Reagent testing

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Reagent testing is one of the processes used to identify substances contained within a pill, usually illicit substances. With the increased prevalence of drugs being available in their pure forms, the terms "drug checking" or "pill testing"[1] may also be used, although these terms usually refer to testing with a wider variety of techniques covered by drug checking.

Reagent testing kits[edit]

A test is done by taking a small scraping from a pill and placing it in the reagent testing liquid or dropping the reagent onto the scraping.[2] 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 that is also present and unaccounted for by the testing process. Some substances that cause strong colour changes can also mask the presence of other substances that cause weaker colour changes. Thin layer chromatography is used with reagent testing to separate substances before testing and prevent this "masking" effect.[3]

Testing kits are distributed on a not-for-profit basis by Dancesafe and commercially.

Reagent Test Reactions for Substances Present
Substance Mandelin Marquis Mecke Simon's Froehde Reagent
2C-B[4] No reaction Yellow to green [5][1] Yellow/brown No reaction Yellow[1]
2C-I[4] No reaction Yellow to green Dark brown No reaction Unknown
2C-T-7 Maroon to Black Apricot Red to purple No reaction violet and orange streaks [5]
4-MEC Unknown No colour change [5] Light green Unknown Unknown
Acetaminophen Moderate olive Unknown Unknown Unknown No colour change[1]
Amphetamine (Dark) green Orange/brown No reaction No reaction Red
Benzphetamine Brilliant yellow green Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Caffeine No reaction No reaction No reaction No reaction No reaction
Chlorpromazine Dark olive Deep purplish red Blackish red Unknown Very deep red[6]
Cocaine Deep orange yellow Clear (No change) Unknown Unknown No colour change[1]
Codeine Dark olive Very dark purple Very dark bluish green Unknown Dark Green[6][7] > Red/Brown[8]
Diacetylmorphine (Heroin) Moderate reddish brown Deep purplish red Deep bluish green Unknown Purple/red > to green[1]
Dimethoxy-meth Dark olive brown Moderate olive Dark brown Unknown Unknown
Doxepin Very reddish brown Blackish red Very dark red Unknown Deep reddish brown[6]
Dristan Greyish olive Dark grayish red Light olive brown Unknown Light bluish green[6]
DXM Goes clear w/ green edges[9] Grey with smoke Yellow No reaction No reaction
Ketamine Orange/brown No reaction No reaction No reaction No colour change[1]
LSD Unknown Olive black Greenish black Unknown Unknown
Mace Moderate olive green Moderate yellow Dark greyish olive No reaction Light olive yellow[6]
MDA Bluish black[10] Dark purple to black[1][6] Very dark blue No reaction Greenish black[1][6]
MDEA Dark purple Dark purple Dark purple Blue Unknown
MDMA Bluish black[10] Dark purple to black[1] Dark purple Blue Black w/ hints of greenish brown[1]
Mescaline Dark yellowish brown Strong orange [8] Moderate olive Unknown Green > to Blue[8] or Yellow[11]
Mephedrone No reaction No reaction No reaction No reaction No reaction
Methamphetamine (Dark) green Orange/brown No reaction Blue No colour change[5]
Methadone Dark greyish blue Light yellowish pink Unknown Unknown Unknown
Methaqualone Very orange yellow No reaction No reaction No reaction Unknown
Methoxetamine No reaction Pink (slow) Yellow > green > red slow pink > red Yellow to green
Methylone[4] Yellow Brown Orange/brown Blue Deep green[12]
Methylphenidate Brilliant orange yellow Moderate orange yellow Unknown Pale violet No reaction[6]
PMA Green to brown No reaction No reaction No reaction Pale green > to brown[1]

[citation needed] It is advised to check the references for photos of reaction results.[4]

Reagent testers might show the colour of the desired substance while not showing a different colour for a more dangerous additive.[13] For this reason it is essential to use multiple different tests to show all adulterants.

Tests available[edit]

As reagent testing has become more popular, vendors have begun to offer a greater range of tests. This increases the likelihood that a substance might have a unique profile of results and makes the tests more useful.

Other reagents are discussed in scientific literature but limited applications mean they may not be sold for consumer testing. The zimmermann reagent for benzodiazepines is a good example - its use is limited to benzodiazepines, and when these are mis-sold it is usually by substitution of a different benzodiazepine, rendering the test unuseful for consumers.

