DMAA: A new party pill

January 8, 2011, 12:00 am


Another bitter pill: a case of toxicity from DMAA party pills. Gee P et al. N Zeal Med J 17 December 2010;123:124-127.


Since 1-benzylpiperazine (BZP) was banned in New Zealand, stimulant “party pills” have frequently contained dimethylamylamine (DMAA). Although this drug was patented and marketed in the 1950s as a nasal decongestant, there is little known about its effects when ingested.  This case report, from Christchurch Hospital, describes a 21-year-old man who developed headache, confusion, incontinence, slurred speech, and focal neurological signs after ingesting DMAA, caffeine, and beer. Although no sympathomimetic symptoms were noted on presentation to the emergency department, the patient did not come to hospital until 19 hours after ingestion. CT scan showed a large cerebral hemorrhage in the area of the left basal ganglia with midline shift. Analytic tests on similar pills were positive for DMAA.

The authors note that DMAA — which is derived from the geranium plant — was patented by Eli Lilly in 1944 as a nasal decongestant.  Animal studies at that time showed that the drug was a sympathomimetic.

Reports in the popular media have indicated that DMAA causes headache, vomiting, agitation, and hemorrhagic stroke.  Little else is known about its toxicology. Interestingly, late last year, a Belgian cycling champion Rudy Taelman tested positive for DMAA, causing him to be banned from the sport for one year.  His explanation? The DMAA was present in a legal supplement he was taking. The supplement was named “Crack”. (I am not making this up — click here.) “I especially looked for a safe supplement and my pharmacist said that Crack did not contain any doping,” Taelman said. “How can I, along with thousands of recreational sportsmen, know that Crack contains Methylhexanamine?” Taelman’s explanation is backed up by the Belgian Agency for Food Safety.

Thanks to Chris Nickson from Life in the Fast Lane for letting me know about the article by Gee et al.

[Addendum January 8, 2010 9:32 am] As pointed out in a comment below, at Life in the Fast Lane Mike Cadogan has an excellent detailed discussion of methylhexanamine from the sports doping perspective.


  1. Tweets that mention DMAA: A new party pill » The Poison Review -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Leon Gussow. Leon Gussow said: DMAA: A new party pill – 3.5 out of 5 stars Another bitter pill: a case of toxicity from DMAA party pills. Gee P et … […]

  2. precordialthump Says:

    Hi Leon,

    Mike has written a nice summary of DMAA (also known as methylhexanamine) from the sports medicine perspective.