The Chemistry of Methylenedioxyphenethylamine (MDMA)


The drug MDMA has been around since the early 1900’s and was first synthesised by chemist Anton Köllisch. The patent for the once legal drug was approved on Christmas of 1912. MDMA was made fully illegal in the United States in 1977 and was formerly used as an antidepressant and antianxiety medicine. Now days this drug is a very popular recreational drug used in the party scene and goes by the street name “Molly”. I chose this substance to research because I figured the process of making a illicit drug would involve a lot of chemistry and chemical reactions to produce the chemicals that create what is the MDMA high. Another reason I chose this topic is because it is very interesting how this drug affects the brain and it’s functions.Composition of ...

  • Safrole (160g) (C10H10O2)
  • Dimethylformamide (DMF) (350mL)
  • p-Benzoquinone (Quinone, Benzoquinone) (120g)
  • Palladium Chloride (PdCl2) (2g))
  • Methylene Chloride (DiChloroMethane, DCM)
  • Hg salt (1 gram any of these: HgCl2, Hg(NO3)2, Hg(OAc)2, or HgCl)
  • Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA, Pharmacies 91% Isopropyl Alcohol) (C₃H₈O or C₃H₇OH)
  • Epsom Salts (Magnesium Sulphate) (MgSO4)
  • Thick Al foil
  • Muriatic Acid (31.45% HCl)
  • Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)
  • Ammonium Chloride (NH4Cl)
  • Paraformaldehyde
  • Peanut oil
  • Acetone
  • Xylene

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

Safrole-is a colorless or light yellow oil extracted from the sassafrass tree bark, fruits, and roots. Safrole can also be made from catechol being synthesised. Safrole is a list 1 chemical because of its use in the process of making MDMA.

Isosafrole- is an organic compound used in the fragrance industry and important in the intermediate synthesis of MDMA.

Piperonal- is formed by the oxidation of isosafrole with sulfuric acid and a compound called potassium dichromate.

Chemistry's Role

MDMA’s first and main element is naturally occurring safrole oil and is distilled. After the Safrole oil is distilled, Formaldehyde (DMF) and Ammonium Chloride(NH4Cl) are mixed to produce Methylamine HCl(CH3NH2 HCl).

NH4CL+CH2O=(H2C=NH)xHCl=H2O (Methylamine.hcl)

Background Research

MDMA affects 3 neurotransmitters: serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. This drug is closely related to methamphetamine but instead of releasing massive amounts of dopamine it releases more serotonin. It is made in las with stable conditions which have to include absolutely no moisture in a few steps of production.


talked about the potency and purity of MDMA now days on the street and the duration and effects of the drug.

this site talked about how it affects the brain, how it is abused, and potential health effects.

this site discussed the synthesis, forms, and pharmacology of MDMA

This site shows the history of MDMA from when it was invented to when it leaked out of the labs into hands of recreational users.

Shows and describes how MDMA affects the brain’s functions

This site showed me how to fully synthesise MDMA

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