Isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) can help determine the synthetic origins of many compounds, including illicit drugs. The following research highlights the applications of IRMS to the analysis of MDA (3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine) and MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxmethylamphetamine). A survey of traditional and novel precursors was conducted by IRMS. Following controls of traditional precursors, several novel compounds have emerged in illicit production of MDA and MDMA. Significant variation in stable isotope ratios was found across the surveyed samples, especially for the novel precursor helional. This compound has applications to the fragrance industry and has been reported in the illicit production of MDA and MDMA in Queensland. An investigation into changes to stable isotope ratios during the synthesis of MDA and MDMA from helional was also conducted. Minimal changes were observed in carbon, however, changes were observed in hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen. These results suggest the IRMS analysis of MDA and MDMA may allow for the identification of batch-to-batch variations between samples. 

Justin graduated with a Bachelor of Forensic Studies from the University of Canberra, Honours in Science from Flinders University, and also studied at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland. His PhD, conducted through Griffith University at the Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services, focused on the analysis of illicit drugs by isotope ratio mass spectrometry. Justin started work at QAEHS in 2022 and has previous experience in the wine and pharmaceutical industries.


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