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Drug Purity & Cutting Agents


'Cutting'  refers to the means by which illicit drugs are diluted.

Drugs can be cut during the production process or afterwards, sometimes with adulterants aimed to appeal to customers rather than solely to dilute. Cutting levels have varied considerably over the last decade with Heroin and Cocaine reportedly normally being around 50% pure (the remaining 50% can be made up from bi-products, degradation and impurities during manufacturing, not just by cutting agents). Some drugs have been reported to contain 0% of the active substance, that they were sold as.

Dealers will ideally look to find cheap, easily acquired substances to use as cutting agents, which will imitate the desired effects or physical characteristics of the drug to be cut. Some of substances used can have serious health effects on the consumer.


Large profits are made by cutting Cocaine to increase its volume. Samples have often been found to contain little or even no Cocaine.  A few common cutting agents are listed below.

Benzocaine & Lidocaine - used in UK as a dental anaesthetic and in first aid ointments such as throat sprays and sunburn remedies.

Levamisole - an anti-parasitic dog wormer. In the US the DEA reported that 70% of all Cocaine analyzed tested positive for Levamisole in 2009, up from 30% in 2008.

Levamisole can damage the immune system and has resulted in several probable cases of agranulocytosis.  There have been two fatalities according to the US Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration.

Naphyrone / NRG-1 - No safety or toxicity data is available on this drug.

Phenacetine - is an alalgesic (pain killer) withdrawn from the US public in 1983 after it was associated with cancer, kidney damage and even increased risk of death due to renal and cardiovascular diseases.

Procaine - a local anaesthetic.

Methylphenidate / Ritalin – an approved treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.

Long term phsycological effects are paranoia, schizophrenia, hallucinations and aggression. Adverse health effects include abdominal pain, alopecia, angina, dizziness, and stunted growth.

Ephedrine - a stimulant, appetite suppressant and decongestant. Adverse effects are cardiovascular issues, sweating, acne, anorexia, nausea, restlessness, insomnia, delusions, headaches and dry mouth.

Mannitol – a sweetener used by diabetes sufferers and also used in chewing gums.

Inositol – a sweetener used because of its solubility and near lack of taste.

Pectin – used as a gelling agent in jams and jellies, in fillings, sweets plus as a stabilizer in fruit juices and milk drinks. It’s also found in apples, guavas, plums, oranges and citrus fruits. Pectin was first sold as a liquid extract, but nowadays pectin is often sold as dried powder.

Glucose – a simple sugar.

Maltodrextrin – a food additive

Lactose – a sugar found in milk.

Saccharin – an artificial sweetener.

Aspirin / Acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) – a pain killer

Ketamine – used by vets as a tranquilizer

Amphetamine – a synthetic, addictive, mood-altering drug.

Methylamphetamine - a highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system

Paracetamol – an over the counter pain killer.

Atropine - extracted from the plant deadly nightshade.



The term Ecstasy has become more and more confused - Ecstasy is MDMA. There are a growing number of substances being sold as ecstasy which contain no MDMA at all some with and without similar effects.  There is an ever increasing list of substitutes being used to add volume to MDMA.

MDMA or Ecstasy

Restriction of the chemicals used to manufacture MDMA have led to the production of substituted compounds such as MDEA, MBDB and 4-MTA.

MDA - Most cases report the duration of the drug's effects to be around 5–6 hours, slightly longer than that of MDMA (Ecstasy). It is thought to be similar to MDMA (Ecstasy) and causes release of serotonin and dopamine but MDA tends to result in more psychedelic effects, including hallucinations. MDA is usually less predictable than MDMA, with effects different for each individual, although there have been no controlled experiments with humans. It has a greater toxicity than MDMA causing over stimulation of the central nervous and the cardiovascular systems. Effects include agitation, sweating, increased blood pressure and heart rate, increase in body temperature, convulsions, and death which can be caused by cardiac problems and subsequent hemorrhaging in the brain (stroke). According to Erowid the fatality rate is roughly 2 in 100,000 users, assuming it has similar rates as MDMA.

MBDB - A psychedelic stimulant and closely related to MDMA although deemed to be not quite as strong.

MDEA / MDE - releases serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. It is similar to MDMA although not as stimulating or euphoric with effects lasting around 3-5 hours. It can create a stoned feeling in high doses which has fuelled rumors of Ecstasy laced with Heroin.

2C-B - A synthetic psychedelic which is commonly sold as MDMA and has been reported to be generally easier on the body than MDMA although this obviously depends on the dose. Effects are similar to those of amphetamines and also include hallucinations.

2C-I - Another synthetic psychedelic reported to be more mental and less sensory than 2C-B

2C-C - It is a psychedelic drug of the 2C family, similar to 2C-B.

