All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Elizabeth A Gardner

Advisory Committee Members

Pierce V Kavanagh

Jason G Linville

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Science in Forensic Science (MSFS) College of Arts and Sciences


Legal highs are any mind-altering substance produced and sold in a manner to avoid the legal consequences of illicit substances. They have been advertised and sold as Spice, Bath Salts, plant food, and research chemicals. Not only are these drugs presenting major problems to law enforcement, but also to health care providers. The exact composition for many of these substances is not known. Therefore, treatment for patients who have taken these drugs is limited to symptomatic care. Harmful exposure to these substances is not limited to the primary components within the drugs, but can include potentially toxic by-products that result when the drugs are smoked. Legal highs have been purchased from local head shops and online vendors. The substance used in the course of this research includes 2-methiopropamine. The objective of this research is to identify the pyrolysis products from this legal high which may play a significant role in the pharmacological and toxicological effects of these drugs. Pyrolysis was conducted by loading the sample onto an aluminum foil boat, placing in an erlyenmeyr flask, and heating with a disposable lighter. This was done in order to mimic the burning of drugs during recreational drug use. The fumes were allowed to cool, and then the condensate was dissolved in methylene chloride which was analyzed on a GC/MS. Fifteen pyrolysis products were tentatively identified from the pyrolysis of methiopropamine. Of the fifteen tentatively identified products for MPA, N,N-dimethyl-1-(thiophen-2-yl)propan-2-amine, N-ethyl-N-methyl-1-(thiophen-2-yl)propan-2-amine, 2-(methylamino)-1-(thiophen-2-yl)propan-1-one, and N-[1-(thiophen-2-yl)propan-2-yl]formamide, reference standards have been synthesized and compared with the pyrolysis products, confirming their identification. All standards for the remaining presumptive products will have to be synthesized in order to confirm their identity. These products have possible psychoactive effects, some have genotoxicity associated with them, and some of these compounds have completely unknown pharmacology. More research must be done, and more data must be collected on not only the parent compound, MPA, but also on the products that result from pyrolysis performed in order to simulate recreational smoking.