4-MTA is a strong serotonin releaser similar to paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA), which can cause pronounced hyperthermia potentially resulting in organ failure and death. The subjective effects of 4-MTA include prolonged stimulation, which, in contrast to other amphetamines, is accompanied by little sense of euphoria. 4-MTA is also an MAO-A inhibitor, which may explain its tendency to easily cause adverse effects, as MAOIs are not considered safe to use in conjunction with stimulants.
It was developed by the research team led by David E. Nichols, but was intended to be used only as an agent for laboratory research into the serotonin transporter protein, and Nichols was reportedly sad to see 4-MTA appear as a drug of abuse on the street.
4-MTA was briefly sold in smart shops in the Netherlands, though was soon banned by the Dutch government after serious side-effects started to emerge. It was also briefly sold on the black market as MDMA during the late 1990s, mainly in the USA, but proved unpopular due to its high risk of severe side effects (several deaths were reported) and relative lack of positive euphoria.
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