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The “Magic” Fishscale Cut: Boric Acid in Cocaine

The illicit drug trade is fraught with dangerous practices, one of which is the addition of adulterants to bulk up the product and increase profits. One such substance that has been used in cocaine is boric acid. This addition is particularly concerning because it can introduce a host of health risks. But why is boric acid used, and how can it be detected?

The picture shows magic boric acid “fishscale” cut. Pure boric acid flakes are distinguishable from cocaine, but when mixed together in smaller amounts it is impossible to spot them.

Why Boric Acid?

Boric acid is chosen as an adulterant for cocaine primarily because of its physical properties. Cocaine, in its pure form, often has a shiny, pearlescent quality, reminiscent of fish scales. Boric acid, when ground finely, also possesses a similar sheen, making it an attractive option for unscrupulous dealers looking to pass off diluted cocaine as pure. The visual similarity can deceive users and law enforcement, making it a stealthy and effective adulterant.

Boric acid is white, has no smell, and tastes very slightly bitter and sour. This subtleness means it is easily overpowered by anything else in the mixture.

Detecting Boric Acid in Cocaine

Detecting boric acid in cocaine can be challenging but not impossible. One simple method hinges on the solubility differences between the two substances. Cocaine is highly soluble in water, whereas boric acid is not. Here’s how this principle can be applied:

Solubility Test:

  • Measure out 1 gram of the sample. You can use our precision laboratory scales for this.
  • Attempt to dissolve it in 5 g (5 mL) of water at room temperature. If the substance dissolves easily with agitation within 10 minutes, it indicates there is little or no boric acid. However, if the substance does not dissolve completely, boric acid might be present.
  • To further test for boric acid, microwave the liquid in an open container for 10 seconds and agitate the solution.
    If there is less than 0.75 g boric acid in your 1g sample then the boric acid will slowly dissolve in 5 mL of hot water.
  • Allow the solution to cool in a fridge for 30 minutes.
    Cocaine will stay dissolved, but boric acid will “precipitate” and make the solution cloudy, then sink to the bottom as a sediment.

Removing Boric Acid from Cocaine

  • You can decant the water into another container, leaving the sediment behind. The water can be evaporated on a plate with a fan.
  • The residue on the plate will contain any cocaine and water soluble drugs and cuts such as benzocaine, MDPVP, 3‑MMC, and amphetamine. To detect other cutting agents, you will need a home cocaine testing multipack or a lab test.

The picture shows 0.5g boric acid sediment in 10mL of water.

Advanced notes:

  • (Caffeine will also precipitate in cold water, but it forms larger clumps of fluffy crystals and struggles to sink.)
  • (Cellulose binder from crushed pills and calcium carbonate will never dissolve.)

Chemical Testing

Home reagent tests like the marquis reagent don’t change colour for boric acid, but they do detect a huge range of other molecules. They are designed to detect the presence of other drugs that present a serious risk but also detect other cutting agents.
You can see the different colours that other chemicals go here: Instructions for Using Reagent Tests

Health Risks

It’s important to highlight the health risks associated with the use of boric acid in cocaine. Boric acid is not meant for human consumption and can cause a range of adverse effects, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin irritation

With high doses or regular consumption, boric acid poisoning can lead to more serious health issues such as renal failure, seizures, and even death. This makes the practice of cutting cocaine with boric acid particularly dangerous and underscores the importance of awareness and testing.

If you are regularly consuming diluted cocaine and change to a supplier offering high purity, you could overdose from your normal dosage. Keep in mind that cocaine itself has health risks. Even when it is completely pure, cocaine disrupts the rhythm of the heart, prevents sleep (leading to temporary psychosis) and damages delicate tissues such as in the nose and gums. Use a saline spray after using cocaine to reduce the damage it does in the nose.

Reagent test results for boric acid

Note that the mandelin reagent is naturally yellow. None of the reagents show a change in colour.

