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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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What’s the best kit to test drugs at home? MDMA, Ketamine, Cocaine and LSD are all easy.

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.

A reaction chart showing expected colours for different drugs.

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.

Testing MDMA

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).Reaction of the froehde reagent with MDMA

Testing Cocaine

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

Testing Ketamine

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.

Testing 2C-B

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.

Other 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.