Benzylpiperazine is one of the most common ‘legal high’ designer drugs. It has effects similar to ecstasy, but less unpleasant side-effects and can be synthesized easily. Benzylpiperazine can continue to react with unremoved starting materials leading to additional impurities such as dibenzylpiperazine.
While no deaths have been directly attributed to benzylpiperazine, it was reclassified as a controlled drug in the UK in 2009 due to its potential health risks. Mike Cole and colleagues, Anglia Ruskin University, UK, report that benzylpiperazine is toxic to the kidneys, while the precursor, piperazine, is toxic to the liver.
The team made batches of the drug with varying levels of impurities to simulate street drugs. These were tested against human fibroblast, liver and kidney cell lines to determine their damage. The impurities were shown to cause a synergistic effect, creating more damage as a mixture than each component individually.
- Annual meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences
- Ecstasy substitute poses major health risks, RSC News 9 May 2011.