Profiling ephedrine prepared from N-methylalanine via the Akabori-Momotani reaction

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Journal Article
Drug Testing and Analysis, 2018, 10 (3), pp. 548 - 556
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©2017 Commonwealth of Australia. Drug Testing and Analysis ©2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Novel methods for synthesising methylamphetamine precursors are appearing in clandestine laboratories within Australia. One such laboratory involved the synthesis of ephedrine from N-methylalanine and benzaldehyde via the Akabori-Momotani reaction. This article presents chiral and stable isotope ratios of ephedrine synthesised via this method, along with a chemical profile of methylamphetamine produced from this ephedrine. Based on the chiral results and the δ13C, δ15N, and δ2H values, it is possible to distinguish ephedrine made via the Akabori-Momotani reaction from ephedrine of a “natural”, “semi-synthetic”, or “fully-synthetic” origin. Methylamphetamine and ephedrine samples synthesised from benzaldehyde having an enriched δ2H value (ie, > 0‰), via the Akabori-Momotani reaction, had an isotopic profile which set them apart from all other methylamphetamine samples. It was noted, however, that using stable isotope ratios alone to determine the precursor of methylamphetamine is limited; they could not with confidence differentiate between methylamphetamine and ephedrine synthesised from benzaldehyde having a depleted δ2H value (ie, <0‰) from other ephedrine sources and phenyl-2-propanone based methylamphetamine samples profiled.
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