Skip to main content

Amphetamines/Sympathomimetic Amines

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
Principles of Forensic Toxicology


Amphetamines and sympathomimetic amines mimic the actions of the endogenous neurotransmitters that stimulate the sympathetic nervous system. Amphetamine and methamphetamine are used therapeutically to treat narcolepsy, attention-deficit disorder, and obesity. Sympathomimetic amines that are available therapeutically include phentermine, ephedrine, and pseudoephedrine. Phentermine is used as an appetite suppressant, and ephedrine is used as a vasopressor during resuscitation. Pseudoephedrine is used as an over-the-counter cough and cold medication. These drugs are well-absorbed orally and are generally excreted primarily as unchanged drug in the urine. Because it is easy to synthesize, methamphetamine remains a frequently encountered clandestinely produced controlled substance in the United States. Besides methamphetamine, analogs such as methylenedioxymethamphetamine, methylenedioxyamphetamine, and synthetic cathinones (bath salts) have also appeared on the illicit drug market. These analogs have greater hallucinogenic activity than the amphetamines and sympathomimetic amines. One difference between this class of compounds and other drug classes is that many of these drugs have chiral centers that lead to differences in pharmacologic activity. Therefore, chiral separation of enantiomers may be a component to the analysis of these compounds.

Karla A. Moore was deceased at the time of publication.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD 44.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 59.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book
USD 84.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others

Change history

  • 04 February 2021

    The chapter has been inadvertently published with an incorrect figure. It has now been updated with the correct figure in this revised version of the book.

Further Reading

  • Baselt RC (2020) Disposition of toxic drugs and chemicals in man, 12th edn. Biomedical Publications, Seal Beach, CA

    Google Scholar 

  • Caldwell J (1976) The metabolism of amphetamines in mammals. Drug Metab Rev 5(2):219–280

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Cook CE (1991) Pyrolytic characteristics, pharmacokinetics, and bioavailability of smoked heroin, cocaine, phencyclidine, and methamphetamine. NIDA Res Mon 115:6–23

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Cook CE, Jeffcoat AR, Hill JM, Pugh DE, Patetta PK, Sadler BM et al (1993a) Pharmacokinetics of methamphetamine self-administered to human subjects by smoking S-(_)-methamphetamine hydrochloride. Drug Metab Dispos 21:717–723

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Cook CE, Jeffcoat AR, Sadler BM, Hill JM et al (1993b) Pharmacokinetics of oral methamphetamine and effects of repeated daily dosing in humans. Drug Metab Dispos 20(6):856–862

    Google Scholar 

  • Kalix P (1991) The pharmacology of psychoactive alkaloids from Ephedra and Catha. J Ethnopharmacol 32:201–208

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kelly JP (2011) Cathinone derivatives: A review of their chemistry, pharmacology and toxicology. Drug Test Anal 3:439–453

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kolbrich EA, Goodwin RS, Gorelick DA, Hayes RJ, Stein EA, Huestis MA (2008) Plasma pharmacokinetics of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine after controlled oral administration to young adults. Ther Drug Monit 30(3):320–332

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Levine B, Holler JM, Vorce SP (2014) Quick guide to designer drugs. AACC Press, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  • Moffat AC, Osselton MD, Widdop B, Watts J (eds) (2011) Clarke’s analysis of drugs and poisons, 4th edn. Pharmaceutical Press, London, UK

    Google Scholar 

  • Negrusz A, Cooper G (eds) (2013) Clarke’s analytical forensic toxicology, 2nd edn. Pharmaceutical Press, London, UK

    Google Scholar 

  • Samanin R, Garattini S (1993) Neurochemical mechanism of action of anorectic drugs. Pharmacol Toxicol 73:63–68

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Silverstone T (1992) Appetite suppressants: A review. Drugs 43(6):820–836

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Westfall TC (2011) Westfall DP adrenergic agonists and antagonists. In: Brunton LL, Chabner BA, Knollman BC (eds) Goodman and Gilman’s pharmacological basis of therapeutics, 12th edn. McGraw Hill Medical, New York, NY, pp 187–220

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michele M. Crosby .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2020 Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Crosby, M.M., Moore, K.A. (2020). Amphetamines/Sympathomimetic Amines. In: Levine, B.S., KERRIGAN, S. (eds) Principles of Forensic Toxicology. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics