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A suspension of 12.7 g 1-(2-methoxy-4-methyl-5-methylthiophenyl)-2-nitropropene (see under 5-TOM for its preparation) in 50 mL warm acetic acid was added to a suspension of 22.5 g electrolytic grade elemental iron in 100 mL warm acetic acid. The temperature was raised cautiously until an exothermic reaction set in, and the mixture was maintained under reflux conditions as the color progressed from yellow to deep brown to eventually colorless. After coming back to room temperature, the somewhat gummy mixture was poured into 1 L H2O, and all insolubles were removed by filtration. These were washed with CH2Cl2, and the aqueous filtrate was extracted with 3x100 mL CH2Cl2. The washes and extracts were combined, washed with 5% NaOH until the bulk of the color was removed and the washes remained basic, and the solvent was then removed under vacuum. The residue, 11.6 g of a pale amber oil that crystallized, was distilled at 110-120 °C at 0.4 mm/Hg to give 9.9 g 2-methoxy-4-methyl-5-methylthiophenylacetone with a mp of 41-42 °C. This was not im-proved by recrystallization from hexane. Anal. (C12H16O2S) C,H.

IUPAC name
Molecular formula C12H19NO2S
Molar mass 241.350 g/mol
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for
materials in their standard state
(at 25 °C, 100 kPa)

Infobox references

To a solution of 7.3 g 2-methoxy-4-methyl-5-methylthiophenylacetone in 35 mL methanol there was added 7.3 mL 35% hydrogen peroxide, and the mixture held under reflux conditions for 40 min. All volatiles were removed under vacuum, and the residue suspended in 250 mL H2O. This was extracted with 3x50 mL CH2Cl2, the extracts pooled, and the solvent removed under vacuum. The residue, 8.6 g of an oily solid, was recrystallized from 10 mL boiling toluene to provide, after filtering and air drying, 5.4 g of 2-methoxy-4-methyl-5-methylsulfinylphenylacetone as a white solid with a mp of 89-89.5 °C. Anal. (C12H16O3S) C,H.

To a vigorously stirred solution of 5.2 g of 2-methoxy-4-methyl-5-methylsulfinylphenylacetone in 70 mL MeOH there was added 17 g anhydrous ammonium acetate followed by 1.0 g sodium cyanoborohydride. HCl was added as needed to maintain the pH at about 6 as determined with damp universal pH paper. No further base was generated after 3 days, and the reaction mixture was poured into 500 mL H2O. After acidification with HCl (caution, highly poisonous HCN is evolved), this was washed with 2x100 mL CH2Cl2, made strongly basic with NaOH, and then extracted with 3x100 mL CH2Cl2. The pooled extracts were stripped of solvent under vacuum, and the residue weighed 7.1 g and was a pale amber oil. This was distilled at 150-160 °C at 0.3 mm/Hg to give a colorless oil weighing 4.4 g. A solution of this in 13 mL IPA was neutralized with 30 drops of concentrated HCl and the resulting solution warmed and diluted with 20 mL of warm anhydrous Et2O. White crystals separated immediately and, after filtering, ether washing and air drying, provided 4.4 g of 2-methoxy-4-methyl-5-methylsulfinylamphetamine hydrochloride (TOMSO) that melted at 227-229 °C after vacuum drying for 24 hrs. Anal. (C12H20ClNO2S) C,H. The presence of two chiral centers (the alpha-carbon of the amphetamine side chain and the sulfoxide group at the 5-position of the ring) dictates that this product was a mixture of diastereoisomeric racemic compounds. No effort was made to separate them.


greater than 150 mg (alone) or 100 - 150 mg (with alcohol).


10 - 16 h.


(with 100 mg) There were no effects at all, and it was at the so-called surprise pot-luck birthday lunch for the department chairman that I ate a little and had two glasses of Zinfandel. I shot up to an immediate ++ and this lasted all afternoon. I went to San Francisco by BART, and walked up Market Street and saw all the completely bizarre faces. I was absolutely unable to estimate the age of anybody who was female, at least by looking at her face. All aspects, both child-like and old, seemed to be amalgamated into each face, all at the same time. There was remarkable time-slowing; overall the experience was favorable. That certainly was not the effect of the alcohol in the wine. Food poisoning? No. It must have been the TOMSO that had been kindled and promoted to something.

