Distribution study of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine and 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine in a fatal overdose

J Anal Toxicol. 2002 Mar;26(2):113-8. doi: 10.1093/jat/26.2.113.


In this study, regional tissue distributions of the amphetamine analogue 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, "ecstasy") and its metabolite 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) in a fatal overdose are presented. Quantitation of MDMA and MDA levels occurred in blood samples taken centrally (right and left heart and main adjacent great vessels) and peripherally (subclavian and femoral blood). In addition, MDMA and MDA concentrations were determined in cardiac and iliopsoas muscle, both lungs, liver, both kidneys, spleen, the four brain lobes, cerebellum and brainstem, and adipose tissue. Finally, MDMA and MDA levels were determined in serum, vitreous humor, urine, and bile. For all samples, a fully validated high-pressure liquid chromatography procedure with fluorescence detection was used. The found substances were also identified with liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Our data confirm that blood sampling from an isolated peripheral vein is recommended for MDMA and MDA. In addition, the vitreous humor MDMA level indicates that this fluid can be an interesting alternative when a suitable blood sample is missing. Considering the substantial differences in concentrations in blood samples taken from various sites in the body and the high levels in some tissues (e.g., in liver), we concluded that the influence of postmortem redistribution should be taken into account in the interpretation of toxicological data when an appropriate peripheral sample cannot be obtained or when blood samples are not available because of putrefaction.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine / pharmacokinetics*
  • 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine / poisoning
  • Adult
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Humans
  • Male
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / pharmacokinetics*
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / poisoning
  • Spectrometry, Mass, Electrospray Ionization
  • Vitreous Body / chemistry


  • 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine