Identification of specific markers for amphetamine synthesised from the pre‐precursor APAAN following the Leuckart route and retrospective search for APAAN markers in profiling databases from Germany and the Netherlands

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EarlyView Article

  • Published: Nov 9, 2017
  • Author: Frank M. Hauser, Thorsten Rößler, Janneke W. Hulshof, Diana Weigel, Ralf Zimmermann, Michael Pütz
  • Journal: Drug Testing and Analysis


α‐Phenylacetoacetonitrile (APAAN) is one of the most important pre‐precursors for amphetamine production in recent years. This assumption is based on seizure data but there is little analytical data available showing how much amphetamine really originated from APAAN. In this study, several syntheses of amphetamine following the Leuckart route were performed starting from different organic compounds including APAAN. The organic phases were analysed using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) to search for signals caused by possible APAAN markers. Three compounds were discovered, isolated, and based on the performed syntheses it was found that they are highly specific for the use of APAAN. Using mass spectra, high resolution MS and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) data the compounds were characterised and identified as 2‐phenyl‐2‐butenenitrile, 3‐amino‐2‐phenyl‐2‐butenenitrile, and 4‐amino‐6‐methyl‐5‐phenylpyrimidine. To investigate their significance, they were searched in data from seized amphetamine samples to determine to what extent they were present in illicitly produced amphetamine. Data of more than 580 cases from amphetamine profiling databases in Germany and the Netherlands were used for this purpose. These databases allowed analysis of the yearly occurrence of the markers going back to 2009. The markers revealed a trend that was in agreement with seizure reports and reflected an increasing use of APAAN from 2010 on. This paper presents experimental proof that APAAN is indeed the most important pre‐precursor of amphetamine in recent years. It also illustrates how important it is to look for new ways to identify current trends in drug production since such trends can change within a few years.

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