Impure but not inactive: Behavioral pharmacology of dibenzylpiperazine, a common by-product of benzylpiperazine synthesis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Substituted piperazines comprise a substantial proportion of the novel psychoactive substance market. Among the most widely abused piperazine compounds are meta-chlorophenylpiperazine (mCPP), tri-fluoromethylphenylpiperazine (TFMPP), and, especially, benzylpiperazine (BZP), which are commonly incorporated, either alone or in combination, in illicit “party pills” or “ecstasy” formulations. Illicit synthesis of BZP often results in production of an impure by-product dibenzylpiperazine (DBZP), which frequently appears alongside BZP in these formulations; however, despite its ubiquity, little information exists regarding the abuse liability of DBZP. Aims: The current study aimed to evaluate the abuse-related behavioral pharmacology of DBZP. Methods: DBZP, mCPP, and TFMPP were tested in parallel in mice in locomotor activity and conditioned place preference assays, and in a drug discrimination assay with rats trained to discriminate either methamphetamine, cocaine, (±)-3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), or -2,5-dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine(DOM). Results: Each of the compounds tested produced dose-dependent decreases in locomotor activity. DBZP substituted fully for methamphetamine, produced subthreshold drug-appropriate responding for cocaine and MDMA, and failed to substitute for DOM. Conversely, TFMPP and mCPP only produced subthreshold drug-appropriate responding for methamphetamine and MDMA, respectively, and both compounds failed to substitute for cocaine or DOM. None of the compounds tested produced a place preference. DBZP produced convulsions in rats at the highest dose tested. Conclusions: These data indicate that DBZP is more similar to BZP, albeit with lower potency and efficacy, than its serotonergic piperazine counterparts, and is a behaviorally-active compound with some abuse liability and potential for adverse health effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)802-810
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018



  • Abuse liability
  • DBZP
  • conditioned place preference
  • drug discrimination

Cite this