DOB, Brolamfetamine, Bromo-DMA - is a psychedelic amphetamine similar to LSD although it can be physically harmful or even lethal when overdosed. Onset of DOB can take up to 3 hours and lasts between 18 to 30 hours. Shulgin (the founder of MDMA) describes the drug as more lucid, more amphetamine-like version of LSD which lasts for longer.

DOB – similar to and often passed off as LSD, although the effects last for a great deal longer.

MDPPP - a stimulant designer drug sold as MDMA.

MDPV - a stimulant designer drug sold as Cocaine and amphetamines. After effects can include panic attacks, depression, anxiety, bloodshot eyes, sleep withdrawal and others.

TFMPP - a piperazine with side effects including migraines, impotence and a hang over feeling similar to alcohol. The effects are made worse when mixed with BZP as well, which it is commonly found with.

BZP – commonly sold as bath salts with effects similar to amphetamines. Side effects include headaches, anxiety, vomiting, chest pain and in severe cases psychosis, hypothermia and seizures.

Methylone - similar to MDMA. According to Shulgin "Methylone has almost the same potency of MDMA, but it does not produce the same effects. It has an almost antidepressant action, pleasant and positive, but not the unique magic of MDMA."

Butylone - a synthesized ‘research chemical’. Butylone shares the same relationship to MBDB as Methylone to MDMA.

DXM - Dextromethorphan (commonly found in cough syrups) - it is often sold as ecstasy, producing effects similar to those of Ketamine and PCP.

A combination of MDMA with DXM is potentially dangerous as it is metabolized by the same enzyme in the liver. In high doses DXM has been contributed to club heat-stroke and if consumer with MDMA together they can vastly increase the chance of heat-stroke and recommendations mention staying hydrated and staying in a cool environment.

Ketamine - commonly used by vets as a tranquilizer. It is a ‘dissociative anaesthetic’ similar to PCP, NO2 and DXM although it doesn’t last as long. Effects include out of body experiences, slurred speech, euphoria, numbness amongst many others. Long term use has recently been associated with bladder problems such as blood in urine and damage to the urethra and kidneys.

PMA - Para Methoxy Amphetamine - PMA is found in MDMA. Smaller doses of PMA tend to have similar effects to MDMA although it takes longer for things to happen, which can lead to overdosing.  In larger doses problems start to occur as effects happen very quickly, increasing heart rate and body temperature to extremely high levels that can induce convulsions, coma or in the worst case result in death.  This can be identified by problems breathing, muscle spasms and sickness.

GHB 'Liquid E' - Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate - an intoxicant that has effects comparable to alcohol and MDMA. Higher doses have been known to bring on nausea, amnesia and have been known to cause death.

Naphyrone – NRG-1 - a research chemical producing stimulant effects. Sold under the name NRG-1 although not many samples tested actually have been found to contain Naphyrone but instead MDPV.

MDPV - a research chemical stimulant which has been linked with effects similar to that of Cocaine and amphetamines.



Caffeine – a stimulant found in coffee.

Ephedrine – a stimulant, appetite suppressant or decongestant, frequently used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

Pseudoephedrine – a nasal or sinus decongestant.


Marijuana and Hashish

Less likely to be cut although it still happens.  A few recorded examples;

In Holland two types of Viagra were found in a cannabis sample.

In Germany, 30 students were taken to hospital having smoked cannabis contaminated with lead, which had been added to increase its weight.

In the US Cannabis is known to have been laced with PCP to enhance the effects.

Leaves have been dusted with silica spray during harvesting and processing to increase weight and give the appearance of THC crystals.



2-CBs DOB, DOI, and other similar drugs mentioned in our drugs area are frequently passed off as LSD (for further detailed information check here). Sometimes even plain paper can be used.



PCP is often heavily cut with inert chemicals and might not even contain any PCP and its’ psychoactive chemicals at all.


Psilocybin mushrooms

There have been reports of Psilocybin mushrooms being laced with psychoactive chemicals in areas where they are hard to find.



Other opioids are sometimes passed off as heroin or used as a cutting agent. Fentanyl is one example that has been used, causing numerous fatalities.

Quinine – an anti-malarial drug.

Dimethocaine – a local anaesthetic with stimulant properties.

Procaine - a local anaesthetic.

Lactose – a sugar found in milk.

Inositol – a sweetener used because of its solubility and near-lack of taste.

Glucose / Dextrose – a simple sugar.

Mannitol – a sweetener for people with diabetes and used in chewing gums.

Starch – white, tasteless and odorless powder.

Chloroquine – an anti malaria drug often sold as Heroin. It is easily available, cheap and physically resembles "crystal heroin”.

Phenolphthalein - a laxative taken off the market over concerns from its potential to increase the risk of cancer.

Paracetamol – an over the counter pain killer.