Methamphetamine is a synthetic stimulant drug derived from another powerful stimulant called amphetamine. Like amphetamine, it has legitimate medical uses, but is also frequently produced and used illegally, and presents clear risks for abuse and addiction. According to the results of a study published in October 2013 in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis, a popular workout supplement—sold across the U.S. under the brand name Craze, contains a close chemical relative of methamphetamine. This chemical—called N, alpha-DEPEA—has not been tested for its effects on humans.
Under U.S. law, methamphetamine is classified as a Schedule II substance. This means that it has recognized medical benefits, but is also commonly subject to drug abuse and may easily help foster the development of drug dependence and addiction. Doctors can prescribe low doses of legally manufactured methamphetamine to patients affected by attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or serious cases of obesity. However, practically speaking, the stimulant plays only a small, occasional role in the treatment of these conditions. Methamphetamine use is much more likely to occur in illicit, uncontrolled circumstances that inherently qualify as instances of drug abuse. Like amphetamine and cocaine, methamphetamine sharply increases the baseline activity levels inside the brain and spinal cord. Consequences of this activity increase include appetite reduction, heightened physical energy, heightened alertness, a euphoric mental state, accelerated breathing, an accelerated heartbeat, altered heartbeat rhythms and heightened blood pressure levels. People who take too much of the drug in a short span of time can develop dangerous changes in organ function, as well as seizures and unsustainable increases in body temperature. People who habitually abuse methamphetamine can develop a range of serious outcomes related to stimulant dependence and subsequent symptoms of stimulant addiction.
N, Alpha-DEPEA Basics
Methamphetamine produces its drug effects because it contains certain chemical elements arranged in a specific chemical structure. N, alpha-DEPEA is an analog of methamphetamine. This means that it contains the same elements as methamphetamine and has a chemical structure very closely related to methamphetamine’s structure. It also means that the substance may potentially produce drug effects similar to those produced by methamphetamine. However, as of 2013, no researchers have studied the ways in which N, alpha-DEPEA interacts with the human body. This means that no one really knows whether people exposed to the chemical can develop drug reactions like those associated with methamphetamine use.
Because of its strong structural resemblance to methamphetamine, N, alpha-DEPEA shows up as a banned substance when athletic organizations conduct testing designed to detect performance-enhancing drugs. Recently, a number of athletes taking the supplement Craze unexpectedly failed random drug testing for banned substances. The makers of Craze claim that their product contains a naturally occurring substance called N, N-DEPEA. Despite its similarity in name to N, alpha-DEPEA, this substance is not banned from athletic use or implicated for any stimulant-like effects. In the study published in Drug Testing and Analysis, researchers from the U.S. and the Netherlands tested three separate batches of Craze for the methamphetamine-related N, alpha-DEPEA rather than N, N-DEPEA. After making a series of chemical analyses, the researchers concluded that the Craze samples they examined did indeed contain N, alpha-DEPEA. When the supplement is used according to the included product instructions, it delivers 21 to 35 mg of this substance per dose.
Significance and Considerations
While the manufacturers of Craze freely admit that the workout supplement contains chemicals remotely related to methamphetamine and amphetamine (but not suspected of causing drug effects), it does not include the closely related methamphetamine analog N, alpha-DEPEA on the supplement’s list of ingredients. However, the authors of the study published in Drug Testing and Analysis believe that the amount of N, alpha-DEPEA contained in Craze is almost certainly too high to be discounted as some form of unrecognized product contamination or adulteration. Still, since no one has studied the substance’s effects on the human body, no one can say for sure what purpose its intentional inclusion in the supplement would serve. Despite the lack of definitive answers on this point, the study’s authors strongly urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban the current formulation of Craze from U.S. markets and take active steps to inform the public about the potential dangers associated with use of the supplement.