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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: https://Checkit.wien 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 www.ecstasydata.org 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 Ecstasydata.org 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.

Hospitalisation

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: https://www.reagent-tests.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/UPS-ecstasy-pill-alpha-pvp-drug-warning-2019-1.pdf

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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 test Test result for pentylone
Marquis Reagent Yellow
Froehde Reagent Yellow>Green
Mecke Reagent Orange

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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Tesla ecstasy pill with dangerous amount of 4-FA inside

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.

You can get a variety of different reagent tests in our shop. Both the MDMA and cocaine testing kits will be able to tell you if an ecstasy tablet has had the MDMA replaced with something else.

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Synthetic cannabinoids (spice) sold as “magic” MDMA in Manchester, UK

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.

Appearance is not enough to identify MDMA crystals – you must test for substitutes if you want to be safe.

 

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.

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Warning: Mitsubishi Ecstasy Adulterated with “a-PVP”

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.

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TWO batches of ecstasy containing lethal PMMA detected in Europe

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.

The possibly lethal ecstasy tablets

The potentially lethal ecstasy tablets

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.

Pink Superman PMMA ecstasy pill
Pink Superman Ecstasy

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.

Red Ferrari PMMA ecstasy pill

Red Ferrari Ecstasy

When tested with reagent tests these pills will give the following colours:

PMMA Reagent Reaction Table

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.

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Beige heisenberg ecstasy pill warning

Edit: We have also detected purple and pink Heisenberg pills with pentylone in them. Avoiding this press completely is recommended.

The beige Heisenberg tablets currently available contain NO MDMA but instead contain pentylone, a synthetic cathinone stimulant.

The pills will react bright yellow with the marquis reagent, whereas MDMA goes black so these ones are easy to spot as rubbish.

Pentylone is slightly like mephedrone but lasts longer and is much less enjoyable.
Because it is less enjoyable but does have an effect, people tend to think they just have weak pills and need to take more to get the buzz they want. This results in a very high dose of pentylone, which prevents sleep for hours after it wears off, and along with its stimulant effects can cause paranoia and psychosis, as well as totally ruining your night.

small Beige heisenbergs pentylone

Pentylone is class B in the UK.

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Manchester police issue second warning about high strength MDMA tablets

For the second time in two weeks, Manchester police have issued a warning about high strength MDMA pills circulating in manchester after two women in their twenties collapsed early on Saturday morning.

The police say the pills concerned are the “lego brick” tablets and posted the photo on the left. Sadly this is another low quality image which appears to have come from social media! There are currently two DIFFERENT types of lego brick pill on the market so this is a bit of a problem, and the police have not released any analysis of what’s in the pills.
Police lego brick pill imageLego bricks dutch press
With that said, both variations of the pill are professionally pressed, and likely to be very strong. In addition to this, both types are quite new, with the “other” press (pictured below) being listed as over 200mg of MDMA. Again, this is extremely strong, with a typical dose of MDMA being 130mg.

What can we learn from this? It appears to be another case of illness due to large amounts of MDMA in hot environments so:

  • Use the #CrushDabWait technique to avoid a strong pill or powder taking you by surprise.
  • Know your drug – using an MDMA reagent test is a really good warning sign of dodgy pills or powders, especially for £15
  • Know your dose – if you aren’t using #CrushDabWait, make sure you know how much is in the pill, or how much powder you are taking. Scales are cheap, brains are not!
  • Avoid taking other drugs at the same time – this can really complicate things and make it hard to know how much is too much. This includes alcohol – keep it to a couple of drinks.
  • Stay cool – take regular breaks from the dancefloor to cool down for 5 minutes. Have a chat in the smoking area ;)
  • Hydrate sensibly – take sips of cold water, drink a sensible amount for the activity you are doing. MDMA makes you feel constantly thirsty but stops you peeing, so you can “dilute” your blood dangerously.
  • Stay with your friends – they know you, and if you’re looking in a bad way they’ll be able to sort you out and keep you safe.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help – the medics are not the police, will not call the police and are usually incredibly friendly. No matter what, they WILL keep you safe.

 

CheckIt! result for possibly related two-notch lego pill.
Manchester police press release. (Facebook link)
Reddit discussions on 4-notch lego blocks: 1, 2

 

Edit: there is a better photo of the two-notch lego brick pills here

MDMA-team lego brick 2 notch_crop

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Police Issue Warning About Pink Mastercard Ecstasy Tablet

Following the death of a 17 year-old girl in manchester at the weekend, Greater Manchester Police have issued a warning about the “Mastercard” ecstasy believed to be responsible. They have accompanied this with a photo of the affected batch, which do appear to show the popular pills. Accompanied is a professional image from pillreports.net for comparison.

Manchester Police image Mastercard pill test result

These have been analysed by several organisations who report that they contain around 200mg1 of MDMA. A typical single-dose of MDMA for a teenage girl would be under 100mg, which makes these a really strong pill. The police do not comment further on the matter but it seems likely that this is a tragic case of overdose from the extreme strength of the pills, most likely compounded in a hot environment.

You can buy an MDMA test kit here to help inform you about pills and powders, but please always remember to use the #CrushDabWait method when using a new batch, even if you have already tested them. Knowing they are strong or contain something dangerous doesn’t help if people still drop 5 at once!

Police have urged anyone who has taken the pills to seek medical attention, even if they are not under the effects of the drug. This is quite uncommon given that very few drugs can cause fatalities after the effects have worn off, but they have not elaborated on the reason for this advice.