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Uses. This amphetamine was created in a laboratory in 1953 and is used as an appetite suppressant. Its qualities are similar to dextroamphetamine, although users perceive benzphetamine as the weaker of the two in various aspects and—with one notable exception—do not particularly find benzphet-amine to be a substitute for dextroamphetamine. The exception is that some persons wanting to boost alertness use benzphetamine in order to avoid the jumpiness caused by dextroamphetamine.

Experiments with rhesus monkeys show dextroamphetamine to be about 14 times stronger than benzphetamine when used as an appetite depressant; in dogs the difference is 5 times. Difference in potency also varies depending on the effect being measured (locomotion, blood pressure). In terms of end result, studies have been inconclusive when comparing benzphetamine, phenmetra-zine, and dextroamphetamine. One experiment found benzphetamine superior to dextroamphetamine in weight reduction. In that same study benzphetamine maintained appetite reduction longer than other drugs did, but benzphetamine users in another comparison test detected no change in their feelings of hunger. The drug has little effect on levels of blood pressure or blood sugar, which some scientists see as positive factors for hypertensive or diabetic patients.

Benzphetamine is known to cause euphoria, yet that response apparently is uncommon. Volunteers taking the substance in an experiment acted more friendly but not euphoric, although they did feel more energetic. In another study the psychological state of users remained the same as with persons taking a placebo. In contrast to results from animal experiments, electroencephalograms (brain wave readings) taken from humans fail to show brain stimulation by benzphetamine.

Drawbacks. Users occasionally report wooziness, eyesight difficulty, and mild insomnia. The compound's ability to mask fatigue can also cause persons to overextend themselves—a hazard when operating dangerous machinery such as motor vehicles. In an experiment, complaint of dry mouth was routine, and insomnia less so, but the drug did not make people particularly active or ill-tempered. Once ingested, benzphetamine will convert into amphetamine and methamphetamine and may cause a person to fail a drug test for those substances, although skilled interpretation of test results can sometimes suggest benzphetamine as the source.

People with diabetes, thyroid trouble, epilepsy, or anxiety should use benzphetamine with caution. Persons with glaucoma, cardiac ailment, high blood pressure, or narrowed arteries are supposed to avoid benzphetamine altogether.

Abuse factors. Experiments with rhesus monkeys have been interpreted as meaning benzphetamine may be more effective in producing desire for the drug than in producing appetite loss. Human tests find the drug about as appealing as phenmetrazine. In an experiment with 75 human subjects, 5 reported experiences likened to those induced by mescaline. Drug abusers may find benzphetamine attractive, but it lacks a reputation for illicit use. Dependence can develop.

Drug interactions. People using a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI, found in some antidepressants and other medicines) are supposed to stop taking any such drug two weeks before using benzphetamine. Tricyclic anti-depressants may reduce benzphetamine's effectiveness. The drug may interfere with the blood pressure medicine guanethidine, causing pressure to rise.

Cancer. The digestive system can convert benzphetamine into methylben-zylnitrosamine, a substance identified as causing cancer.

Pregnancy. Benzphetamine is considered to have high potential for causing birth defects if used by a pregnant woman. The drug may pass into breast milk.

Additional scientific information may be found in:

Chait, L.D., and C.E. Johanson. "Discriminative Stimulus Effects of Caffeine and Benzphetamine in Amphetamine-Trained Volunteers." Psychopharmacology (Berlin) 96 (1988): 302-8.

Chait, L.D., E.H. Uhlenhuth, and C.E. Johanson. "Reinforcing and Subjective Effects of Several Anorectics in Normal Human Volunteers." Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 242 (1987): 777-83. Patel, N., D.C. Mock, Jr., and J.A. Hagans. "Comparison of Benzphetamine, Phenmetrazine, D-Amphetamine, and Placebo." Current Pharmacology and Therapeutics 4 (1963): 330-33.

Poindexter, A. "Appetite Suppressant Drugs: A Controlled Clinical Comparison of Benzphetamine, Phenmetrazine, D-Amphetamine and Placebo." Current Therapeutic Research: Clinical and Experimental 2 (1960): 354-63. Veldkamp, W., et al. "Some Pharmacologic Properties of Benzphetamine Hydrochloride." Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 6 (1964): 15-22.

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