Fenethylline hydrochloride

October 16, 2017
I’m a “terrorist drug”.
What molecule am I?
Image of Fenethylline hydrochloride 3D Image of Fenethylline hydrochloride

Fenethylline is a combination of the drugs amphetamine and theophylline. It was formerly used to treat conditions such as ADHD, narcolepsy, and depression; but its use has been banned because of the potential for abuse.

Chemists at the German drug company Degussa AG first synthesized fenethylline in 1961 from amphetamine and 7-(2-chloroethyl)theophylline. The company soon began to market its hydrochloride salt (shown) under the trade name Captagon. Its sales continued until 1986, when most countries outlawed it.

Fenethylline re-emerged this year because of its widespread abuse by Middle Eastern young adults. It is promoted by terrorist groups such as the Islamic State to enhance what they consider to be desirable characteristics—aggressiveness, alertness, and fearlessness—in their recruits.

In the body, enzymes oxidize fenethylline to produce its original components, amphetamine and theophylline, each of which has its own undesirable characteristics when taken in large quantities. To counteract these effects, Cody J. Wenthur, Bin Zhou, and Kim D. Janda* at the Scripps Research Institute (La Jolla, CA) developed protein-conjugate vaccines that disarm fenethylline and its constituents’ abilities to affect brain activity.  

The authors’ next objective is to develop a combination vaccine for treating fenethylline addiction.

Fenethylline hydrochloride fast facts

CAS Reg. No. 1892-80-4
Molar mass 377.87 g/mol
Formula C18H24ClN5O2
Appearance White crystalline powder
Melting point 227–229 ºC
(racemic mixture)
Water solubility 127 mg/L
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