What is Ketamine Precursor A?

It’s been noticeable that most (nine out of ten) ketamine samples analyzed by DrugsData since March 2019 have contained 1-[(2-Chlorophenyl)(methylimino)methyl]cyclopentanol (CAS #6740-87-0), or “Ketamine Precursor A”. Synonyms of this substance in the literature include “Ketamine Related Compound A” and “Ketamine Impurity A”.

Since 2019, only 37 ketamine samples have been analyzed by DrugsData that contain only ketamine (zero in 2022). An additional 297 sample contained Ketamine + Ketamine Precursor A, and 19% of these 297 samples also contained MSM.

Ketamine Precursor A has been notably present in black market ketamine, but should not be present in commercial, pharmaceutical ketamine inside the United States or Europe.

Ketamine Precursor A is not considered harmful, just a waste of mass and chemical. We do not know of any good research on its toxicity, but unfortunately, most drug research that shows “no effect” doesn’t get published. If it were super toxic, we’d probably know about it.

A subreddit has covered this topic: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskDrugNerds/comments/e6iz5r/any_info_on_ketamine_impurity_a_and_whether_or/

We don’t know anyone who has tried it on its own, but it’s unlikely to be active within 10x the dose of ketamine. Just a boring contaminant.

If you have any insights to contribute about Ketamine Precursor A, please let us know, info(at)drugsdata(dot)org.

DrugsData | Meth and the N-Isopropylbenzylamine “N-Iso” Boogeyman

For over forty years, methamphetamine-using communities have been speculating why some batches of meth seem qualitatively different than others. When we started working in this field in the 1990s, the claim was that l-meth, solvents, and synthesis impurities were the culprits.

Since around 2010, the DEA’s policies have resulted in most methamphetamine inside the United States coming from large manufacturers outside the US. In the ensuing years, some have claimed that the unpleasant effects of street meth in the US are a result of meth containing N-Isopropylbenzylamine (isopropylbenzylamine; N-IPBA; “N-iso”) [PubChem]. It is a common enough claim that many skeptics have called N-iso the new meth boogeyman.

The most common claims about isopropylbenzylamine are that it is present in combination with meth, and causes more paranoia, psychotic ideation, and worse hangovers. It’s also blamed for effects atyptical for stimulants, such as lethargy and “brain fog”, 1-3 days into a meth-using session.

We’ve been asked about N-iso many times between 2019 and 2022. We purchased the certified reference lab standard for isopropylbenzylamine twice in the last two years in order to run experiments to check our methods. We have repeatedly confirmed that zero (0) meth samples analyzed by DrugsData to date have contained it:


Erowid’s DrugsData reported those findings to the people submitting the samples in question, and on the corresponding entries on DrugsData.org. Up until now, we haven’t specifically pointed out publicly that multiple submitters have claimed that isopropylbenzylamine could be present in their methamphetamine and that our findings have not substantiated their claims.

Our results caused others to ask us more and more pointed questions about how sure we were that N-iso wasn’t in the meth we tested. So we dug deeper. After re-analyzing and examining the GC/MS data for more than a dozen samples submitted to DrugsData for which the submitter was certain their meth sample contained isopropylbenzylamine, we’ve still seen no results where this is the case.

Out of 271 samples containing methamphetamine analyzed between January 2019 and July 2022, none contained isopropylbenzylamine:


Re-examining Our Findings

In late 2020, we ran several samples of alleged meth + N-iso and they came back meth only. We bought the reference standard and tried slightly-modified procedures using this standard. It seemed to us that meth + isopropylbenzylamine resolved easily via GC/MS. That is to say, meth and N-iso were easily differentiated in our lab. They are close, but we deal with much harder problems all the time.

In May 2022, D.M. contacted us to point out a paper that said it is possible that mixed samples containing both meth and isopropylbenzylamine could cause analysis to fail to see one or the other. Essentially, they claimed our previous findings might be wrong because one of the two could hide inside the GC curve of the other and then elute (come out) at such a similar time into the Mass Spectrometer that our software would report only one of the two chemicals.

