Source: Guardian
Date: 20 March 2007

Medicines watchdog cracks down
on 'legal high' pills

Matt Weaver

Pills offering "legal highs" were today declared illegal by the UK medicines regulator because they contain a dangerous anti-worming agent. Until now, drugs containing Benzylpiperazine (BZP) have been marketed in Britain as legal alternatives to ecstasy, with products including Pep Twisted, Pep Stoned, Legal E, Nemesis, The Good Stuff and Euphoria.

Many are easily available in "headshops" and over the internet, despite being banned in the US and many other countries.

However, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said vendors of the drugs could face prosecution and ruled that their promotion must be stopped immediately.

MHRA research found BZP can came cause the same high as amphetamines, but also induce side-effects including vomiting, abdominal pain, seizures and abnormal heart rhythms. In extreme cases, it can cause death.

The MHRA said the active ingredient in BZP is piperazine, which is used as an anti-worming agent to tackle parasites in cattle.

"Producers and sellers must now stop marketing all products containing benzylpiperazine and piperazine blend in the UK with immediate effect, and must cancel all advertising and promotion including internet promotion and sales," Danny Lee-Frost, an MHRA spokesman, said.

"People should not take these pills, as there are considerable health risks."

He said piperazine-based products were classified as medicinal and must only be sold under licence in a pharmacy. However, BZP pills are unlicensed and there is there no safeguard over the quality or safety of the drug.

The widespread sale of piperzines in the UK was exposed by the Guardian in 2005. One pill, Twisted, was marketed as offering a "loved-up feeling with a trippy edge", while another, Stoned, was described as "mild, mellow and giggly".

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