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Fluorination treatment for extension of reagent test shelf life

Reagent Tests UK has always been committed to making products that people love to use. From the very start, the goal was to run the type of company that people love to do business with, due to the buying experience but also the quality of the products.

While colorimetric laboratory tests have existed for over 100 years, the practise of reagent testing drugs is relatively new and until 2010 there were very few suppliers. Accordingly, there is a relatively small population of knowledgeable people who know about the tests and there are still many improvements to be made in terms of the consumer products.

Given that reagent tests need to undergo a chemical reaction in 1-3 minutes, it’s not surprising that they are highly reactive chemicals. While this makes them very convenient and fast to use, it also means they can react with things that we would prefer them not to. We have used glass bottles for our products since the beginning because even unreactive polyethylene plastic accelerates the degradation of reagents, through slight permeability as well as direct reaction with the reagents themselves.

The plastic at the bottom of this dropper has permanently discoloured due to reaction with the reagent.

However, glass is a hard material to shape and as a result we have always used plastic dropper tips, meaning that a small amount of plastic does still come into contact with the product. This is minimised by storing upright, but still has an effect.

As we’ve grown we’ve looked for ways to improve our products and in late 2018 we had the idea to try making the plastic droppers more chemical resistant using fluorine treatment. We were delighted to find that the treatment increased the shelf life of reagents by 20-40% without any other impact on performance, and started selling reagents in fluorinated bottles in 2019.

The marquis reagent stored for 5 months at room temperature.
The bottle on the left was fluorine treated and has discoloured much less.

Why make this public?

Of course, it’s difficult to claim that your products have a markedly longer shelf life without telling anyone why. We are really proud of our products and naturally we want to be able to show off their quality, so the time has come to reveal another reason why our customers can be happy they chose to buy from us.

Even when we’re not shouting about it, our products are being developed and improved, and this is one of the things that makes it so easy to be proud of our products and easy for our customers to know that they are getting the best value.

As of August, we’re pushing ahead with our next innovation and we know that we only serve some of the thousands who use colorimetric tests worldwide. We believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, and if every testing product is better then testing will slowly start to spread beyond the knowledgeable core of users that currently exist. This in turn will help Reagent Tests UK even if not everyone buys from us and importantly it helps all the people who rely on the results of the fantastic technology that is reagent testing.

Maybe this doesn’t revolutionise the whole scene but short shelf lives are definitely disappointing to customers so we urge our kindred spirits running other companies to investigate fluorinating their bottles, particularly where they are using plastic bottles and droppers.

Technical Notes

We opted for the maximum level of fluorination available. The lowest level did not produce good improvements in shelf life.

Interestingly, the actual plastic itself had an uneven pattern with the mecke reagent (which shows the worst discolouration of all reagents) and although the shelf life was massively improved, the plastic itself seemed almost worse.

The fluorinated dropper is shown on the right in this photo. The plastic displays an uneven pattern after exposure to the mecke reagent.

Written by Guy Jones, MChem

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Why it’s difficult to test 6-APB and find the right dose.

This is a guest post by the pseudonymous Reddit contributor “Borax”

6-APB is an “empathogenic” (empathy-generating) drug which is structurally related to MDMA. It has very similar effects to MDMA but is often said to have a more psychedelic headspace, with a slightly more intoxicated feeling and a different perspective compared to the relative clarity of the MDMA headspace in doses around 100mg. The duration of 6-APB is a little longer than MDMA at around 6-8 hours compared to 5-6 hours.

The dosage, however, is much harder to sum up in a single sentence. 6-APB has a curious history that shines some light on its chemical variability and helps us to uncover ways to reduce the risk when consuming it.

A summary of this article:

  1. 6-APB can contain a lot of the inactive isomer 4-APB
  2. 6-APB can come in two different forms, one of which contains less molecules of 6-APB in each gram
  3. One form takes longer to dissolve in the stomach and can therefore trick people into taking more before they are feeling the full effects
  4. The same form is likely to contain a chemical left over from production. It’s thousands of times less dangerous than 6-APB and therefore not concerning but it also reduces the number of 6-APB molecules present in a powder.