Substance testedName of reagentColour change after 60-120 seconds
Boric acidMarquisNo colour change
Boric acidFroehdeNo colour change
Boric acidLiebermannNo colour change
Boric acidMandelinNo colour change
Boric acidMeckeNo colour change
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What is pink tusi, aka pink tusibi, aka pink cocaine?

Pink tusi is a strange phenomenon. Despite having a name that appears to be deliberately confusing it with the psychedelic drug 2C-B, it has nothing in common with it, either effects or chemistry.

Photo credit:

What makes pink tusi even stranger is that it’s composition changes every time, the only thing that doesn’t change is the pink dye. Pink tusi is a mixture of drugs depending on who’s making it, which usually contains at least two of: caffeine, ketamine, MDMA and of course the famous pink dye. In rarer cases it has also contained cocaine, methamphetamine or stimulants from the cathinone class. Ketamine is the second most common ingredient after pink dye.

Analysis results recorded by show the strange selection of drugs that pink tusi can contain.

Why is pink tusi so popular?

So, why is this strange mixture of drugs so popular? There are many theories but one is that people actually enjoy ketamine more when they take less! By mixing it with caffeine or MDMA they have mild effects from both drugs that feel quite different to any experience they have had before, so this makes it more enjoyable than accidentally taking too much ketamine and ending up in a K-hole.

Should I take pink tusi?

Image credit:

If it’s just a mixture of ketamine and pink dye, does that mean that a person who enjoys ketamine would enjoy it? Perhaps they would enjoy that mixture, but we can never know what a drug is by looking at it or by knowing what colour it is. The mixture could easily contain anything at all, including something you don’t want to take.

As always, it’s critical to test your drugs before you consume them, to be sure you know what you’re actually taking. Besides, it’s better not to support dealers that conceal the truth about what it is they are selling.

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Your MDMA does not contain methylone, even if your test says it does. Here’s how we know.

Some suppliers of reagent tests provide reaction charts which show methylone as a possiblity. Often, it is the only yellow option on the chart for the marquis reagent. If the only reagent used is the marquis reagent then it’s reasonable that a person would assume they have methylone. This is a dangerous assumption because in 2021, it’s not methylone. You can get the kit to prove this here, but read below to understand exactly why it’s so unlikely.

It is very unlikely because methylone:

  • is banned at UN level (so no legal lab would produce it, same penalties as MDMA for illegal labs),
  • is not easier to make than MDMA,
  • demands lower prices in bulk,
  • sells for higher prices to the niche enthusiasts, it is quite sought after. So if you are a small lab producing small amounts you could get more money by selling it as methylone,
  • is less potent than MDMA so you need to smuggle larger volumes of drug,
  • has not really been seen on the market since 2016, it’s very rare.

If it was methylone (very unlikely) then methylone is very similar risk to MDMA but with less lovey effects and much shorter duration. The whole reason we take issue with this misleading reaction chart is because people might take this substance thinking it’s methylone and that they are happy with the risks being similar to that of MDMA itself.

So what are these substances if methylone is so unlikely, and how can we be sure?

N-ethylpentylone and eutylone are more common now and much more likely to be the culprits here because:

  • They’re quite potent, so easier to smuggle and cheaper to make
  • They’re not scheduled globally, so grey-market labs in asia can produce legally at huge scale (N-ethylpentylone was scheduled in 2020, so this only applies to eutylone now)
  • They also have very similar appearance to MDMA in crystal form (many drugs do, to be fair)
  • They are very commonly seen on the market since around 2018 when more desirable drugs were banned
  • They have the same yellow reaction with the marquis reagent (but can be very easily distinguished with the froehde reagent. This is one great reason why it’s always essential to test with more than one reagent)

We wrote an article on detecting N-ethylpentylone in 2018 because it was so common and causing so many problems.

The problem with these nasty compounds is that they lull people into a false sense of security because they feels kind of adequate enough at first, enough to make someone think they just have “rubbish MDMA”. The good effects last about 2 hours, so people take more.