That paper is Luo Y, et al. (2021) “Simultaneous Determination of Methamphetamine and Its Isomer N-Isopropylbenzylamine in Forensic Samples by Using a Modified LC-ESI-MS/MS Method”. (ResearchGate Link) The authors write:

“However, the two compounds [methamphetamine (MA) N-isopropylbenzylamine ([N-IPBA]) ] were hard to be effectively discriminated by GC/MS when there was a large concentration difference between them. Because the retention times for MA and [N-IPBA] chromatographic separation were very close due to their high similar chemical structure, the compound with high concentration would interfere with another one with low concentration as the two compounds yield similar ion fragments for detection [25].”

Note the relevant claim in their paper is actually cited to someone else and is not something these authors themselves demonstrate in their article. The original citation (Xuan J et al 2015) is a paper in a Chinese journal that we’ve been unable to locate.

Given this new, reasonably specific claim from a 2021 paper, despite having done it before, we purchased a new isopropylbenzylamine reference standard, this time from a different chemical supplier. Unsurprisingly, it matched exactly the previous standard and also matched the GC/MS data in the main public/research/commercial/forensic libraries.

A Series of Experiments

We mixed pure d-meth with N-IPBA at 1:1, 1:10, 1:100, 10:1, and 100:1 ratios. In all of the conditions, our setup showed isopropylbenzylamine as clearly distinct from methamphetamine. They would not be mistaken for one another or lost, even way below 1:100. Our standard procedure involves methanol run through an Agilent GC/MS 5973 MSD with the GC column being an HP-5ms Ultra inert (5%-phenyl)-methylpolysiloxane. Unless you’re a lab tech, that won’t mean anything to you, but it’s a fairly normal setup for doing drug work like this and it’s well suited to analyzing chemicals of this type.

GC of N-Iso and Meth (1:100)

The GC output pictured above is from N-IPBA (“N-iso”) (1 part) mixed with meth (100 parts). The other main peak (9.972) is a calibration chemical. The slightly messy baseline to the right of the meth peak is related to the way that the salt versions (Meth HCl, for instance) of the two drugs differ in their elution times in the GC column. This example graph is after several tests in a row using different ratios of meth and isopropylbenzylamine. It is common when running methamphetamine salts to end up with a little right-side, baseline noise after the sharp freebase meth peak.

Methamphetamine and isopropylbenzylamine do elute at similar times, but using our procedure, they are clearly distinct. Note in the GC image the sharp valley between the N-iso and meth peaks: N-iso at 3.4777 minutes and meth at 3.687 minutes in this run.

And they always have clearly distinct Mass Spectra (MS), so they simply don’t get confused at our lab. If a lab were running a different column and procedure that isn’t targeted for doing work on methamphetamine and related drugs, it’s easy to imagine other procedures and rigs where an analytical chemist could confuse one with the other.

As of August 2022, DrugsData’s lab has found isopropylbenzylamine in eight samples total, ever, and two DEA-tested samples are republished in our database:


It is Erowid’s view that most negative effects from meth use are a result of lack of sleep combined with irregular water and food consumption. People mistakenly attribute differences in experience from time to time to differences in impurities in the drugs, instead of other factors such as diet, mood, context, electrolyte levels, and physical rest.

It’s certainly possible that a sample analyzed in DrugsData’s lab in the future could contain both methamphetamine and isopropylbenzylamine. We feel certain that for such a sample, lab results would clearly show this to be the case.

—earth, Sylvia, Fire, Roi

DrugsData | Identifying the Unidentifieds: Ethyl-Despropionyl-Fentanyl (Ethyl-4-ANPP)

This is a description of how we identified the unidentified substance in a fentanyl sample (#12495) analyzed in March 2022.

The unidentified substance has mass spectrum major ions at 96; 217.1; 174.1 with an elute time at around 10.7 in our main setup.

This small sample of white powder in a blue bindle was submitted to DrugsData via research partners we’re working with to do lab confirmatory testing. Besides Fentanyl and 4-ANPP, it contained a third chemical we were initially unable to identify.

We publish the Mass Spectrum (MS) images for substances we need help identifying. A colleague at UNC’s drug checking project examined this substance’s image and reached out with some clues, which put us on the path of figuring out what its structure is.

One of our top volunteer analytical chemistry experts, Eddee, found a close match in Wiley’s 2020 “Designer Drugs” library, a library that our DrugsData lab doesn’t have. The close (though not perfect) match is for ethyl-despropionyl-fentanyl (ethyl-4-ANPP). Our experts (thanks, Koby!) guess that this is likely to be much less potent than fentanyl and might not be very active, similar to despropionyl-fentanyl (4-ANPP).

There’s a PubChem page for it, but no CAS number yet:


Eddee speculated that the difference between our sample and the Wiley library match might not be meaningful. In the following image, which is pretty complex to look at, the top chemical is our DrugsData sample’s unidentified substance. The lower chemical is the Mass Spectrum for the presumptive ethyl-despropionyl-fentanyl. The middle part of this image is a comparison of the two, with our sample on the top (lines going up) and the proposed match on the bottom (lines going down). You’ll need to open it in a new tab to see the detail, it’s dense stuff.

What you’re looking at are the relative heights of the largest peaks (vertical lines), aka the “ions”. Mass spectrometry (MS) relies on breaking up a chemical with a high energy stream of electrons; Erowid’s DrugsData lab uses an “electron spray” method. The resulting bits are highly charged ions that get spun through a magnetic whirlwind inside a specialized detector. The heights of the lines indicate how many of each ion was detected for this chemical using specific equipment and methods. Perfect matches usually require using the exact same equipment at the same settings, but there’s a lot of similarity when using equivalent machines.

Looking at the middle graph, where the two are compared against each other, you can see there’s a short line on our sample at 199 that doesn’t exist in the lower sample. And the relative heights of some of the key ions are different between the two. That doesn’t mean it’s not a match, but it isn’t a perfect match.

So Eddee checked and his lab did have a tiny bit of despropionyl-Fentanyl (aka 4-ANPP) left in their Fentanyl Analog Screening Kit (FAS Kit, sometimes referred to as a Traceable Opioid Material Kit, or TOM Kit).

There wasn’t much left, but he decided to try wet chemistry “derivitization” (a simple synthesis) using iodoethane, and was able to get a tiny amount of product he believes to be ethyl-despropionyl-fentanyl. He then ran that new product through a GC/MS and got the following output.

As above, in this image our unidentified substance is on the top; Eddee’s new ethyl-despropionyl-fentanyl is on the bottom.

Again, if one looks closely, there are some important differences between our sample (in blue on the top of the middle graph) and the newly synthesized chemical. There are several complexities we can’t completely account for. First, Eddee had only a teeny tiny amount of his synthesized chemical and sometimes “very low signal” amounts of a drug can have different Mass Spectrum profiles. Usually this doesn’t make a difference in which ions show up (except at the shortest peaks), but it can cause the relative ratios to be slightly different. Second, Eddee isn’t using the exact same GC/MS brand, model, and components as we have.

We might be able to change our GC coil and run parameters to better match this, but it’s so close, we’re going to consider this matter closed.

If you’re interested, you can check out the unidentified substances detected by DrugsData in 2021-2022 that haven’t been solved yet. This list changes as we make identification breakthroughs, thanks to tips from the Erowid Expert Network and others.

In an amusing postscript, one day after Eddee finalized this identification (Apr 4, 2022), DEA Special Testing and Research Laboratory (SFL1) wrote that they had come to the same identification of the so-called “308-G impurity”.

Tryptamine Turns Purple with Ehrlich Reagent

— by: earth, Sylvia, Fire, Jurek, and anonymous experts

Here’s a peek into how Erowid works with a network of drug-checking experts around the world work. Just another day at DrugsData. :]

On June 30, we published the test results for a sample of 1P-LSD blotter (dd10683), confirming the presence of 1P-LSD.

On July 12, Jurek from protestkit.eu, a Polish harm reduction and field reagent specialist, inquired about this sample, noting that the Ehrlich reagent photo showed an unexpected purple reaction. Jurek pointed out that 1P-LSD isn’t known to result in a purple color in the presence of Ehrlich reagent, helping to differentiate it from LSD-25, which does cause a purple color change with Ehrlich reagent.

We discussed this with our lab and learned that there was a small GC peak they had not initially reported in the results: inactive salts and inks on blotter do not always get reported due to DEA-imposed limitations.

Given the unexpected Ehrlich reaction, we published the spectrum for the unidentified chemical and added it to the results as a second chemical present in the sample.

