What to Know About BZP Use

Storefront advertising final days of legal BZP

bronzebrew / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

BZP, or n-benzylpiperazine, is a potent stimulant that is often used in combination with the drug TFMPP (1-(3-trifluoromethylphenyl) piperazine. It is used at raves, nightclubs, and parties and has been called "legal ecstasy."

BZP is one of several recently-discovered synthetic drugs to emerge on the recreational drug scene. Its rising popularity is partly due to the decline in the availability of the psychoactive drug MDMA (ecstasy). Unlike MDMA, however, little is known about how BZP affects the body and brain over the long term.

BZP was once marketed as a "legal high," due to a delay in the substance being recognized and included in drug control regulations. Today, BZP is classified as a Schedule I drug meaning that has a high potential for misuse and has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.

Also Known As: The street names for BZP include legal ecstasy, A2, Benzo Fury, Frenzy, Nemesis, MDAI, Head Rush, XXX Strong as Hell, and Exotic Super Strong.

Drug Class: Benzylpiperazine (BZP) is a stimulant.

Common Side Effects: BZP is known to cause delusions, hallucinations, psychosis, palpitations, agitation, anxiety, confusion, dizziness, headache, tremor, mydriasis (dilated pupils), insomnia, urinary symptoms, vomiting, and seizures.

How to Recognize BZP

BZP can come in tablets of varying shapes, many of which are embossed with logos similar to those seen on MDMA tablets. It is also available in capsule form or as an off-white powder packaged in a small glass or plastic vial or in a small plastic resealable bag. 

What Does BZP Do?

BZP is often used in party pills and can be combined with other legal and illegal drugs. A typical dose of BZP is 75 mg to 150 mg, and while it is most often consumed orally, the powder form can also be snorted or smoked (sometimes called "bombing"). Benzylpiperazine takes about two hours to take effect with the effect lasting six to eight hours. It is often mixed with two or three other drugs—combinations that can create a complicated array of effects and symptoms.

Like ecstasy, people who use BZP report that the drug makes music and colors more intense and provides temporary feelings of affection for the people around you. It is also said to make you feel energized and in tune with your surroundings.

What the Experts Say

Since BZP is a synthetic drug created in a medical lab, it can easily be mixed or “cut” with any number of hazardous substances. What’s more, you won’t know the exact number of chemical ingredients nor the production standards.

In general, "legal highs" like BZP are designed to be more potent than the mimicked drug (in BZP's case, MDMD) to hook users. Chronic misuse can lead to delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia as well as irregular heartbeat.

Common Side Effects

In low doses, the effects of BZP are stimulating, similar to amphetamines. More severe toxic effects may include delusions, hallucinations, and psychosis.

When used for recreational purposes, these drugs have been reported to cause harmful effects, including:

  • Palpitations
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Teeth grinding
  • Eye twitching
  • Jaw clenching
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Tremor
  • Mydriasis (dilated pupils)
  • Insomnia
  • Urinary symptoms
  • Vomiting

Seizures are induced in some people even at low doses; if this happens, it's extremely important to get immediate medical attention as these can be potentially life-threatening.

Various types of organ system failure has also be reported, though fatalities have not been recorded conclusively for this substance alone. When used in combination with other substances, BZP-related deaths have been reported. Taking an intoxicated person to the emergency room for treatment will usually result in a good recovery.

What to Know About Hyponatremia

It is important to stay hydrated if you become overheated (from dancing for an extended period, for example), but don't allow someone on BZP to drink a lot of water very quickly. This can result in a condition called hyponatremia, or water intoxication, especially if they been sweating excessively.


Hyponatremia has been reported by emergency rooms as a risk of BZP intoxication. Sipping water is usually safe, but if someone high on BZP appears dehydrated, it is safest to take them to an emergency room where their fluid and electrolyte balance can be carefully monitored.

Signs of Use

Not everyone who goes to raves or clubs takes party pills but if you suspect drug use, this may be a good first indicator. In addition to looking for physical evidence of the drugs (e.g., pills, powder, plastic vials, or rolling papers), you might take note of any children's vitamin bottles or tootsie rolls, both used to store and carry pills.

Other warning signs to watch for:

  • Getting home very late or early in the morning (raves typically last through the night)
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Lollipops or pacifiers (sometimes used to keep from grinding teeth)

Myths & Common Questions

BZP has often been marketed as "legal ecstasy," leading users to mistakenly think that it is both legal and safe to use when in reality, it's neither. In the U.S., it is a controlled drug and was given Schedule I status in 2004, putting it in the same category as other serious drugs, such as heroin and cocaine.

Tolerance, Dependence, and Withdrawal

Since BZP is a relatively new "designer drug," more research is needed to determine how the drug behaves in the brain and body. Since it is a synthetic stimulant, it's likely that people who use it regularly can develop a tolerance, meaning that over time, they will need more of the drug to feel the same effects.

How Long Does Benzylpiperazine Stay in Your System?

Like other drugs, how long BZP stays in your body depends on many factors, including your gender, weight, metabolism, how much you’ve taken, frequency of use, and what other drugs you may have also taken. At this point, there is not a standard drug test to detect BZP. 

Addiction

BZP acts as a stimulant and can activate the brain's reward systems, triggering a preoccupation with the drug and an uncontrolled need for the drug. What's more, party pills are often combined with alcohol, marijuana, and other party drugs. This type of polydrug use is much more likely to lead to addiction and overdose.

Withdrawal

While BZP has not shown to cause physical withdrawal, it can cause psychological symptoms once the high begins to fade, including:

  • Strong cravings
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Depression

These symptoms can begin as soon as a few hours after the last dose and can be very distressing. This is why many addiction experts recommend for detox to take place under supervised medical care. 

How to Get Help

Psychosis, including delusional anxiety, paranoia, and an inability to differentiate between fantasy and reality, is a scary and possible side effect of BZP. If you think someone you love is experiencing psychosis, it is important to call 911 or get medical help right away. 

Try to remain calm and don't worry about legal consequences. Emergency room staff are only concerned about the person's physical health and safety. If you have a sample of what has been taken, bring it with you to the hospital, as this can help determine what is causing the symptoms.

Even if BZP has yet to cause a harmful side effect, it's important to talk to your loved ones about the risk of using BZP and to take note of any signs of drug use. With the right rehab program, it is possible to recover from drug or alcohol addiction and to begin a new and fulfilling sober path.

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