Skip to main content

Is Miley introducing fans to 'Molly'?

By Peggy Drexler
updated 9:52 AM EST, Wed December 11, 2013
Miley Cyrus became a household name for families when her Disney Channel television show, "Hannah Montana," premiered in 2006. From there, Cyrus quickly rose to pop star fame and has been changing her appearance ever since. Miley Cyrus became a household name for families when her Disney Channel television show, "Hannah Montana," premiered in 2006. From there, Cyrus quickly rose to pop star fame and has been changing her appearance ever since.
HIDE CAPTION
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
Evolution of Miley Cyrus
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Peggy Drexler: That Miley Cyrus was a finalist for Person of the Year shows her impact
  • Drexler: She confirms the "Molly" she sings of in "We Can't Stop" is a form of drug MDMA
  • Drexler: Who knows if her fans will be likely to try it, but music is a powerful force
  • She says MDMA-related ER visits and reports of young people dying from it are up

Editor's note: Peggy Drexler is the author of "Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family" and "Raising Boys Without Men." She is an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University and a former gender scholar at Stanford University. Join her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @drpeggydrexler.

(CNN) -- This week, Time magazine named Miley Cyrus a finalist for Person of the Year, the annual award bestowed on the person editors think has "most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year." A true testament to the global influence of twerking, she was the only nominee from the entertainment industry.

Her co-nominees included Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, President Obama, Pope Francis, and gay rights activist Edith Windsor.

Peggy Drexler
Peggy Drexler

The pope was the winner, but one thing's for certain: Miley Cyrus makes an impact. Regardless of whether you care about her latest performance or haircut or provocative, eyebrow-raising declaration to the press, it's likely you'll have heard about it. In part, that's owing to her affinity for ever-media-friendly shock, delivered in the form of a raunchy, nudity-filled music video; a raunchy, nudity-filled photo shoot with photographer Terry Richardson; and a raunchy awards show performance that likely would have contained some nudity had it been allowed. It did, however, contain a foam finger and a latex bodysuit. And a tongue that was a performer of its own.

Shocking behavior isn't uncommon in the entertainment industry, and especially in music. Shock, like sex, sells. But it's quite possible Cyrus isn't selling just shock, and albums. She's also selling drugs.

Earlier this year, Miley ended months of speculation that one of her song lyrics referred to "Molly," the nickname for psychedelic drug MDMA, or a form of Ecstasy. When she was asked if she was referring to her own name or the drug Molly in the song "We Can't Stop," she told The Daily Mail, "If you're aged 10, it's 'Miley.' If you know what I'm talking about, then you know."

In September, she offered a second endorsement, telling Rolling Stone that marijuana and Molly are "happy drugs -- social drugs. They make you want to be with friends."

Miley smokes a joint on MTV awards show
Miley Cyrus sings with lip-synching cat
Miley Effect: Bright idea or fallen star?

What effect might the former Disney star's drug advocacy have on the legions of tween and teen fans who follow her every move?

A 2008 study looking at the influence of technology, media and pop culture on criminal behavior concluded that while young people are influenced by pop culture, and more so than adults, it was difficult to empirically study the cause and effect of pop culture on their behavior.

And certainly, the glorification of vice in music is not at the hands of Miley Cyrus alone: A 2008 study out of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that 33% of the top 300 songs on the top of the Billboard charts portrayed drug or alcohol use -- an increasing number of them pop songs -- which means that kids receive about 35 references to substance abuse for every hour of music they listen to.

That said, what we do know: Exposure to excessive violence in video games can increase aggressive attitudes, behaviors and values, particularly in children. And adolescent exposure to music, a powerful social force often linked to identity, memories and mood, is much more frequent than it is to any other form of pop culture.

According to the Pittsburgh School of Medicine study, most teens listen to an average of 16 hours each week of music, compared with about six hours each week for movies. Perhaps more than any other entertainment medium, the study authors wrote, "music is well known to connect deeply with adolescents and to influence identity development."

And so it's hard not to argue that Molly is likely reaping the benefits. The numbers are there: A 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 12.4% of Americans between 18 and 25 had experimented with MDMA, while a report released last week by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration stated that emergency room visits related to MDMA increased 128% between 2005 and 2011 among people younger than 21.

"Everyone wants to try it," a recent Teen Vogue article quoted a 19-year-old named Samantha as saying, and indeed many are: In recent months, there were multiple suspected MDMA-related deaths and hospitalizations reported along the East Coast, and in October, MDMA was linked to 10 Chicago-area deaths.

Music might not make kids do drugs. But it's naïve to think that music isn't having an impact on kids' behavior and perception -- and that all this attention Cyrus is getting isn't teaching them something about what it takes to get noticed. (Meanwhile, all the attention MDMA is getting will, naturally, serve to pique curiosity.)

Cyrus is an adult. She can sing about and ingest whatever she wants -- but naming her a Person of the Year? Well, it's a tough pill to swallow. Unless, of course, you're a drug named Molly.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Peggy Drexler.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT