Putting an Ecstasy test kit to the test: harm reduction or harm induction?

Pharmacotherapy. 2003 Oct;23(10):1238-44. doi: 10.1592/phco.23.12.1238.32704.


Objective: To evaluate the DanceSafe Complete Adulterant Screening Kit for Ecstasy with regard to its accuracy in identifying 3,4-methylenedioxymeth-amphetamine (MDMA) and methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) derivatives and its ability to detect certain contaminants.

Methods: In part 1, 39 street-grade tablets purported to be MDMA were tested with the Marquis, Mecke, and Simon's reagents provided by the DanceSafe testing kit. The tablets then were submitted to gas chromatography-mass spectrometry for identification of active ingredients. In part II, seven known drugs of abuse were tested with the Marquis, Mecke, and Simon's reagents. These drugs were codeine, dextromethorphan, dihydrocodeine, ketamine, MDMA, morphine, and d-norpropoxyphene.

Results: The Marquis, Mecke, and Simon's reagents did not differentiate pure MDMA from adulterated forms. They lacked both sensitivity and specificity for the purpose of MDMA identification when tested by persons unfamiliar with these reagents. Also, experienced toxicologists using this unfamiliar procedure generated false-positive results.

Conclusions: 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. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry remains the most sensitive and specific testing method for identifying MDMA and its contaminants.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine / analysis
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / analysis*
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Substance Abuse Detection / methods
  • Tablets


  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Tablets
  • 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine