3,4-Dihydroxymethamphetamine (HHMA). A major in vivo 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) metabolite in humans

Chem Res Toxicol. 2001 Sep;14(9):1203-8. doi: 10.1021/tx010051p.


There is evidence that some heavy users of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, ecstasy) show signs of neurotoxicity (a cognitive dysfunction, a larger incidence of psychopathology). It has been postulated that the catechol intermediates of methylenedioxyamphetamines such as 3,4-dihydroxymethamphetamine (HHMA), a metabolite of MDMA, may play a role in their neurotoxicity by formation of thioether adducts. This study describes the first validated method for HHMA determination in plasma and urine by strong cation-exchange solid-phase extraction high-performance liquid chromatography/electrochemical detection (HPLC/ED) analysis. The method has been applied for the determination of HHMA in plasma and urine samples from a clinical study in healthy volunteers of MDMA and provides preliminary kinetic data on this metabolite. HHMA appeared to be a major MDMA metabolite with plasma concentrations as high as the parent compound. Thus, HHMA C(max) (154.5 microg/L) and AUC(0-24h)(1990.9 microg/L h) were similar to those obtained in previously published reports for MDMA (181.6 microg/L and 1465.9 microg/L h, respectively). The 24-h urinary recovery of HHMA accounted for 17.7% of the MDMA dose administered and increases the total 24 h recovery of MDMA and metabolites to 58% of the 100 mg dose administered. The determination of HHMA in plasma and urine samples is of interest in order to establish its relevance in MDMA metabolism and its possible contribution to MDMA neurotoxicity in humans. Its validation showed appropriate accuracy and precision for its use in pharmacokinetic studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid / methods
  • Deoxyepinephrine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Deoxyepinephrine / blood*
  • Deoxyepinephrine / urine*
  • Hallucinogens / adverse effects*
  • Hallucinogens / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / adverse effects*
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / metabolism*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Toxicity Tests


  • Hallucinogens
  • alpha-methylepinine
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine
  • Deoxyepinephrine