I’m in the back of a Lyft heading east across Los Angeles on the 110 and my heart is beating like a fucked clock. I feel like I’m coming up. I’m rushing so hard I have a sudden, overwhelming urge to start gibbering. The only other person in the car is the driver. I feel I should explain myself.
“Ever heard of a drug called Katy?” I say slightly too loud over his right shoulder, interrupting a story he’s telling. Something about hooking up with a drunk passenger.
“No, never,” he replies, shaking his blonde haystack of hair without taking his eyes off the road. “What is it?”
“Some guy claims he’s invented an all-natural herbal alternative to MDMA,” I tell him. “He calls it Katy. Katy instead of Molly, get it?”
“Yeah, I get it,” he says. He doesn’t seem amused. “Is it any good?”
“I don’t know yet,” I say. “I’m about to find out.”
Forty-five minutes earlier I was at home examining a blue plastic test tube that had arrived in the mail. Printed along the tube was a website address: “WWW.KATY.LOVE”. Underneath, in smaller lettering, it added: “EXPERIENCE ENHANCING SUPPLEMENTS”. That sounded promising, if vague. What sort of experience? What sort of enhancement?
There was no hairspray-on-the-tongue taste, so they were at least easier to swallow than real pills...
Inside the tube were four gel capsules containing layers of powder in various shades of beige. I’d bought the set online for $12.95 (plus $9.95 shipping), significantly cheaper than the going street rate for the equivalent amount of Molly. Plus, this stuff has the notable advantage of being perfectly legal and apparently safe.
Katy is the braindaughter of Mark Effinger, one of the founders of the company which produces it, Limitless Life. Effinger is a former body-builder who first got interested in the field of nootropics—supplements designed to improve your brain power—while working in PR. Limitless Life now offers a whole host of different pills and potions which promise everything from making you happier and sharper to helping you sleep better. Katy, however, is the only one that’s sold as a party drug. Its page on the Limitless Life site asks: “Are you looking for the ultimate experience without paying an extreme price?” Well, it would be rude to say no, wouldn’t it?
Inside each Katy capsule is a mix of kava, omniracetam, EGCG (an organic green tea extract), 5-HTP, guarana extract, grape seed extract, theobromine (organic cacao extract), and curcumin. The name 5-HTP will stand out of that barely comprehensible list to many habitual Molly users. It’s commonly used during comedowns to help replenish seriously depleted serotonin levels but I’ve never heard of anyone claiming it could get you high in the first place.
The main ingredient in Katy, kava, is a root crop grown in the Pacific Islands. By chance, I was in Fiji a couple of weeks ago and experienced kava as the islanders use it. They grind it and brew it in cold water before drinking it ceremonially from coconut husks at the end of a long day of work. Often that means a long day of farming kava. Culturally it functions as a social lubricant, much like going to a bar with your workmates. However, unlike booze, drinking kava offers nothing more than a mellow buzz. It made my lips tingle, but you’re unlikely to have one too many and end up entwined under a table with Janet from accounts.
Want to Party?
I was starting to have doubts but I am, after all, a professional, so I knocked a couple back. There was no hairspray-on-the-tongue taste, so they were at least easier to swallow than real pills—or the notion that this capsule of plant dust could replicate the divine highs of Molly without the soul-destroying comedowns.
Back in the Lyft, I can feel my heart settling back into its normal rhythm. When we arrive at the bar in Highland Park the music is loud, but I don’t feel it in my skin and in my chest the way you do on Molly. I make myself promise I won’t drink tonight, to ensure my experience is clean, but an hour later I crack and drink a beer while cursing Katy’s name. I came up only to come straight back down again. Nothing is happening.
The next week a friend is DJing downtown at The Lash, so I decide to give Katy one more chance. I double drop the two leftover capsules and soon I’m rushing again. Then, just as before, that initial burst evaporates into nothingness. My friend is playing "Extacy" by early '90s ravers Shades of Rhythm. I listen impassively. I am neither on nor in ecstasy.
If your favorite part of Molly is coming up but you’re not all that fussed about being high, Katy could well be the drug for you. It’s a narcotic cocktease. For me, it’s like doing the long, uphill crawl at the start of a rollercoaster and then just getting off at the top. There’s no looping freefall, and where’s the fun in that?