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Body-building supplement Craze contains 'meth'-like drug, study finds

It's unclear whether N,alpha-DEPEA has the same addictive effect

Published: October 14, 2013 06:00 AM
Photo: Driven Sports

The popular body-building supplement Craze contains a stimulant never previously studied in humans that is similar to methamphetamine, according to a study released today by the journal Drug Testing and Analysis.

The study’s authors purchased the product in 2013 from an American and a European online retailer, as well as from a major U.S. walk-in chain. Then, two labs took samples and independently identified the same undisclosed ingredient, called N,alpha-DEPEA. Each sample had a different lot number.

“What’s particularly alarming about finding a completely new drug, in this case a close cousin of methamphetamine, is that we have no idea how it will affect the body,” said the lead study author Pieter Cohen, M.D., of the Harvard Medical School. “Will it be addictive? Will it stimulate the heart and increase the risk of heart attacks? It has never been studied in humans, so we don’t know.”

Craze is manufactured by Driven Sports Inc. and is marketed as “performance fuel” that provides “the ultimate in pre-workout power.” The supplement is labeled as containing an extract of a plant, dendrobium orchid. “It might be that manufacturers are not actually using the orchid at all,” Cohen said, “but rather using the name ‘dendrobium’ when actually placing pharmaceutical drugs into the supplement. It is very likely that some other supplements labeled as containing dendrobium contain this same new drug.”

By following the manufacturer’s dosing recommendations, users would consume up to 35 mg of the designer drug. Such high quantities strongly suggest that it’s not a minor contaminant resulting from the manufacturing process or a previously undiscovered trace component.

Cohen says that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was informed of his findings in May, although no action has been taken to date. He isn’t aware of anyone becoming addicted to the product, but says it might have mild euphoric effects. In fact, a batch of pure N,alpha-DEPEA was seized in Korea and was suspected of being distributed as a party drug.

Craze garnered the national spotlight last summer, when a USA Today investigation raised concerns over the product after learning that undisclosed amphetamine-like compounds were being detected by other labs. The United States Anti-Doping Agency even categorized Craze as “High Risk” after testing a sample from one lot and finding prohibited stimulant substances.

See our new report "Young Body-Builders Beware: Supplements Can Be Dangerous." And see our earlier coverage of vitamins and supplements.

Since their investigation, the paper reports that Walmart.com, Bodybuilding.com, and eBay have all suspended sales of Craze.

In response to USA Today, the manufacturer released a statement on its blog, stating that it’s a “legal supplement” and that it has “commissioned extensive testing of Craze from a reputable, independent laboratory, which conclusively establishes that the product does not contain any illegal stimulants.”

Cohen couldn’t speak specifically to those results or the legitimacy of the lab, but said that within the supplement industry, there has been a pattern of manufacturers producing a range of products with the same label, with only some containing the undisclosed ingredient.

As for Craze’s current availability, “we purchased it from a local GNC store last week,” Cohen said.

—David Schipper

   

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