It’s not possible to tell how many molecules of 6-APB are present in a particular batch without using a lab test. Therefore if you are considering taking 6-APB then you need to start with a low dose and work up over a few sessions, you must not jump in and start with a dose you have read online because you don’t know how potent your batch could be. People with the strongest form of 6-APB in high purity seem to take 70-90mg even when they are experienced.

Why does all of this happen with 6-APB but not other drugs?

The sale of 6-APB was first announced online in early-summer 2010 under the brand name “Benzo Fury” but it was not actually made available until the autumn after the release date of a full sized batch was repeatedly pushed back for undisclosed reasons. When it was finally released, early adopters commented that the appearance was more floury, not crystalline and that the effects took longer to kick in but but with everything else behaving as it should there wasn’t much concern over this.

It’s taken a few years to uncover a plausible explanation for this but 9 years later we have two major contributing factors to work with that help explain what might be happening.

The presence of isomers of 6-APB in the sample.

Using 6-bromobenzofuran as an easy intermediate for the production is ideal for vendors focused on their profit margins but isn’t so good for the consumers who might be willing to pay a bit more for a higher purity product. Bromination of benzofuran in the 6 position has a tendency to produce reasonable amounts of 4-Br-benzofuran.[1]

If producers don’t make the effort to remove these then the end product can have 4-APB present which has minimal pharmacological activity, and indeed this was regularly reported by analysis services when 6-APB at its peak popularity.[2][3]

The big difference between the two different “forms” of 6-APB (hydrochloride and succinate)

6-APB is basic, so has a high pH in its natural form. This means it can react with acids to neutralise them and form a salt. Just like sodium can react with different acids to give different salts (sodium chloride or sodium bicarbonate for example), so too can 6-APB.

Most basic drugs are reacted with hydrochloric acid for a number of reasons which could be simplified to “it’s cheap and easy to make salt crystals with” and this is usually the preferred form for most people. For MDMA crystals the hydrochloride component is so ubiquitous that most people just forget about it and scientists debate whether that’s OK.

With 6-APB it’s not so easy. For some reason 6-APB isn’t easy to crystallise with hydrochloric acid and it causes problems for bulk producers. While producing a higher purity product can sometimes circumvent these issues it was not the route that producers selected and instead they chose to start using succinic acid instead.

There is an immediate issue here; the succinic acid molecule is very big and heavy. In the best case, where we could have two molecules per 6-APB molecule, the hydrochloric acid form contains 10% more molecules of 6-APB per gram. In the worst case scenario that rises to 39%, as it could be necessary to have as much as a 1:1 ratio of succinic acid to 6-APB before we get a manageable solid form.

Succinate salts aren’t as easy to dissolve

This one is fairly self explanatory. Before a drug can be absorbed into the gut it has to dissolve into the stomach or mucus contents. If it takes a long time to dissolve then it takes a long time to be absorbed. Slowing the absorption delays the peak and some people report no effects for 1-2 hours. This is uncommon among drugs and can cause people to take more even though they don’t need to.

Succinic acid gets left behind by producers

One of the reasons that hydrochloric acid is preferred is because it is a gas when it is completely dry. This means that producers can bake something like MDMA hydrochloride in an oven and all the remaining hydrochloric acid evaporates with the last of the water.

Succinic acid isn’t so easy and its normal form is a powdery solid or crystal. This means that if a producer adds too much then it’s lots of work to remove. We don’t know why (time = money perhaps) but they don’t always do this work and batches with even lower potency than is theoretically reasonable have been found.

What does all this mean for me?

You might have noticed that a big theme in these is “uncertainty” and I think that’s a fair take-away. The hydrochloride form should be more consistent but vendors aren’t always honest about which form they sell, assuming they know at all.

