I’m sure, where people under the influence injure themselves. People really need to make some tough decisions. While I realize that it’s not the No. 1 drug of choice, it is a great drug to avoid because a lot of people get themselves in trouble because of MDMA,” he said. “It’s causing not only them to put themselves at risk, but it’s also putting our officers at risk.”

Frost mentioned that it is difficult to predict trends; however, the trend currently shows that if there is a market for the drug, it will be supplied. While possession of the drug is a concern, the police department’s primary focus is the distributor.

Acree added that the officers are improving their tactics and have gotten better at targeting suspects — users and dealers. This can also play into the increased numbers of MDMA related charges police have seen. 

“(We are) making sure we are going after the people that are dealing this,” Frost said. “Those people that are dealing it, you can bet that they will be dealt with very harshly. Not only in the courts but also in the eyes of the University.”

Jessica can be reached at [email protected]