A chemist in the Erowid Expert Network identified the unknown chemical as tryptamine, so we ordered a lab standard for tryptamine and found that it was a perfect match via GC/MS.

Further, DrugsData’s lab did side-by-side comparison in a ceramic well plate of lab standards for 1B-LSD, 1P-LSD, and LSD-25. The third of four wells is the ‘blank’ labeled MeCN (acetonitrile) which was the solvent used to dissolve each of the ergoloid standards (1B-LSD, 1P-LSD, LSD-25). Ehrlich reagent was applied to each, demonstrating that neither 1B-LSD nor 1P-LSD turn purple with Ehrlich, where LSD-25 does.

So the mystery of the the unexpected Ehlrich reaction for this 1P-LSD blotter is resolved, but the reason why someone added tryptamine to 1P-LSD blotter is still open. We all guess the goal was to be able to sell the 1P-LSD blotter as LSD-25, and that adding tryptamine to the 1P-LSD will result in reagent reactions consistent with LSD-25.

This is the first time Erowid has seen this type of adulteration of non-LSD ergoloids with the chemical tryptamine.

The image below is a link to a video of the reagent test:

Then, a photo of lab-grade tryptamine reacted with Ehrlich. A strong purple color:

“Intractable Byproduct” in 5-MeO-DMT Samples

Erowid’s DrugsData project recently tested two samples of 5-MeO-DMT that both contained an unidentified chemical. The first was dd10559, published Jun 08, 2021 and the second was dd10808, published July 19, 2021. Both samples were sold as 5-MeO-DMT and were reportedly sourced from the Netherlands to California. The unidentified chemical in the two samples appeared to be the same substance.

In June, one of our EEN experts (Eddee) proposed a possible identification for the chemical in the first sample, and we began consulting others in our network. Once we received the second sample, with apparently the same unidentified chemical, an outside expert weighed in with a slightly different proposed identification. We examined these more closely and with Eddee’s help, we think we’ve finalized our current opinion on the identity of the chemical dd10559-unid1 and dd10808-unid1:


This chemical is likely an unwanted byproduct resulting from imperfect synthesis of 5-MeO-DMT. Borax, one of Erowid’s main chemistry experts, proposed the name “N-methyl-Pinoline”, and Eddee proposed “N-methyl-5-Methoxytryptoline”.

Another expert pointed out that PubChem’s synonym list for this chemical includes 2-Methyl-6-methoxy-1,2,3,4-tetrahydro-beta-carboline (CAS# 6582-80-5), and cites the Japan Chemical Substance Dictionary for the CAS#. Isomer Design, a longtime supporter of the DrugsData project, refers to it as 6-MeO-2-Me-THβC.

We do not believe it has any common trivial name, and are currently settling on the name “N-methyl-Pinoline”. Its structure:

There were no published GC/MS graphs for this chemical. The identification is based on analysis of the fragmentation pattern, and on a 2020 paper, Synthesis and Characterization of 5‑MeO-DMT Succinate for Clinical Use, by Sherwood et al. Because of this paper, we originally considered calling this chemical “5-MeO-DMT Synthesis Byproduct A”, to parallel names given to unwanted synthesis products in other drugs.

The other proposed identification was the very similar compound 2,3,4,5-Tetrahydro-8-methoxy-2-methyl-1H-pyrido[4,3-b]indole (CAS# 41505-84-4).

The two proposed identified chemical structures have the same number of elements and chemical formula: C13 H16 N2 O ( C13H16N2O ). The only difference is which order the carbons are coming off the indole ring relative to the amine nitrogen.

This very technical image shows a comparison of the two chemicals, with our proposed ID in the upper panel and CAS 41505-84-4 in the bottom:

Now look again at the drawing of our identification and note the red line showing the bond between the indole ring and the methyl (carbon) coming off the nitrogen.

Finally, take a look at the structure of 5-MeO-DMT:

Imagine that the red line in the structure of N-methyl-Pinoline was broken where it connects to main rings. That substance, with that connection free, is 5-MeO-DMT. 5-MeO-DMT just happens to also have the same chemical formula: C13H18N2O.

Quoting from the Sherwood et al. 2020 paper: “Several small-scale attempts were initially evaluated with reaction monitoring by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LCMS). Though product formation was evident, the reaction was plagued by challenges that would likely multiply at larger scales. The Pictet−Spengler reaction to the corresponding tryptoline (8) was difficult to suppress and removal of this structurally similar and possibly biologically active byproduct was challenging. Further optimization to Route 1 may be possible, but ultimately, the reaction was not recommended for further development.”

Their Scheme 1 Graphic shows what they label the “intractable byproduct”, which is the chemical we are proposing as the identification of the impurity in these two 5-MeO-DMT samples.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this: the submitter of the samples, Eddee, our anonymous experts, Borax, Sylvia, and the authors Sherwood AM, Claveau R, Lancelotta R, Kaylo KW, and Lenoch K for their excellent 2020 paper, which nailed down the reason for this unwanted contaminant in these synthetic 5-MeO-DMT samples.

Lab Drug Checking and Positional Isomers: 2-, 3-, or 4-MEC

This last week, a sample was submitted and analyzed through EcstasyData that we clearly established was one of the three main ring-positional isomers of Methylethylcathinone (aka MEC). However, we didn’t have the lab standards on hand for this chemical, because it is the first time we’ve run into it since the supplier of lab standards we order from has stocked the three positional isomers.

Based on library matches* alone, it was impossible to be certain whether the sample contained 2-MEC, 3-MEC, or 4-MEC. We’ve run into this issue of positional isomers a bunch of times before over the last sixteen years of operating our street drug analysis project.

Luckily, Cayman Chemicals is a really great source of lab standards for NPS (“new psychoactive substances” aka psychoactive research chemicals). So we ordered reference standards for 2-MEC, 3-MEC, and 4-MEC, to find out if our equipment and lab procedures could make use of having the actual verified isomers on hand, for the purpose of confirming whether sample #5682 contained one or more of these slightly different versions of the same parent compound.

We ordered the standards on September 5th and they arrived at Drug Detection Laboratories (the lab that EcstasyData contracts with) on the 7th. The amazing DDL lab team, working on Saturday, ran the standards through their GC/MS and were able to confirm that sample #5682 contains only 4-Methylethylcathinone and none of the other two positional isomers. Yay!

There are many psychoactive chemicals with positional isomers that are difficult to reliably differentiate using GC/MS or UV absorption, even with the proper standards on hand. We’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years seeking clarity in our analysis of fluorinated amphetamines (2-, 3-, or 4-Fluoroamphetamine aka 4-FA) and the *-APB chemicals. And we’ve not been entirely successful. In most cases, one of the positional isomers is easy to tell apart from the others, but the other versions overlap in complex ways by retention time or fragmentation patterns. For MEC, the differences in column retention times for each of the positional isomers make them easy to differentiate using DDL’s Agilent GC/MS.

On another note, we also ordered a lab standard for Benzyl fentanyl this week, and were able to confirm that sample #5667 contains only Benzyl fentanyl. Less impressive, since we were pretty certain that’s what it was to begin with, but the initial match was based on comparing against other published spectra and not our own lab’s confirmation using a known standard of the same substance.

by Earth & Sylvia



*Identifying “by library match” refers to the process of comparing images of GC/MS output for a given sample to images of GC/MS output for a verified reference standard. Because equipment and lab procedures vary, to double-check identification by library match, a lab can acquire its own sample of a reference standard (if one is available), run it through the lab’s equipment, and compare the resulting images to those of the submitted sample being analyzed.

Great Documentary: The Sunshine Makers [spoiler alert]

Fire and I just finished watching a preview copy of The Sunshine Makers, a documentary about 1960s LSD manufacturers. We were very impressed!

The quality of the content, editing, storytelling and sound, as well as inclusion of old photos, film footage and video are all amazing, but what makes it really stand out is the voice-reenacted law enforcement records and on-camera interviews with officers about the prosecutions of Nick Sand and Tim Scully.

Scully and Sand in Lab

The film tells the Sand/Scully stories with historical details we have never heard before, and includes audio and visual styling that add depth and entertainment value. For example, cutaway animations layered with stills of buildings, revealing miniature scenes of lab work happening inside them, are super clever.

