APAAN, also called alpha-phenylacetoacetonitrile. In English is alpha-phenylacetoacetonitrile, is an organic compound that is used in the preparation of certain drugs. APAAN contains a nitrile group and a benzene ring (phenyl group). The CAS Number: 4468-48-8.

alpha-phenylacetoacetonitrile – A new precursor substance for the illicit production of

alpha-phenylacetoacetonitrile; amphetamine; clandestine laboratories; impurity profiling; pre-precursor.

NSC 11777
NSC 25183
NSC 55206

alpha-phenylacetoacetonitrile has become an important precursor substance for the illicit synthesis of amphetamine and its importance is further increasing.

APAAN has been observed in seizures in The Netherlands, Poland and Germany. One of the reasons for the increasing importance of APAAN is that the conversion into benzylmethylketone (BMK) can be done very easily by using a simple production method, which achieves high yields.

The conversion of APAAN into BMK is predominantly performed in laboratories located in The Netherlands and Poland. Although it is widely used for illicit BMK production, from the forensic point of view there is still a lack of knowledge concerning APAAN, its purity, the different conversion processes, yields and characteristic impurities of BMK.

α-Phenylacetoacetonitrile (APAAN) is one of the most important pre-precursors for amphetamine production in recent years.

This assumption is based on seizure data but there is little analytical data available showing how much amphetamine really originated from APAAN. In this study, several syntheses of amphetamine following the Leuckart route were performed starting from different organic compounds including APAAN.

The organic phases were analysed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to search for signals caused by possible APAAN markers. Three compounds were discovered, isolated, and based on the performed syntheses it was found that they are highly specific for the use of APAAN.

Using mass spectra, high resolution MS and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) data the compounds were characterised and identified as 2-phenyl-2-butenenitrile, 3-amino-2-phenyl-2-butenenitrile, and 4-amino-6-methyl-5-phenylpyrimidine. To investigate their significance, they were searched in data from seized amphetamine samples to determine to what extent they were present in illicitly produced amphetamine. Data of more than 580 cases from amphetamine profiling databases in Germany and the Netherlands were used for this purpose.

Production and precursors of alpha-phenylacetoacetonitrile
Synthetic drugs can be produced using a number of different production techniques, involving a range of different chemical precursor substances.

The precursors needed to make amphetamine and methamphetamine overlap significantly, but are distinct from the precursors used to make MDMA. In Europe, and indeed globally, amphetamine is most frequently synthesised from benzyl methyl ketone (BMK).

To make methamphetamine, although BMK may also be used, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are more common. MDMA is primarily produced from piperonyl methyl ketone (PMK), which can also be produced from safrole (or oils rich in safrole) and piperonal.

Several methods can be used to produce each drug, and these may vary depending on precursor availability. Precursors are evidently a precious commodity; the fact that no excess precursors are seized during raids on illicit production sites suggests that the exact volumes of precursors required are provided ‘on demand’ for each production batch.

All methods also involve the use of additional chemicals and processes that are inherently dangerous. Furthermore, the waste generated by the production process is often disposed of unsafely, causing environmental harm (see box ‘Environmental impact’) and risk to public health and safety.

Methods of APAAN alpha-phenylacetoacetonitrile
Here, we present a systematic forensic study of the chemistry of it as a precursor substance of amphetamine. It from different sources was characterized by several analytical techniques (e. g. GC/MS, LC/MS, 1H-NMR) to obtain a chemical profile of the substance and its impurities. Furthermore, model syntheses have been conducted to achieve a valid database for calculation of the yield.

Therefore, the most common conversion methods were investigated. Finally, the BMK produced was analyzed by GC/MS for characteristic impurities of the synthesis. Results and Discussion: The characterization of APAAN alpha-phenylacetoacetonitrile from different seizures showed a purity range of the illicit material from 70-98%.

Conclusion of APAAN (alpha-phenylacetoacetonitrile)
A systematic investigation of it was performed by characterizing it impurities and determining BMK yields from different synthesis pathways. In addition, BMK obtained from the hydrolysis of it was characterized via GC/MS


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