The only way to bypass these issues is to get a laboratory purity test from an organisation like Energy Control International. If you don’t have access to that then you can verify that you actually have some 6-APB using the marquis reagent test and from there you need to work your way upwards slowly if you’re comfortable with the risk of taking it.

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Pill Report: Superman ecstasy tablet containing PMMA [Alert]

Find out about the fatal effects of PMMA at the end of the article.

The Superman logo tablet has a long history of use for ecstasy which is surprising considering that there have been a number of batches containing extremely dangerous adulterants. You would think that its reputation would stop anybody wanting to buy it ever again but it’s 2019 and there is another deadly Superman ecstasy pill on the market.

The 2019 pills are orange and have a slightly thinner “S”. This is not surprising because the way that pills look does not tell us anything inside them. This orange superman tablet was detected multiple times at the Boomtown 2019 music festival. It is very likely to be sold on the wider market. The only way to know the contents of a pill is to test them.

Photo Credit: The Loop / Sam De Neijs

How to test ecstasy tablets

Testing any recreational drug to get an idea of the contents is easy and can be done at home. All you need is a tiny scraping of a tablet or a crystal the size of a grain of sand.

Adding one drop of a reagent test liquid to this will give a colour change, and that colour change tells us what might be (or importantly, might not be) present.

PMMA reacts very differently to MDMA, so these pills would be very easy to tell apart from a pill with MDMA in it.

Type of home MDMA testTest result for PMA and PMMA
Marquis ReagentNo colour change
Froehde ReagentPale blue
Mandelin ReagentBrown
Liebermann ReagentPurple-brown
Mecke ReagentGreen

It is necessary to use more than one test on each sample to reduce the chance of confusion. For example, if you only used the liebermann reagent then paracetamol and PMMA have the same purple-brown colour change. If you use the mecke reagent as well then the difference is immediately obvious because mecke would not change colour for paracetamol.

What is PMMA?

PMMA is a terrible drug for a few reasons

  • High doses totally disable serotonin regulation causing the brain and body to fatally overheat
  • The effects take a long time to fully kick in, so people take extra before the first dose has taken effect
  • The desirable effects are similar to weak MDMA, a feeling of warmth and energy
  • The overheating effects become dangerous before the desirable effects become like a full dose of MDMA

You will notice that all of these factors are things that make people think they have a real MDMA-containing ecstasy pill based on the effects, so they take more, but become fatal after a short time.

The last time we wrote about superman pills was in 2016, when they also contained PMMA. Prior to that, a batch of superman pills containing PMMA killed four people in the UK in 2014 after the government refused to issue a warning, despite knowing the dangers of PMMA from batches in previous years.

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Pill Report: Red Bull ecstasy pill containing N-ethylpentylone [Alert]

The DrugsData lab run by Erowid has tested this Red Bull tablet from Texas which has the bull logo on one side and “Red Buli” written on the back. There is a breakline and the pill is coloured red. The lab reports the pill does NOT contain MDMA but instead an unknown amount of a drug called “N-ethyl-pentylone“.

Notice the “Bull” actually says “Buli” with the letter i instead of letter l

The tablet appears to be very well-made. This pill has fine details visible, a slight sheen on the surface and no crumbling. This is quite unusual for a pill with no MDMA, which tend to be much lower quality.

Testing Pills

This sample was tested by who will run a full lab test on ecstasy tablets for $40 US Dollars per whole tablet (100 USD for partial tablets). You can also test pills and other drugs at home using reagent tests. These use a small piece of the pill to give a fast result to alert you if there is no MDMA in a pill. Reagent tests cost around £20 for a pack which lasts for 30 samples.

The picture below shows a test result for N-ethylpentylone. MDMA gives a result of purple/purple/blue, you can see this is VERY different to the sample results from the photo.

N-ethylpentylone has VERY different test results to MDMA

Effects of N-ethylpentylone

N-Ethylpentylone is a fairly unpleasant drug because it initially has similar effects to MDMA – stimulation, energy and sociability. Some people do get extremely anxious depending on the dosage, but most have fairly normal effects. These enjoyable effects only last about 2 hours though, so people think they are coming down a bit early.

The big problems start when they don’t want the party to stop so they take some more. Drugs in this class are known to be very more-ish, making people want to keep chasing a high even if they know that the effects aren’t what they should be.

As a rule of thumb, each time someone takes another dose of N-ethylpentylone they will be unable to sleep for an additional 6 hours. If they are partying for 8 hours and they have to take more every 2 hours that’s an extra 24 hours after the party that they cannot sleep.

With a stimulant on board messing with dopamine and no sleep for 2 nights in a row the brain starts to literally go crazy and most people experience horrible anxiety with physical symptoms. More vulnerable people experience panic attacks, paranoia and in cases where people cannot sleep for more than 2 nights, temporary psychosis can emerge.

What to do if you can’t sleep after taking ecstasy

It’s a truly horrible experience for those who go through it but the good news is that as soon as someone sleeps the effects start to reduce massively. Doctors should prescribe a benzodiazepine (like valium), not an antipsychotic. This is because antipsychotics can have severe interactions leading to fatal heart problems when combined with N-ethylpentylone.[1][2]

Advice for people who cannot sleep after taking substances sold as MDMA

Remember, it’s the drug, not you. As soon as you have slept you will start to feel normal. We wrote the advice sheet above in partnership with The Loop in 2018.

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Which reagent tests should be used for DXM?

DXM is a dissociative drug (in the same family as ketamine) which also has activity in the serotonin system. It is most popular in the US as it is readily found in some cough medicines but is also found as a white powder in other places.

Cough syrup cannot be tested with reagents because it contains a number of other chemicals such as water, sugars and colourings. Fortunately it is a legal product and also tends to have an ingredients list to warn about dangerous additives like chlorpheniramine and paracetamol (AKA acetaminophen in the US).

DXM reacts with reagent tests as follows. Slow reactions can be a bit confusing so we would recommend a minimum of two reagents but ideally three or more.
As an aside, reagent tests do not give “purity” readings but they do detect substitution and often adulteration, too.

ReagentTest Result
MarquisGray > Black (slow)
LiebermannPurple > Black
FroehdeBright Yellow
MandelinGreen > Pale Blue (Fast)

The plus side of a slow reaction is that if a fast reaction to a different colour happens while you are waiting, you know that there is something else present.

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Which reagent test kit is suitable for testing DMT?

The MDMA & Psychedelics Multipack is the best option for testing DMT. It contains the ehrlich reagent which is a “binary test” for the presence of compounds in the DMT family (technical term: indole-containing substances). If it stays clear then there is no DMT present in the sample.

If the ehrlich reagent goes purple then you can corroborate with other tests as follows:

Reagent TestReaction with pure DMT
MarquisOrange > Brown
MeckeYellow > V. Dark Green
FroehdeNo change

If the froehde reagent changes colour then you know that other compounds are present.

One of the challenges with drugs from plant origins is that plants contain many compounds and these are extracted by the same process. This makes it very hard to tell if any “other chemical” is from the plant or if it has been added by the person making or selling the compound. We recommend that the Best Practice is to discard any drug which has any reaction not compatible with the pure form of the expected substance.

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Pill Report: Philipp Plein (qp Skull) ecstasy pill [Alert]

The notorious hexagonal Philipp Plein pill, aka PP Skull or QP Skull has been around since July 2017 where it was first detected in Austria by Checkit! and was a gold pill with 225mg of MDMA. It’s 2019 now and that is no longer reality, as a recent detection in Austria has found the Philipp Plein skull tablets containing 4-FMA, a completely different drug.

Although the colour of this batch is pink, the colour comes from a dye and doesn’t indicate what’s in the tablet. Many different colours of this pill have been produced, and it was one of the most common pills in europe in 2018.