Cosmo Feilding-Mellen and his filmmaker team include a few hilarious bits, like having Nick Sand dress up in a fishing outfit, while in voiceover he recounts a story of fleeing to Canada by pretending to be a fisherman. They do a fun job of narrating a car chase, interleaving storytellers that include a police investigator who was working to imprison Nick for LSD manufacturing.

What The Sunshine Makers helps clarify is that Nick was and is still an activist. While Tim Scully started out an activist, the downside of being a black market synthetic chemist and spending years in prison have him sounding a somewhat more constrained note.

Overall, this is one of the best made and most interesting looks inside the LSD distribution ring that Sand and Scully were a part of. Check out the trailer on YouTube and see the full version once it’s released, both in theaters and video-on-demand. :]

Nick Sand Dresses Up

Technical Oddity: Dutch Testing Service (DIMS) Defines Pure MDMA Crystal as 84% Pure

Executive Summary: Different labs use different standards for reporting percentage purity assessments and also for mass when doing quantitative measurements for psychoactive drugs like MDMA. One lab’s 84% might be another lab’s 100%. This also means one lab’s 84 mg might be another lab’s 100 mg.

Long Version:

Erowid friend and Internet drug geek, Borax, pointed out a paper that analyzed some of the Dutch Trimbos Institute’s DIMS data. The peer-reviewed article was published in the journal Addiction: “Purity, adulteration and price of drugs bought online versus offline in the Netherlands” (2016). We love the Dutch DIMS testing service and have written about it before.

The publication of this article did not reveal a lot that we didn’t already know, but has brought into focus a heated argument that has been ongoing in public and private discussion forums about analytical methodologies for on-site and lab drug analysis.

What does it mean when a lab reports that a powder is 100% pure MDMA? What does it mean when a lab reports that a tablet contains 100 mg of MDMA?

The reason for writing about this is that there are no simple answers to those questions, though it seems like there should be.

Some online vendors of research chemicals have stated that various labs’ purity results in the 75-85% range mean that the sample was really “100% pure”, because of different ways of handling the mass of the sort-of-attached non-psychoactive salt anion. An anion is a negatively charged counter-ion that balances the positively charged, nitrogen-bearing drug molecule. When freebases are turned into salts, an anion is added.

The main case and the one that’s relatively easy to talk about is MDMA. MDMA is normally produced and distributed as MDMA hydrochloride (HCl), which is MDMA in a solution that has been converted to a crystalline form—-a “salt”-—by bubbling hydrochloric acid gas through the liquid. This causes the MDMA to turn insoluble in the solvent, precipitating out as MDMA HCl crystals. There are other possible salt forms of MDMA, but this is the “table salt” (most common salt form) of ecstasy/molly.

In fact, normal table salt or culinary salt is usually considered Sodium Chloride, or NaCl. We’re virtually swimming in tiny amounts of acids and salts in our normal environments. Remember your protective eyewear!

In addition to chloride salts like HCl, there are numerous anion salts possible, such as sulfide, fluoride, and bromide. For some psychoactive chemicals, the specific salt form can make a big difference in determining a dose. Mescaline has been distributed historically as Mescaline hydrochloride, Mescaline sulfate, Mescaline citrate, and Mescaline acetate. All of these have slightly different mass ratios between the base mescaline molecule and the portion that is the partially-bound anion. One could theoretically get 25% more or less mescaline, from a consistently weighed amount, depending on which salt form is involved.

This can be super complicated and technical and I doubt anyone is reading this who doesn’t get the basic premise. But there are technical issues like having some salt anions that bind two-to-one or one-to-two in crystalline forms. See What is the molecular weight of LSD tartrate? and many, many other discussions for crazy-making levels of detail.

As lab testing using GC/MS, HPLC, and FTIR has become more available and more projects are publishing their data and providing harm reduction information to individuals on the basis of their findings, it becomes increasingly important for more people to understand basic elements of some of the technical issues involved.

When this question of MDMA mass came up again this week, we asked the authors of the paper and the folks who work at Trimbos the following:

It has been suggested that DIMS might be using MDMA Freebase as the basis for mass and purity calculations, rather than salt masses, such as MDMA HCl. It is not described in any of your papers that I can find, but perhaps these questions will simplify the issue:

1) If DIMS received a powder sample of material that contained only MDMA HCl and nothing else, what would the reported purity be? 100%?

