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ARCHIVE:  February 15, 2001

MDMA versus Methamphetamine

Dear Dr. Shulgin:

Is MDMA the same as methamphetamine?  Is it a type of methamphetamine?

--Michael

Dear Michael:

MDMA is totally different from methamphetamine.  It is a compound that is build upon the basic carbon skeleton of methamphetamine (this is the "MA" in the code name), but there has been added to the structure two additional oxygen atoms and another carbon atom. This is the methylenedioxy ring, and this is the "MD" in the name.

The prototypic nucleus for these, and many other structurally related compounds, is the term "amphetamine." This word has
three entirely separate meanings, depending on who is defining it.

To the law enforcement crowd, "amphetamines" are most of the  drugs that are entered in the Controlled Substances Act under the heading "stimulants," regardless of their structure or pharmacology.

To the pharmacologists, "amphetamines" are a class of compounds that act on the central nervous system to cause eye-dilation, increased wakefulness and loss of appetite.  

To the chemist, "amphetamines" are chemicals that contain the carbon skeleton of alpha-methyl-beta-phenethylamine.

-- Dr. Shulgin

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