Image credit: April 2019 Alerts

It’s easy to tell if a tablet contains 4-FMA instead of MDMA because the marquis and froehde reagent give no colour change, compared to the (extremely strong) purple/black colour they give with MDMA. The test takes about 60 seconds for each reagent and allows people to test for many different drugs in their own home.

As is so often the case with ecstasy tablets, the first batch isn’t in circulation for long, as the first producer runs out and other producers figure out how to copy the design so that they can make their own tablets for less money, allowing them to make more profit.

In many cases over the last few years, this re-pressing of tablets has just meant putting less MDMA into the tablets but this is an unregulated market and that means some of the most unscrupulous sellers may choose to put a different drug altogether, which means that people may grossly misjudge the risks that they are being exposed to.

4-FMA is a much longer-lasting stimulant but is often described as having extremely disappointing effects because it does not produce the empathy and energy that MDMA produces, even at high doses. What it does do though, is prevent sleep for 8+ hours, which is longer than the 4-6 hours of MDMA and could cause problems for people who need to sleep for their health after a weekend of partying which might be very taxing on the body.

The two tablets analysed contain 45 and 55mg of 4-FMA respectively, which is a fairly low dose of 4-FMA since it is more often taken around 100mg. It does take a long time to kick in, often around an hour, so if someone does take this tablet then they should be careful not to take more because they think “it’s not working”, especially since a second tablet could push the dose to be excessive for their personal body characteristics.

Reagent Tests UK makes tests for common drugs to help reduce the risks associated with taking them. Even though drug use is never safe, we can neuter some of the worst risks by testing and using other harm reduction techniques. You can get a test for MDMA here.

One of the other most important techniques is education about the substance being taken. Understanding the risks can have a huge impact on the ability to control them. Even pure MDMA has plenty of risks, but there are lots of resources online which go into depth about these. Some good resources for drugs information can be found here:

Thank you also to for preparing the photos. EcstasyData offer lab testing of tablets and powders which are sent in the post.

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UPS ecstasy pills with high doses of dangerous “alpha-PVP” hospitalise three people

White UPS ecstasy pills containing alpha-PVP from Manchester, UK

The pills are described as “badly made”. Read the history below for more information about why this might be. It is also possible that they are well made but have been exposed to moisture, which causes them to be crumble. Although this batch is known to be dangerous, it does not mean that batches which do not look like this will be less dangerous. You can determine if a pill contains a different drug instead of MDMA using Reagent Tests. It takes about 2 minutes and does not need special equipment. Each of the kits can be used for up to 40 tests.

Alpha-PVP is a long-lasting cathinone. It initially has pleasurable effects which lead people to think it is MDMA but these wear off quickly, causing people to take more. As more is taken, the anxious side effects build up. Each dose increases the time which a person will be unable to sleep for by about 6 hours. This is a severe problem as dosing through a whole party can prevent sleep for several days.

During this time the person will develop symptoms of severe sleep deprivation such as horrible anxiety, paranoia and eventually temporary psychosis. If you are suffering these effects then it is important to get sleep. See a doctor and show them this Reagent Tests UK blog, or this information from The Loop.

These pills contain 7-8x the normal dose of alpha-PVP which will massively increase the risks. As a stimulant, doses like this could cause a risk of heart complications as well as the other side effects. Carry on reading the blog post for more information about UPS pills and alpha PVP.

The history of UPS ecstasy tablets

UPS ecstasy tablets have been popular for a long time. They were among the first very high strength tablets to emerge in the 2010s and quickly obtained a reputation as being well made tablets with a large amount of MDMA in them. MDMA is the active ingredient that is supposed to be in all ecstasy tablets and people who use ecstasy pills will be seeking out those which contain only MDMA.

