Structural formula of adrenochrome
Ball-and-stick model of the adrenochrome molecule
IUPAC name
ChemSpider  Y
Jmol-3D images Image
Molar mass 179.18 g·mol−1
Density 3.264 g/cm³
Boiling point (decomposes, 115-120 °C)
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
 N  (: Y/N?)

Adrenochrome (catecholamine o-quinone),[1] chemical formula C9H9NO3, is a compound produced by the oxidation of adrenaline (epinephrine). The derivative carbazochrome is a hemostatic medication. It is unrelated to chrome (chromium).


  • Chemistry 1
  • Effect on the brain 2
  • Law 3
  • In popular culture 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


In vivo, adrenochrome is synthesized by the oxidation of epinephrine. In vitro, silver oxide (Ag2O) is used as an oxidizing agent.[2] 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) were done in the 50s and 60s, reporting that adrenochrome triggered psychotic reactions like thought disorder, derealization, and euphoria.[3] It has never been scientifically accepted, however, that adrenochrome has psychedelic properties.[4] 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.[5] In what they called the "adrenochrome hypothesis",[6] they speculated that megadoses of vitamin C and niacin could cure schizophrenia by reducing brain adrenochrome.[7][8]


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.[9]

In popular culture

  • Adrenochrome is mentioned in The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley as "a product of the decomposition of adrenaline" that can "produce many of the symptoms observed in mescaline intoxication."
  • Author Hunter S. Thompson mentions 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. Thompson also mentions the substance in his book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72.
  • The harvesting of an adrenal gland from a live victim to obtain Adrenochrome for drug abuse is a plot feature in the episode "Whom the Gods would Destroy" of the British TV series Lewis (2008).[10]
  • Appetite for Adrenochrome is the title of the debut album by Sacramento, California pop-punk band the Groovie Ghoulies.
  • Adrenochrome is a song recorded in 1982 by The Sisters of Mercy, released on the Body Electric single and compilations including Some Girls Wander by Mistake.
  • In Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange, one of the available additives to the "milk-plus" served at the Korova Milk Bar (actually rendered as "Milkbar" in the book) is "drencrom," which is likely a reference to Adrenochrome.[11] [Note that the characters in the novel and in A Clockwork Orange (film) consume different types of milk-plus. In the novel they drink, "...milk with knives in it, as we used to say, and this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of dirty twenty-to-one...." In the film, however, the opening narration explains that "The Korova Milkbar sold milk-plus: Milk plus vellocet, or synthemesc, or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultraviolence.

Also mentioned in the Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter trilogy of novels where the adrenal glands are harvested for the creation of adrenochrome to use as a drug.


  1. ^ COMMENTARY, John Smythies; Neurochemistry Section, Brain and Perception Laboratory, Center for Human Information Processing, UCSD Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, Electronic Seminars, 1999
  2. ^ MacCarthy, Chim, Ind. Paris 55,435(1946)
  3. ^ John Smythies (2002). "The adrenochrome hypothesis of schizophrenia revisited". Neurotoxicity Research 4 (2): 147–150.  
  4. ^ "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:  
  5. ^ Hoffer, A. Osmond, H., Smithies, J.; Schizophrenia: a new approach. Journal of Mental Science #100 (January, 1954)
  6. ^ Hoffer, A (1990). "The Adrenochrome Hypothesis and Psychiatry". Retrieved 2011-07-25. 
  7. ^ Hoffer, A. and Osmond, H. The Hallucinogens (Academic Press, 1967).
  8. ^ Hoffer, A., Osmond, H., & Smythies, J. (1994). An Evolutionary Defense Against Severe Stress. Schizophrenia: A New Approach (pp. 205–221). Victoria, Canada: Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine
  9. ^ Erowid. "Adrenochrome Law". Retrieved 2013-01-14. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Burgess, Anthony (2011). Rawlinson, Mark, ed. A Clockwork Orange (Norton Critical ed.). New York: W. W. Norton and Company. p. 3.  

External links

  • Adrenochrome Commentary at
  • Adrenochrome deposits resulting from the use of epinephrine-containing eye drops used to treat glaucoma from the Iowa Eye Atlas (searched for diagnosis = adrenochrome)