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 test
Test result for pentylone
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.
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.
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.
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 it’s rare in ecstasy pills.
It seems like a small pill producer has been duped by a bulk seller and bought a batch to make into pills which are currently being sold in the Balearic Islands and possibly elsewhere. The alert has been released by Energy Control who received the sample on 5th April 2018.
The tablets are white or yellow in the shape of a sheild with the Ferrari logo. The press quality appears quite poor and the images suggest the pills are not as hard as others on the market. It is likely that the manufacturer was trying to replicate other pills with this logo which have been sold at various times for the last six years.
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 36 hours without further medication. This stimulated sleep deprivation is horrible at best, and in some cases can even lead to temporary psychosis.
N-ethyl-pentylone 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.
Tesla MDMA tablets with no MDMA in them at all have been detected by Energy Control in Spain. They were bought on a Darknet Market. The tablets contain a different drug called 4-FA instead, and although the risks of 4-FA are similar to those of MDMA, the dosage in the pills (190mg) is very large compared to a normal dosage of 4-FA (120mg). Although this doesn’t seem like a huge increase, 4-FA has a lower safety margin in some people where it causes headaches and in some cases, has been linked to bleeding inside the brain. Reagent tests can alert you when a pill contains something instead of MDMA.
The pills in question are the orange tesla ecstasy tablets which are in the shape of a shield and have the Tesla logo on the front and a break-line on the back. There is at least one other orange tesla pill with exactly the same design, as well as a number of other tablets with almost identical designs, with some in different colours. Although they may be easy to tell apart if you have them side by side, trying to do it from photos is hard, and if a friend tells someone “the orange tesla pills I took contained MDMA” then of course, there is no chance of telling if you have the same ones.
4-FA is an abbreviation for 4-fluoroamphetamine, it is a stimulant drug derived from amphetamine by the simple addition of a fluorine atom. The effects are similar to MDMA and it is even preferred by some people due to the lighter effects. It causes an increase in energy and sociability as well as feelings of increased wellbeing. The sociable and euphoric effects are most prominent for the first 6 hours, but light stimulation can persist for 8 hours and some users may find it hard to sleep even when they feel like the effects have worn off. Like all drugs, 4-FA can cause negative side effects, and although the overheating issues are much less prominent than MDMA, they are still a key concern. Similar to other stimulants, 4-FA can cause significant anxiety and even panic attacks, especially during the onset and at high doses. Concerningly, a small number of people report severe headaches and it is thought that these people could be vulnerable to causing bleeding in the brain at high doses.
As with any pill, even if you think you know what’s in it you should always start with a small piece as a test dose, since even pure MDMA has significant risks and many pills contain very large doses.
Although we can’t tell if a pill contains 4-FA instead of MDMA by looking at it, they can be distinguished very easily using reagent tests. Reagent tests use a chemical mixture that react with drug molecules to create different types of dye molecule. The particular reagent used and the drug determine the colour of the dye, and so we can use the colour of the dye to see if the pill contains what we expect. If we get a colour we don’t expect then we know that the drug is not what we expect and therefore the risk is much higher than normal.
So we can see that by using the marquis reagent first, we can immediately raise the alarm if there is not a purple/black reaction. Using a second reagent helps give us confidence about the first result – three reagents is the recommended minimum. If the two compounds were mixed together (very thoroughly) then we would see a result as if we had mixed two powder paints – this is why it’s necessary to throw away a sample if the result is unusual. In many cases, substances are not mixed perfectly, so it’s even possible to see specks of one colour mixed in with the second colour. This is very useful if you have crystals that you can separate with tweezers.
Taking drugs is risky business – doctors have to spend so long in training because humans are complex and their reactions with drugs aren’t always easily predicted. Fortunately for doctors, prescription drugs are tightly regulated and in developed countries counterfeits are extremely rare – when you get 10 mg Ritalin tablets prescribed, you can be sure that each tablet will contain exactly 10.0 mg of Ritalin, and you’ll be able to get great advice from your doctor about the most effective way to take them. Unfortunately the recreational market has no regulation whatsoever – the government leaves quality control in the hands of criminal organisations, and they’ll sell whatever makes the most money for them. Unfortunately this often means that drugs are impure and in some cases they can be something else altogether, without a trace of the advertised ingredient inside. Without the ability to rely on Trading Standards to fix this, we have to take matters into our own hands. But without the multi-million labs used by government organisations, how are we supposed to do any real testing?
It’s true that testing at home isn’t as good as testing in a lab, but if we can identify when a sample has been mis-sold, then we have the chance to avoid the problems associated with not knowing what we’re taking and remove a lot of the potential for harm. And luckily for us, while detailed chemical analysis can be challenging, simply telling whether a white powder contains Molecule A or Molecule B can actually be very easy.
Reagent tests work by changing colour roughly based on the “functional groups” or types of atom in a molecule. If Molecule A has an oxygen double bonded to a carbon and molecule B does not, then it will give a different colour. Bingo. We usually use three different “reagents” because some molecules have similar groups inside them, and each reagent is sensitive to different groups.
The best part is that we don’t even need to know which bonds or groups a molecule has because we can just compare the colours we get to what we should expect for the compound we want. So at the end, we compare our three colours to a “reaction chart”, and if any of the colours don’t match then we know that we don’t have the molecule we expected.
Step 1 – Determine which drug you think you have.
If you don’t know what compound you’re expecting, you won’t know which colour change to expect.
Step 2 – Determine which reagents you need
Because different reagents work best with different drugs, it helps (but it is not essential) to match up the best reagent. At Reagent Tests UK we’ve named our multipacks according to which drug they are most suitable for, so this bit is done for you, but we’ll go into the science, in case you’re interested.
The MDMA testing multipack is a kit of three reagents selected for testing suspected MDMA. The marquis reagent is very popular and has a wide range of known reactions, even for uncommon adulterants. The froehde reagent has a great shelf life and picks up PMA being sold instead of MDMA, as well as helping to identify 2C-B in pills. Finally, the mecke reagent allows us to identify DXM, which has a similar reaction to MDMA with the marquis reagent but very different effects (black vs dark grey for marquis but black vs yellow for mecke).
Cocaine is a little trickier to test because the molecule itself doesn’t change colour with the marquis reagent. But that gives us a great opportunity to use the marquis reagent to see if amphetamine has been added, since amphetamine turns red to brown over about 30 seconds. Then we have the liebermann reagent which goes orange with cocaine to make sure there is actually some cocaine there. Finally the mandelin reagent allows us to identify some other cuts – it goes blue with vitamin C, orange/brown with benzocaine and greenish brown with levamisole as well as reacting with ibuprofen, paracetamol and procaine. These three reagents come together in the Cocaine Testing Kit
Ketamine is a tricky one because it doesn’t react strongly with anything but we can use reagents to see if it’s been cut. The liebermann reagent goes light yellow with ketamine, but for methoxetamine (MXE) it goes orange-brown and for 3‑MeO‑PCP it goes a dark reddish brown. We can use the mandelin reagent to narrow things down as it goes green for 3‑MeO‑PCP and doesn’t change colour for methoxetamine. This can be very useful because most people don’t want their ketamine trip to last 6-8 hours from a tiny bump! That means we can use the Cocaine testing kit as a perfect way to check ketamine for dodgy goings-on.
2C‑B is a psychedelic drug which is sometimes sold as pills or powder and has a very strong effect from a tiny amount. Lots of people enjoy this but you wouldn’t want to take an MDMA sized dose expecting the effects of MDMA and end up in a strong trip! 2C‑B turns green with the marquis reagent and yellow with the froehde reagent. If you’re considering blotter paper as the dosage form then the ehrlich reagent allows you to see if LSD might be present, as it goes purple for LSD but provides no colour change when testing 25I‑NBOMe, 2C‑B, DOB and the others in these series. We have our MDMA & psychedelics testing kit with the right reagents for these compounds.
The great thing about reagents is that they change colour with almost every drug, and we include a reaction colour chart and instructions with every order. So no matter what you were expecting, you can see if you’ve been sold something else instead. Don’t forget that even if your compound is what you expected you should still be careful, and very pure drugs can be a big risk if you start with a big dose expecting something less pure. So ideally weigh how much you’re taking, and if you’re not weighing something like MDMA then always #CrushDabWait.
If you’re using more than one of these on the list then don’t forget we also offer a combination kit to test drugs which contains our five most popular reagents.
Four people were hospitalised around Manchester on Saturday and a further four were hospitalised on Sunday, but a simple home reagent test could have prevented this for all of them. A batch of something they had bought as MDMA turned out to be purified crystals of synthetic cannabinoids (ADM-FUBICA), more commonly known as “spice” which comes heavily diluted onto plant leaves and is smoked. In this diluted form the effects are slightly like cannabis but with much higher risks. In their crystalline form, an amount the size of a match head can cause serious harm, as has been seen here.
The crystals had the same appearance as MDMA, but those who know their chemistry will be all too aware that many chemicals look incredibly similar and just a small impurity can change the appearance as much as switching two completely different compounds.
Because of the very high potency and risk of cannabinoids, taking a test dose alone is not enough to prevent harm – the amount that is a “test dose” for MDMA is an overdose amount for a cannabinoid. Therefore the only reliable way to distinguish compounds when a mix-up like this occurs is to test, either using a lab test or a home test such as the MDMA reagent test multipack. A home test like this takes about 4 minutes and gives a triple black reaction for MDMA, but a completely different colour reaction for ALL different kinds of cannabinoids and other possible substitutes (accidental or deliberate).
This makes testing for “spice” in MDMA incredibly easy, without the need to take a test dose that could be dangerous even if it’s small. Those in the area around Manchester buying “magic” as a drug or “pink champagne” are urged to be especially careful – try to use chemical names instead of slang names if you do decide to use MDMA, as this can increase confusion around what you are buying.
In a move which will probably not surprise anyone, the UK government has formally stated that it will make ethylphenidate and its related compounds class B drugs. Ethylphenidate gained popularity both as a smart drug used by some students and as a recreational stimulant and is closely related to methylphenidate (ritalin) but has a reduced potency and shorter duration.
The ban follows the advice of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), whose role is to perform detailed research into issues relating to drugs for the UK government so that it can make informed decisions about drug policy. The ACMD has done extensive research on ethylphenidate and its analogues, with multiple comments released about their prevalence and harms and on 10th April 2015 it recommended that ethylphenidate should be subject to a “Temporary Class Drug Order” (TCDO), which criminalises import and sale but not possession. The ACMD struggled to find detailed information about the group of compounds and remarked in June 2016 that the TCDO had been very successful in reducing use and that more time was needed for a good decision.
Their research continued until 10th March 2017, when they released their final report recommending the group of compounds should all become Class B substances. This was accompanied by one of their typically detailed research reports, again representing possibly the best collection of knowledge about the compounds that currently exists. The report includes detailed information about the drugs’ activity levels in the brain as well as details about the legal situations in other countries:
Ethylphenidate is controlled in China, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden and Turkey. It is also classified under analogue scheduling in the US and Australia.
As well as ethylphenidate, a number of less popular analogues were also covered, perhaps the most interesting being 4-fluoromethylphenidate which was reported to be more potent and be much less compulsive.
The change in the law will come into force on the 31st May and cover the substances listed below. Class B offences could result in up to 5 years for possession or up to 14 years for supply.
Following advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), the Home Office has moved to ban a range of designer sedatives including etizolam, which has gained wide popularity for self-medication of anxiety and the compound U-47700, an opioid which has frightened US media and displayed issues of chemical damage to tissues of very heavy users. You can see our test results for U-47700 here and here.
The ACMD’s role is to perform detailed research into issues relating to drugs for the UK government so that it can make informed decisions about drug policy. On 20 December 2016 it published two of its typically detailed overviews, one dedicated to U-47700 and one on the novel benzodiazepines. These detail various aspects of the drugs usage and distribution patterns and the research allow the ACMD to make recommendations on scheduling.
Although the novel substance market has been all but wiped out by the Psychoactive Substances Act, (which renders anything “psychoactive” illegal to sell or import) Police Scotland has reported that etizolam is being sold as “valium” by street dealers. Benzodiazepines may be used to self medicate anxiety disorders, or recreationally for relaxation and carry significant risk of addiction and dependence, with withdrawals for heavy users potentially being severe enough to be fatal. Police Scotland also reported that there had been an increase in deaths involving etizolam and an 8x increase in people found driving under the influence of the drug since 2015.
The Home Office decided to move directly to full scheduling instead of temporary scheduling as recommended by the ACMD, and on 3rd May 2017, the full legislation was published, to be enforced from 31st May 2017.
This means that etizolam is illegal in the UK as a class C drug with up to 2 years for possession, and U-47700 is illegal in the UK as a Class A drug with up to 7 years for possession.
In a change from constructing a time consuming “blanket ban”, the ACMD also recommended scheduling a long list of other compounds in the same class by their specific names, listed below:
The Mitsubishi print is one of the most well known presses of ecstasy tablet, dating back to the 1990s when MDMA first became popular. Many batches of the tablets have been produced over the years in varying quality but generally at the lower end of the spectrum because sophisticated manufacturers do not want their products tainted by the hit-and-miss reputation of the logo.
This year brings nothing different, and the Spanish testing service, Energy Control, have detected a green mitsubishi pill which contains a cathinone stimulant called a-PVP with no trace of MDMA. This is easily detected with reagent tests as a-PVP gives no colour change for the reagents in the MDMA test multipack whereas MDMA goes black with all three.
a-PVP* is a stimulant and does give energy like MDMA but the comparisons pretty much stop there. It is most similar to cocaine but has a much longer uncomfortable “tail” after the main high ends and a much higher chance of causing paranoia. The lack of enjoyable effects can easily lead to people taking a couple because they’re getting something and think it’s just a weak pill but this can result in sleep being prevented for much longer than MDMA would, and this sleep deprivation can further feed into the risk of paranoia and psychosis.
You can see the image Energy Control provided below. The tablet is 4.9mm thick and 9.9mm wide with a mass of 422 mg. The amount of a-PVP inside is not known.
You can see the original post by Energy Control in Spanish here.
This is a great reason why trying to determine what’s in a pill by asking if people have taken one with the same design is really never a good idea. a-PVP may not be common but counterfeiting is rife and it only takes a couple of months for fakes to emerge – this is why pill logos change so often, so that sophisticated manufacturers don’t have their reputations hurt by dodgy bedroom presses.
*a-PVP is sometimes called “flakka” by american media but this appears to have been made up by the media and has also been used to describe other stimulants.
PMMA is a chemical compound similar to MDMA but with some crucial differences. It completely prevents the body from regulating serotonin levels* and as a result, creates a high risk of fatal overheating. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it takes a long time to kick in, so people who think they are taking MDMA may take more as the slight effects lead them to think they just have weak pills.
PMMA is easily detected with the froehde and mandelin reagent tests, but people can’t detect it if they don’t test!
PMMA has been responsible for a number of deaths over the years but it typically only shows up in very isolated batches. Unusually, TWO separate batches have been identified in the last few days, leading Dutch authorities to launch a warning campaign to keep people safe.
The pills concerned are pink superman pills and red ferarri pills, both pictured below.
The pink superman pills are reported to have the superman logo on both sides, with an appearance similar to the batch that killed 4 people in the space of 2 weeks at the end of 2014. It only contains PMMA and the dosage in a single pill could be lethal.
The Red Ferarri pill is a new press which is being sold online as containing “200+ mg of MDMA”. It was detected by EcstasyData and was purchased in Germany. It only contains PMMA.
When tested with reagent tests these pills will give the following colours:
The MDMA testing multipack is our best selling selection and contains 30 tests of the marquis, mecke and froehde reagents. A test takes 60 seconds to carry out and could prevent a ruined night out – or worse. If your result is inconclusive, don’t risk it!
If you can’t test for some reason, you must at least#CrushDabWait, but using your body to test if something is dangerous is obviously still very dangerous!
* Interested in the sciency bit? PMMA is a strong inhibitor of the enzyme “Monoamine Oxidase”and a serotonin releasing agent. When MDMA releases serotonin this enzyme breaks down some of it to keep levels in check and reduce the chance of overheating (but high doses can still override this of course).
With PMMA, serotonin is released but it has nowhere to go since the enzyme has been completely deactivated. This means that levels build continuously and the very high levels of serotonin lead to something called “Serotonin Syndrome”. This is where serotonin prevents normal regulation of temperature, and coupled with the stimulation from the drugs, the body goes into overdrive and overheats.