By Anthony McDaniel, M.D.
Benzylpiperazine (BZP) is a recreational drug with euphoric, stimulant properties. The effects produced by BZP are comparable to those produced by amphetamine. Adverse effects have been reported following its use including acute psychosis, renal toxicity, and seizures. No deaths have been reported following a sole ingestion of BZP, although there have been at least two deaths from the combination of BZP and MDMA. Its sale is banned in a few countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom, Romania and other parts of Europe. However, its legal status is currently less restrictive in some other countries such as Canada, with investigations and regulations pending under European Union laws.
In the early 1990s, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration noted the drug was being used recreationally in California. It also reported that BZP was being used as an adulterant in illicit drugs. Not long after, there was an explosion in the drug's use worldwide — a situation which was soon followed by legislative control in many countries. Since 1999, benzylpiperazine use grew sharply in New Zealand due to an initial complete lack of regulation. Piperazine-based stimulants began to appear in Europe in 2000, but remained virtually unavailable in the rest of the world until recently. In early 2006, pills containing the active ingredients BZP and TFMPP began to appear in the city of Vancouver, Canada, where they first gained popularity with late night party-goers as a safer alternative to many of the illicit street drugs commonly available there. In 2007 piperazine based party-pill formulations started to become widely available nationwide which has caused concern with local authorities such as Health Canada and subsequently BZP has gained much media attention in 2008. As of May 2008 piperazines such as BZP and TFMPP have been under evaluation by Health Canada in order to determine whether or not party-pills pose a significant health risk to individuals. At this time no official decision has been made regarding these specific piperazines becoming restricted substances, or if they should be banned altogether in Canada. In the United States, it is still used as an adulterant in ecstasy mimic tablets.
The effects of BZP are largely similar to amphetamines, with one study finding that former amphetamine addicts were unable to distinguish between dextroamphetamine and BZP administered intravenously. Users report alertness, euphoria and a general feeling of well being. The perception of certain sensations such as taste, color or music may be subjectively enhanced. The average duration is longer than that of dextroamphetamine, typically lasting 4–6 hours with reports as long as 8 hours depending on the dose. A recent study has shown that mixtures of BZP with other piperazine drugs such as TFMPP share certain pharmacodynamic traits with MDMA.
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