Impurity profiling of methamphetamine synthesized from methyl α-acetylphenylacetate

Deanna Langone, Ben Painter, Clark Nash, Janneke Hulshof, Sander Oldenhof, Martin R. Johnston, K. Paul Kirkbride

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The group of P2P precursors including α-phenylacetoacetonitrile (APAAN), α-phenylacetoamide (APAA) and methyl α-acetylphenylacetate (MAPA) has become increasingly popular in Europe and other parts of the world in the last decade. Previous investigations have reported the use of APAAN in the synthesis of amphetamine and methamphetamine and identified a range of characteristic impurities. This research has expanded upon the current literature by investigating the use of MAPA in the synthesis of methamphetamine. In this study methamphetamine was synthesized via three common clandestine methods: the Leuckart synthesis and two reductive amination methods. We report the identification of seven impurities, four of which are methyl ester equivalents of impurities previously reported for the detection of APAAN. These are methyl 2-phenylbut-2-enoate, methyl 2-phenyl-3-hydroxybutanoate, methyl 3-(methylamino)-2-phenylbut-2-enoate and methyl 3-(methylamino)-2-phenylbutanoate. The other impurities identified are ethyl ester compounds formed via transesterification of the methyl ester due to the reaction solvent. This susceptibility for transesterification suggests that identification of the pre-precursor used may not always be straightforward and may be dependent on the reaction conditions employed. Of the impurities reported, methyl 3-(methylamino)-2-phenylbutanoate was deemed to be a potentially reliable impurity for detection of the use of MAPA; however, it is expected that lower levels of characteristic impurities may be detected in methamphetamine synthesized from MAPA than that from APAAN.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1310-1324
Number of pages15
JournalDrug Testing and Analysis
Issue number7
Early online date21 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • impurity profiling
  • MAPA
  • methamphetamine


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