Analysis of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and its metabolites in plasma and urine by HPLC-DAD and GC-MS

J Anal Toxicol. 1996 Oct;20(6):432-40. doi: 10.1093/jat/20.6.432.


In Europe, the compound 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, Ecstasy, Adam), in addition to cannabis, is the most abused illicit drug at all-night "techno" parties. Methods for the determination of MDMA and its metabolites, 4-hydroxy-3-methoxymethamphetamine (HMMA), 3,4-dihydroxy-methamphetamine (HHMA), 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), 4-hydroxy-3-methoxyamphetamine (HMA), and 3,4-dihydroxyamphetamine (HHA), in biological fluids were established. Plasma and urine samples were collected from two patients in a controlled clinical study over periods of 9 and 22 h, respectively. MDMA and MDA were determined in plasma and urine by reversed-phase high-performance liquid chromatography with diode array detection (HPLC-DAD) after solid-phase extraction on cation-exchange columns. Acidic or enzymatic hydrolysis was necessary to detect HMMA, HMA, HHMA, and HHA, which are mainly excreted as glucuronides. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) was used for confirmation. Sample extraction and on-disc derivatization with heptafluorobutyric anhydride (HFBA) were performed on Toxi-Lab SPEC solid-phase extraction concentrators. After administration of a single oral dose of 1.5 mg/kg body weight MDMA, peak plasma levels of 331 ng/ml MDMA and 15 ng/mL MDA were measured after 2 h and 6.3 h, respectively. Peak concentrations of 28.1 micrograms/mL MDMA in urine appeared after 21.5 h. Up to 2.3 micrograms/mL MDA, 35.1 micrograms/mL HMMA, and 2.1 micrograms/mL HMA were measured within 16-21.5 h. Conjugated HMMA and HHMA are the main urinary metabolites of MDMA.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine / blood
  • 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine / urine
  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Deoxyepinephrine / analogs & derivatives
  • Deoxyepinephrine / blood
  • Deoxyepinephrine / urine
  • Female
  • Fluorocarbons / chemistry
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Hallucinogens / administration & dosage
  • Hallucinogens / blood*
  • Hallucinogens / urine
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Ion Exchange Resins / chemistry
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine / analogs & derivatives
  • Methamphetamine / blood
  • Methamphetamine / urine
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / administration & dosage
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / blood*
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / urine
  • Reference Standards


  • Fluorocarbons
  • Hallucinogens
  • Ion Exchange Resins
  • 4-hydroxy-3-methoxymethamphetamine
  • alpha-methylepinine
  • heptafluorobutyric anhydride
  • Methamphetamine
  • 3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine
  • alpha-methyldopamine
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine
  • Deoxyepinephrine