Pill testing is a process used to identify substances contained within a pill, usually illicit substances.
Since illicit drugs like MDMA are bought from drug dealers on the black market, both the source and contents of the substance are unknown. Pills sold by dealers as Ecstasy, may not contain the desired substance, usually being MDMA. Testing the pill can show if substances, such as MDMA, are present.
Reagent testing kits
A test is done by taking a small scraping from a pill and placing it in the reagent testing liquid. The liquid will change colour when reacting with different chemicals to indicate the presence of certain substances. Testing with a reagent kit does not indicate the pill is safe. While the testing process does show some particular substances are present, it may not show a harmful substance unaccounted for by the testing process. Testing kits are distributed on a not-for-profit basis by Dancesafe and commercially.
|MDMA||dark purple||dark purple||dark purple||blue||no reaction|
|MDEA||dark purple||dark purple||dark purple||blue||no reaction|
|MDA||dark purple||dark purple||dark purple||no reaction||red|
|Methamphetamine||(dark) green||orange/brown||no reaction||blue||no reaction|
|Amphetamine||(dark) green||orange/brown||no reaction||no reaction||red|
|PMA||green to brown||no reaction||no reaction||no reaction||red|
|Ketamine||orange/brown||no reaction||no reaction||no reaction||no reaction|
|2C-B||no reaction||green||yellow/brown||no reaction||red|
|2C-I||no reaction||yellow to green||dark brown||no reaction||red|
|DXM||no reaction||grey with smoke||yellow||no reaction||no reaction|
|Opiates||no reaction||pink/red/purple||green||no reaction||no reaction|
|2C-T-xx||no reaction||no reaction||yellow to purple||no reaction||no reaction|
|4-MEC||unknown||no reaction||light green||unknown||unknown|
DanceSafe reagent testing kits are Marquis, Mecke, and Simon's, and EZ Test kits are Ehrlich, Mandelin, Marquis, Mecke, and Scott. The EZ Test table here is a general guideline of the reactions from each substance and testing kit instructions may indicate different results. Reactions may show different colours if more than one substance is present. By using a series of these reagents, one can determine by the process of elimination what substance the pill contains. For example, marquis turns black in the presence of MDMA, and a common misconception is that if the marquis goes black, you have MDMA. But it can also turn black in the presence of MDA, MDEA or other less common MDXX-series analogs so usually a series of these tests are done to further determine contents.
Online testing kits are used by individuals to post reports to TranceSafe and the Pill Reports websites. At nightclubs and rave events organisations such as Enlighten Harm Reduction in Australia, Dancesafe in the United States and the Green Party Drugs Group in the United Kingdom conduct on-site pill testing.
EcstasyData.org is an independent laboratory pill testing program co-sponsored by Erowid and Dancesafe. Testing is done using a GC/MS, which can identify much more substances than a reagent test. Substances identified are listed on their website. Substances sent in to the lab are destroyed in the testing process or destroyed by the lab under DEA guidelines.
Pill testing is controversial because it can give the user the false impression that a pill is "safe." The act of pill testing may be illegal in many countries because it requires the tester to come into contact with the illicit substance, and so can then be charged with possession of an illicit substance. Many states in the United States deem the testing kits "drug paraphernalia," and possession and sales could result in a misdemeanor. DanceSafe and other organizations also test pills at raves, festivals, and other gatherings. Onsite pill-testing services have raised concerns as pills are not destroyed in the testing process, and are returned to the drug user after testing.
- "Adulterant Screening Kit Instructions". DanceSafe. Retrieved 2012-02-28.
- TheAzo. "Marquis/Mecke/Mandellin results for stim/empathogen/2C-X, RC's & more". Archived from the original on 2012-02-05. Retrieved 2013-03-22.
- DanceSafe pill testing instructions
- Pill-testing interventions in the European Union
- Substance Testing Kits - Reagents
- National Institute of Justice Report on Field Tests for Identification of Drugs
- "Bunk Police" Test kit guide
- 4.3.1 Qualitative analysis of materials containing piperazines (UNODC Report)