Amphetamine is a synthetically produced stimulant that belongs to the phenethylamine group of substances. 

In 2020, a total of 164 samples declared as amphetamine were handed in for analysis at the Drug Information Centre (DIZ) in Zurich. In a mobile drug checking carried out in the city of Zurich in 2020, four amphetamine samples were handed in and analysed. The results published here are not representative for the entire substance market of the city of Zurich. 

Risk assessment

In addition to the known side effects and psychological dependence potential of amphetamine, the highly varying amphetamine content, synthetic impurities as well as toxic or otherwise pharmacologically active extenders also pose a health risk. 

The highly varying and often high amphetamine content poses an additional risk for the users, as it is not visually recognisable how high the effective amphetamine content of the respective sample is and therefore there is a risk of overdose. High doses of amphetamine may cause an increase in body temperature, hallucinations, circulatory failure, cerebral haemorrhages and/or strokes up to and including kidney, liver and heart failure or respiratory paralysis. Doses of 50 mg/night (or consumption occasion) corresponds to the recommended maximum dosage for healthy consumers, whether snorted or swallowed. 

The effects of the consumption of synthetic impurities (e.g. DPIA, Formetorex, 4-methyl-5-phenylpyrimidine etc.) have hardly been researched so far and thus represent an unknown risk of consumption. The consumption of amphetamine mixed with solvents (e.g. phenylacetone, phenylacetonitrile or isopropyl alcohol) ("paste") can attack the mucous membranes and thus, in the case of nasal consumption, cause considerable damage to the nasal mucosa in the long run. These solvents are mostly toxic substances. Information and recommendations for low-risk use can be found under amphetamine safer use

Amphetamine content 

In 2020, the average amphetamine content of the samples we analysed was 59.6 %. Compared to the previous year, this content has decreased by 6.3 %. The amphetamine content of the samples analysed varied greatly and was between 0.4 and 100 %. The amphetamine values are given as sulphate. 

Amphetamine content in %, 2011-2020, grouped (n=2'890) 

Additional substances detected in amphetamine samples 

The amphetamine samples handed in at the DIZ were mostly a mixture of amphetamine and one or more extenders. Some of these extenders are not pharmacologically active (e.g. lactose, starch, cellulose). These extenders, which have no additional effects on consumption and are only added for profit maximisation, are not reported by the laboratory and are not included in these statistics. 

In 2020, 78 % (+13.7 %) of the amphetamine samples submitted contained at least one pharmacologically active extender, a synthetic impurity or a contamination (smear contamination in minigrips already used with other substances). In 2020, the number of samples with synthetic impurities increased strongly (+17.8 %). 

Existing synthetic impurities result from improper production and/or insufficient purification of the amphetamine in the production laboratory. Whether and at what dosages synthetic impurities are effective and/or harmful to health is unknown. In principle, it must always be assumed that there is a risk. 

The most frequently occurring pharmacologically active extender in amphetamine samples is still caffeine. 

Amphetamine samples with unexpected pharmacologically active substances in %, 2011-2020 (n=3'068)

In the following sections, the substances additionally detected in amphetamine samples in 2020 are listed with their effects and risks. 


Caffeine makes you awake, accelerates the heartbeat, temporarily increases mental performance and has an appetite-suppressing effect. In higher doses, from 300 mg (equivalent to approx. 8 cups of coffee), it additionally produces euphoria. At high doses, the following side effects are possible: sweating, fluttering of the heart, urinary urgency, cardiac arrhythmia, perceptual disturbances, tremors, nervousness and sleep disturbances. With regular use, there is a risk of dependence with physical symptoms. In combination with amphetamine, the effect of both substances intensifies. This leads to a higher strain on the cardiovascular system. 

Caffeine is added to amphetamine because of its stimulating effect and effect-enhancing potential, but also for the purpose of profit maximisation through stretching. 