2) If DIMS received a tablet sample that contained 100 mg of MDMA HCl and 200 mg of lactose and inactive binders, what would the reported amount of MDMA be in that tablet? 100 mg? or would that qualify under your reporting rules as 84 mg of MDMA (freebase)?

And we got a very clear answer from the excellent Dr. Tibor Brunt:

“Indeed we use freebase as analysis standard. That actually means that if we report 100 mg MDMA in a pill, it is 119 mg in MDMA HCl. Our lab has always left out the salt component of psychoactive substances, since this component is not psychoactive. And if we’d receive a powder with 100% MDMA HCl this would be 84% maximum purity like you said.”

The reason they would define pure MDMA HCl crystal as only 84% pure is a little technical, but suffice to say it is not the only way to report an analytical result.

The reason that an expert group like Trimbos would decide to report masses this way is to normalize all their information across all salt forms of MDMA. I imagine, though I don’t know, it could be related to different types of quantitative methodologies that they have been working with for a long time.

So, dear drug geek reader, the question is not whether this issue is real, but, exactly what methodology and reporting measures are used by the analytical group you’re working with.

Update Jan 17, 2017: #

Energy Control of Spain, on the other hand, answered that they use MDMA HCl as their mass standard. They answered the questions clearly:

1) Our results directly provide the result of the salt of the substance, as
we’re using a salt as a reference standard. This means that the purity of a
sample with only MDMA HCl could be 100%.

2) Therefore, a tablet with 100mg of MDMA. HCl would be reported as 100mg
of MDMA.

Update Jan 18, 2017: Safer Party #

SaferParty and the cluster of groups in Switzerland that do work around that brand are very clear in all of their caution and warning publications that they are using MDMA HCl as their basis. For instance, “120 mg MDMA * HCl können zu viel sein”.

On Jan 30, 2017, they followed up with a long detailed answer to our questions.

Dear Earth,

Here the answer from our lab, i hope this clears things up:

As a reference standards-producing laboratory we’ve got most of our standards as solids in our hands, e.g. (water-free) salts. This is in contrast from what you get most times when buying solutions of reference standards from other companies (e.g. Cerilliant etc.). They usually sell the free base as a solution. Due to that, we are using mostly salts for calibrations. The second reason for that is, most of the time we are obtaining samples in salt forms for analysis (e.g. cocaine, heroine, MDMA, amphetamine, methamphetamine and other phenethylamines etc.); though we do not determine what kind of salt the sample consists of (e.g. hydrochloride, sulfate, acetate etc.).

We have had quite good experiences with this so far, as the sum of e.g. mixtures of amphetamine-coffeine-containing samples, when otherwise pure, reach 100% in sum when calculated with amphetamine hydrochloride. When exceeded 100% one may assume it contains a certain amount or all as free base. When the results are displayed as free base one can calculate any possible salt form. We think, according to the black market products here in Switzerland, it makes sense to give the results calculated for the hydrochloride salts, but for comparison with other labs/other countries the use of free base content would be the only value to make sense. Nevertheless, our results can easily be recalculated to the free base content, at least when knowing the type of compound we applied for calibrations/calculations.

We see it from the way that most dosage recommendations for a psychoactive compound to be taken orally or by snorting are given in the salt form (if possible), so this substantiates the indication as salt. With DMT as an example, we indicate the free base as content.

A short question the relatives the senses of indicating “purity” or “content”:

When having a chemically pure amphetamine sulfate (e.g. 100% Amphetamine sulfate”), its content of amphetamine free base is 73.4%. When having chemically pure amphetamine hydrochloride (e.g. 100% amphetamine hydrochloride), its content of amphetamine free base is 78.8%. When only seeing these numbers, which would you judge to be more pure? The lay would say it to be the second, but chemically both salt forms are chemically absolutely pure (100%).

A problem that comes in is, when having, e.g., a chemically impure amphetamine hydrochloride and reaching a displayed content of 73% amphetamine free base, one may imagine this to be a nearly chemically pure sulfate (close to the maximum content of 73.4%), but in fact it is a rather impure hydrochloride (73% out of a maximum content of 78.8%). As long as one does not determine the counterion (salt) this remains problematic.

When calibrating and calculating with salts, a measured sample consisting of free base would yield a result above 100%.

