Influence of precursor solvent extraction on stable isotope signatures of methylamphetamine prepared from over-the-counter medicines using the Moscow and Hypophosphorous routes

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2013 Mar;405(9):2931-41. doi: 10.1007/s00216-012-6600-8. Epub 2012 Dec 15.


A number of methods of clandestine manufacture of methylamphetamine involve the extraction and subsequent reaction of pseudoephedrine hydrochloride with other essential chemicals. The precursor can be easily extracted from over-the-counter medication widely available in the UK and elsewhere. Essential chemicals such as iodine and red phosphorous are also readily available and can be extracted from iodine tinctures and matchboxes, respectively. This work reports the repetitive preparation of methylamphetamine using two popular routes (the Moscow and Hypophosphorous synthesis). The focus was on the extraction solvent used for isolation of the precursor chemical and any consequential isotopic variation which may arise in the final product. Six batches of methylamphetamine were prepared under precisely controlled conditions for each synthetic route and for each of three different precursor extraction solvents. Synthesis of the final product from laboratory grade precursor using the synthetic methods described was used as a template for comparison. The resultant IRMS data from all 48 prepared samples suggests some underlying trends in the identification of the synthetic route which may aid in the interpretation of IRMS data derived from clandestine samples.

MeSH terms

  • Carbon Isotopes / analysis
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / chemical synthesis*
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / chemistry
  • Chemistry Techniques, Synthetic / methods
  • Deuterium / analysis
  • Methamphetamine / chemical synthesis*
  • Methamphetamine / chemistry
  • Nitrogen Isotopes / analysis
  • Pseudoephedrine / chemical synthesis
  • Pseudoephedrine / chemistry
  • Solvents
  • Tablets


  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • Solvents
  • Tablets
  • Methamphetamine
  • Pseudoephedrine
  • Deuterium