Biotic and abiotic degradation of illicit drugs, their precursor, and by-products in soil

Raktim Pal, M Megharaj, Kenneth Kirkbride, Tunde Heinrich, Ravi Naidu

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    18 Citations (Scopus)


    This study presents the first systematic information on the degradation patterns of clandestine drug laboratory chemicals in soil. The persistence of five compounds - parent drugs (methamphetamine, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)), precursor (pseudoephedrine), and synthetic by-products N-formylmethylamphetamine and 1-benzyl-3-methylnaphthalene) - were investigated in laboratory scale for 1. year in three different South Australian soils both under non-sterile and sterile conditions. The results of the degradation study indicated that 1-benzyl-3-methylnaphthalene and methamphetamine persist for a long time in soil compared to MDMA and pseudoephedrine; N-formylmethylamphetamine exhibits intermediate persistence. The role of biotic versus abiotic soil processes on the degradation of target compounds was also varied significantly for different soils as well as with the progress in incubation period. The degradation of methamphetamine and 1-benzyl-3-methylnaphthalene can be considered as predominantly biotic as no measureable changes in concentrations were recorded in the sterile soils within a 1. year period. The results of the present work will help forensic and environmental scientists to precisely determine the environmental impact of chemicals associated with clandestine drug manufacturing laboratories.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1002-1009
    Number of pages8
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


    • 1-Benzyl-3-methylnaphthalene
    • Illicit drugs
    • MDMA
    • Methamphetamine
    • N-formylmethylamphetamine
    • Pseudoephedrine


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