The market for MDMA tablets is, of course, completely unregulated and uncontrolled and there is nothing to stop sellers from being dishonest. Counterfeit tablets quickly begin to appear after a tablet gains a good reputation as less scrupulous manufacturers try to use the popularity to sell their own pills which might be weaker, may contain no MDMA or may even contain a completely different and potentially much more dangerous drug.

Compounding this issue is the ease with which pressing equipment for pills can be obtained. Ten minutes searching online easily reveals sellers of “tablet dies”, the moulds use to press tablet material into a tablet, for around £50.

So it doesn’t take much time or money for a pill to be cloned, and once it’s cloned the colour, shape and logo of an ecstasy tablet from someone else’s pill report tell us nothing about what’s in it. It’s impossible to tell from visual appearance if the pill is from a different batch, maybe even from a different manufacturer.

UPS pills are no different. The first test result on is from May 2015. Within 8 months there is a clone which contains a mixture of drugs including caffeine and methamphetamine (“crystal meth”). Fast forward to 2019 and the original batch of UPS pills are long gone. Even half sensible manufacturers will not make UPS pills because they know that the reputation has been ruined by pill reports of bad UPS pills. The only manufacturers remaining are the most amateur available, looking to make some quick cash as easily as possible.


In the third week of January 2019 three teenage boys were taken to hospital in Manchester, UK with severe symptoms, one of which was put into an induced coma due to the risk. They had all taken “UPS” ecstasy tablets, thinking that they would contain MDMA. After police were able to submit the tablets for testing, they turned out to contain a completely different drug called “alpha-PVP”.

The lab was not able to determine the exact amount in the tablets but it is thought to be 7-8x a typical dose, which is a huge amount. Even drinking 7-8 cups of coffee in one go would cause problems, especially for a teenager.

What is Alpha PVP?

Alpha PVP is a stimulant from the cathinone family. While this family includes mephedrone, it is a very distant relative of mephedrone itself and has much higher risks attached. Alpha-PVP has been called “flakka” and “gravel” by media in the US but there is no evidence to suggest that people using the drug call it this.

Stimulants activate the body’s reward system to create a sense of wellbeing and make people talkative, and alter how the body manages alertness and rest, causing people to feel energetic and prevent sleep. They also significantly increase blood pressure, heart rate and cause sweating. In high doses, side effects become much more pronounced and the body finds it harder to excrete the drug out through its normal mechanisms. This is especially true with cathinones like alpha-PVP. Although the pleasurable effects last for about 2 hours, the drug lingers in fatty tissue for much longer. The more doses that are taken, the longer that the drug has a chance to build up and therefore the longer it is released back into the blood for, after people want the effects to stop.

People are tricked by the initial pleasurable effects of alpha-PVP into thinking they have just got “weak MDMA”. Not wanting the party to stop (and unknowingly compelled by the action of the drug on their reward system) they take some more. This cycle continues until the party is over, by which time the drug has been building up in the body for hours.

This becomes a huge problem as the drug prevents sleep, a vital recovery process for the body. Even without drugs, sleep deprivation can cause severe paranoia and temporary psychosis, but with a stimulant drug on board this happens MUCH faster. Coupled with the horrible comedown that cathinones cause, this can lead to intensely distressing and even very dangerous behaviour.

You can see the original warning issued by the Manchester Early Warning System here:

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How to detect pentylone and N-ethylpentylone sold as MDMA/ecstasy pills

N-ethyl-pentylone (aka BK-EBDP or Ephylone) has caused problems before where it has been sold as MDMA due to the identical visual appearance but this year has seen an increase in the number of cases detected and more alerts have been issued.

The Loop has now detected two batches of pills in the UK containing these closely related drugs, as well as a number of different batches of crystals.

The mis-selling of pentylone and its analogues is particularly insidious because the effects are initially quite similar to MDMA itself, but the empathogenic effects are not so pronounced and the euphoria fades more quickly. This leads people to redose, but redosing seems to disproportionately extend the time to clear the body and this makes sleep very difficult or impossible for up to 72 hours without further medication. This stimulated sleep deprivation is horrible at best, and multiple cases of temporary psychosis have been recorded.

