3,4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA or Tenamfetamine) is a psychedelic hallucinogenic drug and empathogen/entactogen of the phenethylamine family. It is mainly used as; a recreational drug, an entheogen, and a tool in use to supplement various types of practices for transcendence, including in meditation, psychonautics, and illegal psychedelic psychotherapy, whether self administered or not. It was first synthesized by G. Mannish and W. Jacobson in 1910. There are about 20 different synthetic routes described in the literature for its preparation.
There are no accepted medical uses for MDA. However, researchers have investigated many possible uses in the past. MDA was first used in animal tests
in 1939, and human trials
began in 1941 in the exploration of possible therapies for Parkinson's disease
. From 1949 to 1957, more than 500 human subjects were given MDA in an investigation of its potential use as an antidepressant
by Smith, Kline, and French
. The United States Army
also experimented with the drug, code named EA-1298, while working to develop a truth drug
or incapacitating agent. One human subject died in January 1953 after being intravenously injected with 450mg of the drug. MDA was patented as a cough suppressant
by H. D. Brown in 1958, as an ataractic
by Smith, Kline, and French
in 1960, and as an anorectic
under the trade name “Amphedoxamine” in 1961. Several researchers, including Claudio Naranjo
and Richard Yensen
, have explored MDA in the field of psychotherapy
One method of MDA synthesis, is to turn safrole
. The isosafrole is then oxidized
, using a Wacker process
or a peroxyacid
, to produce MDP2P
). Finally, it is converted to MDA via reductive amination
. This synthesis is very similar to that of MDMA
(Ecstasy) and of MDEA
. The most common route is by starting from piperonal, and condensing it with nitroethane. The resulting nitrosafrole can then be reduced to MDA with a suitable reducing agent.
MDA began to appear on the recreational drug
scene around 1963 to 1964. It was then inexpensive and readily available as a research chemical
from several scientific supply houses. Although now illegal, MDA continues to be bought, sold, and used for recreational purposes, often in the form of tablets
purporting to contain MDMA
A recreational dose of MDA is commonly between 80 and 160mg. The “R” optical isomer is more potent than the “S” optical isomer. Although there is some debate, the duration of the drug is now generally believed to be roughly 6 to 10 hours (In the late 90s, Alexander Shulgin changed his opinion of the duration to 3-6 hours).
MDA is thought to have similar pharmacological mechanisms and effects as MDMA (Ecstasy). Like MDMA, MDA causes serotonin release, which may explain the similar euphoria and empathogen/entactogen effects. However, MDA has a higher affinity for 5-HT2A receptors, thus causing more psychedelic-like effects, such as hallucinations.
MDA is said to share with MDMA empathogen/entactogenic effects. Because of these effects, MDA was called the "love drug" and was alleged to stand for “Mellow Drug of America” in the 1960s. While it is generally similar to MDMA, users report that MDA has more psychedelic or hallucinogenic qualities and less empathogen/entactogenic effects than MDMA. MDA is also considered less predictable than MDMA and thus its effects can vary greatly from person to person. However, no properly controlled experiments have compared these drugs in people.
MDA also differs from its methylated cousin MDMA in its acute toxicity, in that it is clearly more toxic, with toxicity indicative of overstimulation of the central nervous system. Symptoms of acute toxicity may include agitation, sweating, increased blood pressure and heart rate, dramatic increase in body temperature, convulsions, and death. Death is usually caused by cardiac effects and hemorrhaging in the brain. The website erowid.org lists the fatality rate at roughly 2 in 100,000 users. The LD50 in mice has been reported as 92mg/kg by intraperitoneal injection.
In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act
was enacted in the United States, placing MDA into Schedule I
. It is similarly controlled in other nations. In Canada
MDA is a Schedule III
drug. Internationally, MDA is a Schedule I drug under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances
. The US has also essentially banned any drug with (methylenedioxy) in its structure, as well as several other phenethylamine-based compounds. This means that all unscheduled MDXX chemicals can be prosecuted under the Federal Analog Act
- Lee, M.A. and Shlain, B., Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD, and the Sixties Rebellion. Grove, 1985.
- Stafford, P. Psychedelics Encyclopedia. Ronin, 1992.
- Pihkal: A Chemical Love Story, Transform Press, Alexander Shulgin, Ann Shulgin.