The Ehrlich reagent is an example of a single-application reagent which is used by consumers. It can only detect drugs with an indole moiety, but this is useful because drugs from the NBOMe class do not have an indole and are often sold as LSD which does. The Ehrlich reagent has an additional benefit over other reagents in that it does not react with the paper on which LSD is often distributed.

The National Institute of Justice provides information about "Color Test Reagents/Kits for Preliminary Identification of Drugs of Abuse" in NIJ Standard–0604.01.[6]

Tests reliability[edit]

According to a 2003 research published in Pharmacotherapy, neither the Marquis, Mecke, nor Simon's reagents should be used by the public for harm reduction purposes. These agents do not help identify pure MDMA tablets. The research team suggests using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry as the most sensitive and specific testing method for identifying MDMA and its contaminants[14] but this is out of reach for users in most countries and reagent tests remain popular, often distributed by harm-reduction organisations due to their low cost and high utility when multiple test reagents are used.[15][16][17]


Home pill testing equipment is illegal in the US state of Illinois where the (720 ILCS 600/) Drug Paraphernalia Control Act specifically outlaws "testing equipment intended to be used unlawfully in a private home for identifying or in analyzing the strength, effectiveness or purity of cannabis or controlled substances;"[18]


  • 2014 documentary What's In My Baggie? deals with adulterants and additives in recreational drugs.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Reagent Testing Instructions". Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  2. ^ "Adulterant Screening Kit Instructions". DanceSafe. Archived from the original on 2012-02-21. Retrieved 2012-02-28.
  3. ^ Barratt, Monica (2018-06-01). Global review of drug checking services operating in 2017 (PDF) (Report). p. 4. Retrieved 2020-07-12.
  4. ^ a b c d TheAzo. "Marquis/Mecke/Mandellin results for stim/empathogen/2C-X, RC's & more". Archived from the original on 2012-02-04. Retrieved 2013-03-22. Alt URL
  5. ^ a b c d "Reagent Base Reaction database". Retrieved 21 Dec 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Color Test Reagents/Kits for Preliminary Identification of Drugs of Abuse" (PDF). Law Enforcement and Corrections Standards and Testing Program. July 2000. Retrieved 2011-07-24.
  7. ^ Kelly, Tamsin (2011). Clarke's Analysis of Drugs and Poisons. Pharmaceutical Press. 44. pp. 213–214. doi:10.1080/00450618.2011.620006. ISBN 978-0-85369-711-4. S2CID 71790993.
  8. ^ a b c "Controlled Substances Procedures Manual" (PDF). Virginia Department of Forensic Science. 2016. Retrieved 2017-01-02.
  9. ^ "Mandelin test results for DXM, ibuprofen, sugar and modafinil". 2016-02-14. Retrieved 21 Dec 2016.
  10. ^ a b "Dancesafe Mandelin Reagent". Dancesafe. Retrieved 10 August 2015.
  11. ^ Bunk Police. "Mescaline - Froehde Reagent - Normal Test Kit - Bunk Police".
  12. ^ "Methylone - Froehde Reagent - Normal Test Kit - Bunk Police". Youtube. 18 Nov 2015. Retrieved 21 Dec 2016.
  13. ^ Home pill testing doesn't show up PMA in a pill in Youtube.
  14. ^ Murray, Rebecca A.; Doering, Paul L.; Boothby, Lisa A.; Merves, Michele L.; McCusker, Rachel R.; Chronister, Chris W.; Goldberger, Bruce A. (2003-10-01). "Putting an Ecstasy Test Kit to the Test: Harm Reduction or Harm Induction?". Pharmacotherapy. 23 (10): 1238–1244. doi:10.1592/phco.23.12.1238.32704. ISSN 1875-9114. PMID 14594341. S2CID 25266063.
  15. ^ Duff, Eamonn (20 Nov 2016). "Thousands of free pill-testing kits to flood Sydney's summer music festivals". Sydney Morning Herald.
  16. ^ Ainsworth, Paul (7 Dec 2016). "Free drug testing kits being planned for students at north's universities". The Irish News. Retrieved 21 Dec 2016.
  17. ^ Ali, Aftab (9 May 2016). "Newcastle University students offered £3 drug-testing kit". The Independent.
  18. ^ "(720 ILCS 600/) Drug Paraphernalia Control Act". Illinois General Assembly. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  19. ^ What's In My Baggie? in Youtube.