N-ethylpentylone can be detected at home using reagent tests, it is very easy to tell apart from MDMA because instead of going black it goes yellow/green, orange and yellow with the reagents in the MDMA testing multipack. Occasionally, MDMA is mixed with another drug so it is recommended to visually separate different looking crystals in the batch and test them separately. You can see the test results at the end of this post, they are:

Type of reagent testTest result for pentylone
Marquis ReagentYellow
Froehde ReagentYellow>Green
Mecke ReagentOrange

Effects of pentylone and N-ethylpentylone:

  • Long time to feel effects
  • Not enjoyable after 2 hours
  • Unable to sleep for 1-3 days
  • Heart races for 1-2 days
  • Higher chance of vomiting than MDMA

If you think that you have taken MDMA then The Loop has written a guide on what to do which you can see here. This very useful information tells you what to do if you can’t sleep after taking MDMA.

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Is it actually possible to have an ecstasy tablet which contains MDMA, cocaine and ketamine?

North & West Devon police have issued a warning about “Darth Vader” tablets today, saying that “it is a dangerous mix of MDMA, ketamine and cocaine”. This is very surprising as ecstasydata has never recorded a single incident of pills with this combination of drugs over the last 15 years. After being asked, N&W Devon police reveal that the pills have not been lab tested.

Credit: N&W Devon Police

In the absence of any real knowledge, can we critically analyse the speculation about the contents?

MDMA is commonly distributed in tablets for a variety of reasons, namely the increased ease of dosing and ability for “brand recognition” to supposedly make it easier to identify fake pills with more dangerous contents. Unfortunately, with pill production equipment readily purchasable on Amazon, this is not an effective strategy. So the suggestion that there could be MDMA in these tablets is certainly plausible.

Cocaine however, is almost never seen in pills, and for very good reason. Cocaine contains two “ester” bonds in the molecule, which are very vulnerable to being broken down by water and acids. Since the stomach is a strongly acidic environment, when cocaine is eaten it starts being broken down immediately, and then gets passed to the liver which destroys more. This means the dose of cocaine required when taking it orally is much higher. In order to include a meaningful amount of cocaine in an ecstasy tablet would therefore massively increase the price of the tablet. As well as this, cocaine is a strong local anaesthetic (causes numbness) so any would-be user who put the pill into their mouth would immediately realise something unusual was afoot when their tongue started to go numb.

Ketamine is another drug which is almost never taken orally because it too is fragile, and easily dismantled by the liver. Since all blood from the stomach passes through the liver before going to the brain, this means that a lot is destroyed before it can affect the body. Coupled with the fact that absorption from the gut is much slower than the nose, this means a very high dose is needed to reach the same concentration in the brain. The outcome of this is that adding a meaningful amount of ketamine to a tablet would massively increase the size of the tablet.

Trying to add a meaningful amount of all three of these drugs to a tablet would likely result in an enormous tablet which was incredibly expensive and immediately identifiable as abnormal, even by black market standards.

So, is it possible? Yes. But is it likely that a pill containing this combination of drugs has been detected for the second time in 12 years? No. I would argue that any authority claiming to have discovered something very unusual should apply extra scrutiny to that discovery before announcing it to the public, and possibly consult with experts beforehand, at the very least to apply a sense-check.

With all this said, it is refreshing to see a police force sharing as much information as they can (good photos and suspected contents) in the interest of public health – I suspect that the damaging cuts to public services over the last 8 years have impacted the ability of the police to access experts at short notice within their budgets. Perhaps by waiting a few days for a test result confirmation could have meant more people falling victim to these tablets. Really what we should be calling for is the central government to provide funding for testing facilities that are more easily accessible.

Until then, home users can use simple reagent tests to alert themselves to cases where a different drug has been sold in place of the one they were expecting.