(with 150 mg) At best there is a threshold and it is going nowhere. At the third hour I drank, over the course of an hour, a tall drink containing 3 oz. of vodka. Soon I was clearly somewhere, and three hours later I was a rolling plus three. This lasted until well after midnight, and was not an alcohol response.


This entire venture into the study of TOMSO was an outgrowth of the extraordinary response that had been shown by one person to 5-TOM. There were two obvious approaches that might throw some light on the reason for this dramatic sensitivity. One would be to see if he was unusually capable of metabolizing sulfur-containing molecules, and the second would be to assume he was, and to try to guess just what product he had manu-factured with his liver.

The individual sensitivity question was addressed in a tidy and direct manner. Why not study a simple sulfur-containing model compound that would probably be metabolized only at the sulfur and that would itself probably be pharmacologically inactive in its own rights? Sounded OK to me, so I made up a goodly supply of 4-tert-butyl thioanisole, which proved to be a gorgeous white crystalline solid. It seemed quite logical that this would be metabolized at the sulfur atom to produce either or both the sulfoxide and the sulfone. So I treated a methanol solution of this with a little hydrogen peroxide and distilled the neutral extracts at 100-115 °C at 0.2 mm/Hg to give the sulfoxide as a solid that melted at 76-77 °C from hexane: Anal. (C11H16OS) C,H. On the other hand, if a solution of the thioanisole in acetic acid containing hydrogen peroxide was heated on the steam bath for a few hours and then worked up, a new solid was isolated that proved to be the sulfone (a negative Fries-Vogt test). This was obtained as white crystals with a mp of 94-95 °C from aqueous methanol. Anal. (C11H16SO2) C,H. And I found that these three compounds separated well from one another by GC, and that they could be extracted from urine. Everything was falling into place. My thought was to determine a safe (inactive) level of the parent thioanisole, and determine the distri-bution of metabolites in my urine, and then in the urine of several other people, and then finally in the urine of the person who was the intense reactor to 5-TOM. I found that there were no effects, either physical or psychological, at an oral dose of 60 milligrams of 4-tert-butyl-thioanisole. But then everything fell apart. There was not a detectable trace of anything, neither parent compound nor either of the potential metabolites, to be found in my urine. The material was obviously being completely converted to one or more metabolites, but the sulfoxide and sulfone were not among them. It would be fun, someday, to methodically trace the fate of this compound.

So, on to the second approach. What might the active metabolite of 5-TOM actually be? The sulfoxide seemed completely reasonable, and that encouraged the synthesis of TOMSO. This name was given, as it is the sulfoxide analogue (SO) of 5-TOM. And since only one of these analogues has been made, the R5S distinction is not needed. But it is apparent that this approach to the finding of an explanation for the idiosyncratic sensitivity to 5-TOM also failed, in that TOMSO itself appeared to be without activity.

But the fallout of this study was the uncovering of an unusual property that alcohol can occasionally have when it follows the ingestion of certain inactive drugs. Or if it is used at the tail end of an experience with an active drug. Usually some alcohol has been employed as a softener of the residual effects of the day's experiment, or as a social habit to accompany the post-mortem discussions of a day's experiences, and perhaps as a help to sleeping. But if there is a rekindling of the effect, rather than the sedation expected, then the verb "to tomso" can be used in the notes. It represents the promotion of an inactive situation into an active one, with the catalysis of alcohol. But the effect is not that of alcohol. Might the extreme sensitivity of some alcoholics to even a small amount of alcohol be due to some endogenous "inactive" factor that is promoted in this way into some centrally florid toxicity? I remember seeing proposals of some tetrahydroisoquinolines as potential mis-metabolites in efforts to explain the toxicity of alcohol. Maybe they are nothing more than psychedelics that are thought to be inactive, but which might be ignited with a glass of wine. And the person is tomsoing with his small amount of alcohol.