But each redose adds about 6 hours onto the time a person can’t sleep for, so party for 10 hours and then can’t sleep for 30 hours after that. The mixture of residual dopamine release and insomnia then has the ability to cause intense paranoia and anxiety and in vulnerable people (about 1 in 20 cases, particularly at festivals where people dose 2 nights in a row) that develops into temporary psychosis which doesn’t subside until the person can sleep. This often requires medical intervention.

So what’s the solution to this? Always test with more than one reagent. It massively increases confidence in the accuracy of the result and completely avoids this confusing situation.

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Dangerous pink Tesla 2C-B tablets containing DOC instead

The Trimbos Institute in The Netherlands have issued a Red Alert about a batch of pink tesla pills. The pills were sold as containing a psychedelic drug called 2C-B. Instead, these pills contain DOC.

DOC has a duration of 24 hours and the pills contain a very high dose of this drug. The effects take 2-3 hours to kick in, so if a person took more because they “were not working” then the effects would be very dangerous.

  • DOC causes long (24h) trips.
  • One pill from this batch is a large dose, so the trip would be intense and overwhelming.
  • It can take 2-3 hours to notice the effects
  • Some people have already been hospitalised by these tablets
  • If you take these tablets and experience intense negative effects then you can call for medical attention.

We consider this to be good advice because of the strength of the dose in the tablets. Trimbos issue 1-2 red alerts per year. This is an extremely serious alert and should be spread very widely because the risk is very high.

Tesla tablets are a popular design that have been in circulation since around 2014. They normally contain the drug MDMA (sometimes called “ecstasy” when in tablet form). Since it is easy to make a tablet it is possible for a producer to put any drug in these, and we have seen this in the past.

DOC in tablets is easy to detect using the mecke reagent. MDMA turns blue/black. 2C-B turns yellow. DOC turns green/brown.

The easiest way to prevent risk from drugs is not to take them, but if you do take them then testing is the fast way to avoid situations like this.

Some people do take DOC on purpose – it is a strong psychedelic drug. The dose needs to be controlled carefully and there needs to be enough time for the experience (24 hours).

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How to extract and test a gelatine LSD tab (geltabs) with reagents


LSD is a highly potent psychedelic drug, with a teaspoon of crystals (3g) providing enough for 30,000 doses. It’s normal for the potency of different drugs to be different and there are many pharmaceuticals with this kind of potency. What’s difficult is that home equipment cannot easily measure out the 100 micrograms required for a dose.

To address this, LSD is distributed in pre-measured form. Dissolved in liquid (1 dose per drop) or soaked into blotter paper (1 dose per 5mm square). Less common is to stir the LSD into gelatin, then pour it out to set. The gelatin can be broken off in squares which represent one dose.

The problem is, gelatine can react directly with reagent test to give confusing results. This means we have to separate the LSD from the gelatine. Luckily, this process is very easy, simply requiring chlorine-free water to extract the LSD.

Boiling water sterilises it and removes any chlorine that could damage the LSD, and gelatine doesn’t dissolve well into it.


You will need:

  • Recently boiled water that has cooled below 80*C
  • Something to manipulate the water like a syringe, pipette or even a teaspoon
  • A geltab
  • A small container to dissolve the geltab in, such as a shot glass
  • Absorbent paper, cut into a 1cm x 1cm square


  1. Boil the water and start cooling
  2. Dip the container into the water to pre-heat it, then take it out
  3. Put the geltab into the container
  4. Add half a teaspoon of the water (1 mL).
  5. The mixture must be at least 40*C for at least 5 minutes.
  6. Cover the container
  7. Allow to soak for 24 hours
  8. Place the paper square on the side of the container, half in the water and half out.
  9. Leave the container un-covered to evaporate. The water will migrate into the paper, carrying the active chemicals with it.
  10. You can now treat the paper like a normal piece of blotter, so cut off a quarter and place the test granules on top.
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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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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.

The hofmann reagent can also be used for testing DMT and should only go yellow for pure DMT. Because the hofmann reagent is very sensitive to similar compounds from plants, it can be impractical for testing plant-derived DMT where there are usually strong green (from 5-MeO-DMT) and orange (from gramine) tones also present.