In vivo, adrenochrome is synthesized by the oxidation of epinephrine. In vitro, silver oxide (Ag2O) is used as an oxidizing agent. Its presence is detected in solution by a pink color. The color turns brown upon polymerization.
Effect on the brain
Several small-scale studies (involving 15 or fewer test subjects) conducted in the 1950s and 1960s reported that adrenochrome triggered psychotic reactions such as thought disorder, derealization, and euphoria. Researchers Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond claimed that adrenochrome is a neurotoxic, psychotomimetic substance and may play a role in schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. In what they called the "adrenochrome hypothesis", they speculated that megadoses of vitamin C and niacin could cure schizophrenia by reducing brain adrenochrome. While the treatment of schizophrenia with such potent anti-oxidants is highly contested in literature, and adrenochrome is not currently believed to have any psychedelic properties, a number of recently published papers consider Hoffer's paper a landmark contribution to the notion that impairment of what's now termed the anti-oxidant defense system (AODS) seems to play a role in schizophrenia.
Adrenochrome is unscheduled by the Controlled Substances Act in the United States, but if sold as a supplement, sales must conform to U.S. supplement laws. If sold for consumption as a food or drug, sales are regulated by the FDA.[unreliable source?]
In popular culture
Author Hunter S. Thompson mentioned adrenochrome in his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The adrenochrome scene also appears in the novel's film adaptation. In the DVD commentary, director Terry Gilliam admits that his and Thompson's portrayal is a fictional exaggeration. In fact, Gilliam insists that the drug is entirely fictional and seems unaware of the existence of a substance with even a similar name. Hunter S. Thompson also mentions adrenochrome in his book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. In the footnotes in chapter April, page 140 he says, "It was sometime after midnight in a ratty hotel room and my memory of the conversation is haze, due to massive ingestion of booze, fatback, and forty cc's of adrenochrome."
The harvesting of an adrenal gland from a live victim to obtain adrenochrome for drug abuse is a plot feature in the first episode "Whom the Gods would Destroy", of Series 1 of the British TV series Lewis (2008).
In Fear The Walking Dead season 3 episode 14, "During the show, Nick and Troy took a very strange drug. It was described as an actual human brain stem that contained chemicals from the adrenal gland."
^Hoffer A, Osmond H, Smithies J (January 1954). "Schizophrenia; a new approach. II. Result of a year's research". The Journal of Mental Science. 100 (418): 29–45. doi:10.1192/bjp.100.418.29. PMID13152519.
^"The controversy that these reports created just sort of died away, and the adrenochrome family has never been accepted as being psychedelic. No one in the scientific community today is looking in and about the area, and at present this is considered as an interesting historical footnote." As seen at: Shulgin A, Shulgin A (1991). "#157 (TMA)". PiHKAL - A Chemical Love Story. Transform Press.