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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.