Each calibration/calculation has its own advantages, be it the use of free base, hydrochlorides, or hydrochlorides monohydrate, etc.

Let’s go to your questions:

“1) If SaferParty received a powder sample of material that contained only MDMA HCl and nothing else, what would the reported purity be? 100% ?”
As we used waterfree MDMA*HCl for calibration, we would report 100% content. As most of the samples measured here are on hand as the monohydrate (MDMA*HCl*H2O), the measured content mostly lies around a maximum of 93%.

“2) If SaferParty received a tablet sample that contained 100mg of MDMA HCl and 200mg of lactose and inactive binders, what would the reported amount of MDMA be in that tablet? 100mg ? or would that qualify under your reporting rules as 84mg of MDMA (freebase)?”
Our reported content would be 100mg MDMA*HCl.

Best regards,

For saferparty.ch

Update Jan 19, 2017: The Loop #

The Loop offers analysis at music events in the UK to improve safety for partygoers and facilitate care by medical staff. When they report quantitative results for MDMA, they answered our questions as follows:

1. 100% purity
2. 100mg of MDMA (since the HCl salt is ubiquitous and service users
simply call MDMA.HCl “MDMA” we do not complicate the information they are
already getting with a description of why we are calling it something


Update Jan 19, 2017: CheckIt! Austria #

CheckIt! Austria very generously took their question to their technical staff and verified their answer before getting back to us:

Our chief chemist just got back to regarding your question.

We use MDMA.HCl to prepare our standards for quantitative measurements. So if we would receive sample solely consisting of MDMA.HCl, the result would be 100%. Quantitative MDMA results in tablets are also reported as HCl. So if a tablet contains 100mg MDMA.HCl and let’s say 100 mg alpha-Lactose monohydrate we would report 100mg MDMA content.

Diprotic Acids – 4-Acetoxy-DMT Tartrate versus HCL Salt

A question came up yesterday about whether we need to add different dose information to our 4-Acetoxy-DMT Dose Page for different salts. Our team believes that the primary salt sold over the last fifteen years of 4-Acetoxy-DMT has been the fumarate salt (fumaric acid).

If one assumed that each fumarate molecule paired up with one 4-acetoxy-dmt molecule in the salt form, then there would be about a 25% difference in the potency between the fumarate and the hydrochloride (HCl) salt. Some vendors have reportedly sold the HCl salt instead of the fumarate, and so this could result in a difference of potency between different pure salts of 4-acetoxy-DMT of about 25%.

However, after consulting with some of our friends in the Erowid Expert Network who are senior analytical and synthetic chemists, they were able to confirm that the fumarate salt of 4-acetoxy-DMT is always diprotic, with some small technical caveats.

NC writes: “Although fumaric acid itself is diprotic, its salts may not necessarily incorporate two molecules of the base. AFAIK, it is not possible to predict the stoichiometry of such compounds a priori, it all depends on whether the mono- or di-substituted fumarate remains soluble in the solvent or precipitates out. NMR would tell the story.”

  • 4-AcO hemifumarate: 304.35 g/mol
  • 4-AcO HCl: 282.77 g/mol

So there’s only a few percent different in potency between the two.

In digging around in questions related to diprotic acids and how certain we can be that any given chemical salt has a given number of freebase target molecules, PD pointed out this obscure paper:

“USP Lysergic Acid Diethylamide Tartrate (LOT 1) Authentic Substance Recharacterized for Authentication of a House Supply of Lysergide (LSD) Tartrate”. .

The paper demonstrated, via extreme drug geekery, that the two samples of pure, high grade LSD they had were not identical.

In subjecting a commercial supply of lysergide (LSD) tartrate (Sandoz Lot 79001) to authentication for adoption as a "working standard", infrared (IR) proton nuclear magnetic resonance (1H-NMR) spectra of the working standard showed some dissimilar features to those obtained from the USP LSD Tartrate Authentic Substance (Lot I).

Although comparable mas spectral results were obtained from the two LSD samples, further investigation by 1-H- and 13C-NMR spectroscopy showed the USP material to contain appreciable excess tartaric acid. 

So, according to our experts, fumaric acid is almost always diprotic, but one cannot be certain without actually verifying that with a given ‘freebase’ molecule.