Ecstasy pill testing kits are relatively simple, inexpensive products which allows people to test unknown pills to help determine their contents. Because the quality of street ecstasy is notoriously poor, having the ability to at least narrow down the possible contents can help reduce the risks associated with the use of street ecstasy.
The ecstasy testing kits contain a combination of chemicals called a 'Marquis Reagant'. A '"reagent" in this case means a chemical or combination of chemicals which, because of the reaction they cause, can be used in the testing or analyses of other chemicals. The primary use of the marquis reagent in the United States is by law enforcement as a field test for the presence of amphetamine and opiates. It's only within the past three years that they have started to be marketed to the public as a harm reduction tool.
Who sells kits?
Testing kits are available from a number of organizations. In the United States, DanceSafe as a good source. They charge $25 for a Marquis Reagent kit.
Customers in Britain and Europe who would prefer to avoid U.S. customs can buy from E-Z Test (20 Euro).
How do the Kits Work?
Ecstacy testing kits come in the form of a bottle of liquid. The test works by scraping a small quantity of powder off the side of a pill and onto a plate. The scraping can be done with anything, but some people find that a fingernail file or razorblade works well. A small drop of the testing kit liquid is then dripped onto the powder scrapings.
A chemical reaction will happen between the liquid reagent and some of the more common chemicals found in ecstasy pills. This reaction may cause the liquid to turn a variety of colors depending on what is in the powder. This color change generally happens within a period of 10-15 seconds after combining the powder and liquid.
What is the chemical in the kits?
The Marquis Reagent is 9 parts concentrated sulfuric acid (H2SO4) and 1 part formaldehyde (CH2O). Some vendors add methanol to the mixture in an attempt to slow the speed of the reaction for easier viewing.
What do the kits tell me?
The kit can identify whether a substance does not contain the presence of ecstasy-like substances (MDMA, MDA, MDE) through lack of reaction. The test kits can not positively identify that a pill contains ecstasy. It can not differentiate between the MD* chemicals nor tell you how much of these are in a pill. There is a growing belief that 'bunk' ecstasy producers are including a small amount of Marquis-positive chemicals to 'fool' the tests.
The Marquis test will turn dark purple/black for several substances (not just ecstasy-like compounds) therefore the presence of purple/black reaction does not mean the pill necessarily contains ecstasy. Marquis field tests have been traditionally used to detect the presence of opiates & heroin (which turn pink to purple).
Full instructions, including color charts, come with the kits, but here is a general description of the most common results :
- No color change
- If there is no color change, the pill does not contain noticeable quantities of MDMA (ecstasy), MDE, MDA, 2C-B, DOM, DOB, DXM, methamphetamine, or amphetamine.
- Dark Purple / Black
- Black or very dark purple/blue most often indicates either the presence of an ecstasy like substance (MDMA, MDE, or MDA), DXM, or opiates. It is possible to differentiate between DXM and the ecstasy like substances based on the period of time it takes for the reagent to turn black.
- Dark Grey
- DXM will emit a small amount of smoke first, then turn the reagent black after 5-10 seconds. Ecstasy-like substances may emit a tiny bit of smoke (generally not as much as DXM) and will begin turning color immediately.
- Bright Yellow / Green
- Indicates the presence of 2C-B, DOM, or DOB.
- Bright Orange
- Indicates the presence of Speed, Methamphetamine, or Amphetamine.
- Other Colors
- If the reagent turns some other color, it is an indication that the pill does not contain ecstasy, or any of the above substances, but DOES contain some other unknown, possibly dangerous chemical. See below.
There are chemicals which do not cause a reaction with the ecstasy testing kits. Just because a pill tests positive for an ecstasy-like substance does not mean that the pills are pure or safe. They may contain a wide variety of other safe or dangerous chemicals.
Following is a chart showing preliminary results submitted to us for how the Marquis Reagant reacts with a variety of other chemicals.
|2-AminoIndan||Orange to Red (slightly rusty)|
|2C-C||Starting brown going to Dark Lime Green (similar to 2C-B)|
|2C-D||Very light pink|
|2C-E||No reaction (!?)|
|2C-I||Dark Green to Black|
|2C-T-2||Orange to Red (usually a sort of salmon color)|
|2C-T-4||Orange to Red (usually a sort of salmon color)|
|2C-T-7||Orange to Red (salmon, again; also, there is less tendency towards orange than 2C-T-2 shows)|
|4-Acetoxy-DiPT||Dirty (blackish) olive|
|4-Methyl-Aminorex (u4euh)||no color change|
|4-MTA||no color change|
|5-MeO-DiPT||Fizzes then turns yellow quickly changing to a slightly rusty orange|
|Alpha-Methyl-DiPT||Fizzes then turns brown|
|BDB||Dark brown, nearly black|
|Benzylpiperazine||No color change, but it causes the reagent to fizz. Looks like when you pour hydrogen peroxide on a cut.|
|DiPT||Fizzes strongly then turns a neon yellow|
|Harmine||Fizzes slightly, much less so than BZP, and turns a brown-orange rust color.|
|IAP||Immediate reaction to salmon/red, slowly intensifies to a darker red over 1min.|
|MBDB||Dark Brown to Black|
|Opiates||Pink to Purple|
|PMA||No color change|
|TMA-2||Lime Green (similar to 2C-B)|
|TMA-6||Yellow to Orange|
|Yohimbine||Fizzes slightly, much less so than BZP. Slowly (up to a minute), it will turn an olive green color.|
Are the kits legal?
There is some question as to the legal status of testing kits in the U.S. Many states include wording in their paraphernalia laws which include anything which "identify, analyze, or test" scheduled substances. This wording _is not_ included in the federal paraphernalia laws. Arguably, the ecstasy testing kits do not fit within this category as they only verifiably test for the _absence_ of MDMA or other controlled substances. (i.e. if a sample does not turn a color, we can be reasonably sure that there is no MDMA present, however if the sample turns black it could mean that mdma is present or it could indicate the presence of another completely unrelated substance).
These kits have been widely available for over a year and we have heard of no legal problems either with their sale or possession. We know this isn't a very satisfactory answer, but the U.S. legal system is often confusing on points like this. As a general rule, if people aren't being prosecuted for it, it's unlikely that _you_ will be.
Because it's not federally illegal, importation should not cause any legal problems, but many people choose to avoid having to deal with customs by order from a vedor on their own continent. We do not currently have any information about the legality of testing kits in countries other than the United States.
How long is a kit good for?
Testing kits will eventually go bad. At this point we've heard that they can go bad in as little as six months, though some people have had them stay useful for years when they are stored cold and air-tight. Keeping the testing kit reagent in a well-sealing dark glass bottle, cool or refrigerated may help extend its life.
This FAQ was written by Erowid.org with technical consultation by Murple.
- UNDCP : Field and laboratory tests for raw and prepared opium
- An inventory of on-site pill-testing interventions in the EU - EMCDDA, 2001
(cache: Executive Summary * Full Report * Fact Files)
Report finds field testing and lab testing positive new measures to reduce problems associated with ecstasy.