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New Drug Turns Deadly When Mixed with Ecstasy
Benzylpiperazine, also known as Natural Ecstasy or BZP, is said to enhance a person’s sense of taste, sound, and color. It’s sold legally in the UK as a soil fertilizer, but when mixed with MDMA, or Ecstasy, it can be deadly.
Last May, Daniel Backhouse, a 22-year-old mortgage adviser from Sheffield, England, died after taking a pill of MDMA, not knowing it had been cut with BZP. “That is the problem when you take pills—they’re cut with anything. You never really know what you’re going to get. There’s no label on them,” said Harry Hopkinson, the friend who admitted giving Daniel the MDMA. Hopkinson also said he had never heard of BZP before.
Daniel had taken two to three pills of what friends assumed to be MDMA the day before he died while at a friend’s housewarming party. The next day, he was given another pill of MDMA by Hopkinson. Gregg Hunter, another friend, said Daniel started complaining that he was feeling too warm soon after taking the pill. “It was pretty sudden. He started shaking. He was trying to say things but he wasn’t making sense.” Another friend said he sounded like he was having an asthma attack. Daniel was driven to the hospital, and soon after was pronounced dead, despite attempts by medics to resuscitate him.
Dr. Alfreda Eugene Walker, who conducted the post-mortem examination of Daniel, said the combination of BZP and Ecstasy likely “caused an abnormal beat of the heart. Taking these drugs increases the heart rate and force of contractions. Your heart can tolerate that to a point but there comes a time when it can no longer cope.”
David Urpeth, Assistant Deputy Coroner of Sheffield, England, said there is a “significant chance” that more deaths will occur from BZP, which is “a new drug and a cause for concern.” Urpeth said that BZP is not deadly on its own, as it is only about a tenth the strength of Ecstasy, but that it “appears to cause death in conjunction with Ecstasy.” And since it is much less potent than Ecstasy, it’s likely that most people will use BZP to enhance the experience of MDMA.
Hopkinson was brought to court to testify about the incident, but it was decided that charges wouldn’t be brought against him. While there was evidence that Hopkinson had supplied the drugs, it was decided that it wasn’t in the public interest to prosecute him. Detective Sergeant John Fitzgibbons of South Yorkshire Police said, “He has to live with the fact that he supplied the drug that killed his very close friend…a court would not be able to impose any more punishment.”
While BZP cannot be sold legally in Australia and the US, the drug still poses a huge threat, especially since many people who use MDMA have no way of knowing what the drug they are taking has been cut with.