Caffeine was analysed in 51.2 % of amphetamine samples in 2020 (+1.7 %); on average, 52.6 % caffeine was present in caffeine-strewn samples (+2.0 %). 

Synthesis impurities 

Since there is hardly any information available on the risks, side effects and long-term consequences of the various synthetic impurities, one runs an additional, unknown health risk when consuming amphetamine containing synthetic impurities. It can be assumed that some of these synthetic impurities do have neurotoxic and/or carcinogenic properties. Although synthetic impurities are visible in the analysis, it is sometimes not possible to determine which substances they are and in which concentration they occur. DPIA, formetorex and 4-methyl-5-phenylpyrimidine are three synthetic impurities that can be detected in laboratory analysis. DPIA is probably a psychoactive synthesis by-product that is formed during the production of amphetamine. DPIA exhibits a mild stimulant effect, but much less pronounced than that of amphetamine. The toxicity of DPIA is described as moderate. Formetorex is half as potent a stimulant compared to amphetamine. 4-Methyl-5-phenylpyrimidine seems to be a more harmful synthesis by-product with toxic effects. There is hardly any reliable information on the three substances regarding risks, toxicity and long-term effects. 

Synthetic impurities were detected in 42 % of the amphetamine samples analysed in 2020 (+17.8 %). 

No synthetic impurities were detected in 58 % of the amphetamine samples (-18 %). 17 % of the amphetamine samples in which synthetic impurities were detected contained one to two different synthetic impurities (+2 %). In 8 % of the amphetamine samples in which synthetic impurities were detected, three different synthetic impurities were analysed (+4 %). In 17 % of the amphetamine samples in which synthetic impurities were detected, even four to seven different synthetic impurities were analysed (+12 %). 

Proportion of analysed synthetic impurities in amphetamine samples 2020, in % (n=168) 

Since hardly any information is available on the risks, toxicity, side effects and long-term consequences of synthetic impurities, no precise statement can be made about the quantity above which they are harmful to health. However, it can be assumed that a larger quantity also means a greater risk. Nevertheless, it cannot be ruled out that even small amounts of certain synthetic impurities can be harmful to health. 

59 % of the samples in which synthetic impurities were detected contained up to 5 % synthetic impurities. In 21 % of the samples where synthetic impurities were detected, 5.1 % to 10 % synthetic impurities were detected. In 16 % of the samples where synthetic impurities were detected, 10.1 % to 20 % synthetic impurities were detected. In 4 % of the samples where synthetic impurities were detected, even more than 20.1 % synthetic impurities were detected. The impurities are given in relation to the amphetamine content. 

Proportion of synthetic impurities in relation to amphetamine content in amphetamine samples 2020, in % (n=71) 

Other pharmacologically active substances analysed 

In 2020, small amounts of ketamine, cocaine, MDMA and phenylacetone were analysed in 5.4 % of the amphetamine samples analysed. This is probably due to unintentional contamination (e.g. smear contamination in minigrips already in use). In three samples declared as amphetamine, no amphetamine was analysed, but cocaine twice (once with levamisole) and once 4-MMC. These are probably also mix-ups. More information on most of these substances on 

Paste or powder 

For a long time, real pastes stood for particularly concentrated forms of amphetamine, as it was believed that these were undiluted and came directly from the manufacturing laboratory. In fact, these real pastes are also relatively impure chemically, as they are not, or only insufficiently, purified in the manufacturing laboratory. In addition, "pastes" often consist of moistened amphetamine salt-caffeine mixtures and are rarely genuine pastes (= amphetamine base that has not been converted, or has been incompletely converted, to a salt such as hydrochloride or sulphate). They are moistened, for example, with phenylacetone or isopropyl alcohol for the purpose of "recognition" (appearance of pastes and smell: phenylacetone or isopropyl alcohol are possible starting materials in amphetamine synthesis). Pastes are often liquid and sticky; sometimes the moistening additive evaporates quickly. Due to the toxicity of these solvents, amphetamine pastes should always be well dried before consumption. 


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