20 June 2006
Researchers have begun investigating the effects "party pills" have on the human body – the first in-depth controlled research into their effects in the country.
Researchers at University of Auckland's school of pharmacy started studies which will test volunteers' memory and neurological function after they have taken benzylpiperazine (BZP) and trifluromethylphenylpiperazine (TFMPP) – the main components of party pills.
The studies come at a time when conservative estimates from 2005 suggested approximately 150,000 doses of the pills are sold throughout the country from corner dairies, liquor shops and online.
Research by the Ministry of Health on party pills this month found as many as one in five New Zealanders had tried party pills and 15 per cent had used them over the past year.
Use was greatest among 18 to 24-year-olds with up to 38 per cent saying they had taken them over the past year.
Co-ordinator of the research Dr Bruce Russell said no controlled experiments have been published, although in the 1970s BZP was used in two controlled studies.
There are no available controlled trials describing the effects that TFMPP has on people.
The studies will involve recruiting volunteers to perform tasks both before and after taking either BZP and/or TFMPP.
The volunteers' responses would be compared with those of the normal brain to identify those areas affected by the drugs.
Party pills contain either BZP and/or TFMPP (amphetamine-like substances) along with herbal stimulants such as guarana (caffeine) and black pepper.
In 2004 the NZ Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs concluded that there was insufficient information available to classify either substance within the Misuse of Drugs Act.
"The majority of the effects that BZP and TFMPP have on the human body are largely unknown," the committee said.
The research would look closely at the pharmacological effects the drugs have on the brain and their metabolism to provide detailed information about exactly what effects they do have and how long they last, he said.
"We are hoping that this research and further studies that we have planned, will allow people to make an informed decision about the use of BZP and TFMPP in the future."