Originally, BZP was synthesised by the Wellcome Research Laboratories as a potential anthelminthic (anti-parasitic) but was found to have antidepressant qualities. However, it was also found that BZP had amphetamine-like qualities and could cause hyperactivity and a reduction in reaction times in ‘shock avoidance studies’. It is reported that BZP had about 10% of the potency of dexamphetamine. This led to the cessation of BZP as a potential medicinal drug.

Two separate studies, one by Bye et al (1973) and Campbell et al in the same year were conducted in order to assess the amphetamine-like effects of the drug. The study gave the drug to both healthy people and compared them to former amphetamine addicts. It was found that BZP was very similar to amphetamines.

Recreational use of the drug grew over the 1990s in a number of places including New Zealand and California.