September 02. 2013 8:48PM

Students warned: 'This drug can cause death'

Union Leader Correspondents



Plymouth State University has programs in place to educate its students on the dangers of abusing drugs, including the form of ecstasy called "Molly" that authorities believe killed sophomore Brittany Flannigan, 19, of Derry, (see obituary, Page A5) at a Boston club, and in a separate incident at a New York concert, University of New Hampshire junior Olivia Rotondo.

"I can't say for a fact that it has or hasn't been on campus," said Jim Hundreiser, PSU's vice president for enrollment and student affairs. "It's a national trend; we certainly understand that this is happening on other campuses in the country."

Flannigan, he said, was a sophomore studying business "who was a valued member of the Plymouth State community."

"We need to make students understand that this drug can cause death in someone else," he said.

With no disrespect meant to Flannigan's family, Hundreiser said, "I'm sure (Flannigan) thought it was going to be a fine night out, but it turned tragic"

Flannigan died Wednesday at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, one of three people who police say overdosed at a performance by German DJ Zedd at the House of Blues in Boston.

UNH's Olivia Rotondo, 20, a communications major, was among two people who died Saturday after being stricken at the Electric Zoo music festival at Randall's Island in New York City. Four others were hospitalized in critical condition.

"University of New Hampshire officials were greatly saddened to learn of the recent death of Olivia Rotondo, a junior from Rhode Island," said a statement issued by spokeswoman Erika Mantz. "We extend our deepest sympathies to her family and friends during this difficult time, and are focused on providing support and resources to our campus community."

A statement released by the office of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the deaths "appear to have involved the drug MDMA (ecstasy, or Molly)."

As Plymouth State University students moved into the campus of 2,200 students Monday, most said they had heard of "Molly."

"From what I've heard, it seems to be like a celebrity drug; people think it's cool to take," said Kevin Driscoll of Holderness, a senior.

A group of 10 students asked about where they had heard about Molly all answered: "Rap music."

They said several recent rap songs glorify Molly as safe to use and as "an unbelievable high," one student said, repeating one of the lyrics he had heard.

"I've heard it's very pure," another said.

"I've heard the rap songs, but it's not safe. I've heard it's equivalent to removing a chunk from your brain," one of the students said.

"Molly" is a powder or crystalline form of MDMA. A recent New York Times article describes it as "Ecstasy re-branded as a gentler, more approachable drug."

At New England College in Henniker, senior Parica Mason said she doesn't associate with people who use drugs like Molly.

Her fellow student, Mel Mower, said that drugs just don't seem to be a big part of life on campus.

"You never see people strung out on drugs here," she said. "The parties tend to be more alcohol-based than drug-based, so you rarely hear about drug-related things on campus."

For NEC student Trevor Barnard, who has heard of Molly but never seen it, drugs don't fit in with the social structure of the campus, which he said includes many athletes and clubs with strict rules for participation.

"Why would you want to throw away everything you've been working for?" asked Barnard.

Chris Cotta is a junior at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge.

"I went to a party recently and somebody said, 'Hey, you know, Molly's in town,' and I was like, 'Who's Molly?'" Cotta said.

Cotta said that while the use of alcohol and marijuana are relatively common by students, other drugs tend to remain on the fringes.

"It is a college campus, so things do find their way here," he said, "but I've seen people on Molly and I'm not interested."

Sarah Moore, a senior at Franklin Pierce, had never heard of Molly, and though Courtney Carton, a junior, said she had heard of people using the drug, her friends don't touch it.

"Every weekend people smoke pot or go out and drink," said Moore, "and I imagine there are people doing other drugs, but I don't hang around with them."

Calling hours for Brittany Flannigan will be today from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. at Brookside Chapel & Funeral Home, 116 Main St., Route 121A, Plaistow.

The funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, in St. Anne's Church, 26 Emerson Ave., Hampstead.

Union Leader Correspondent Hunter McGee contributed to this report.