CRAZE may not have been a horrible supplement—many people say it was their most effective pre-workout—but it garnered some horrible publicity. In 2013, it lived up to its name when a mainstream media craze screamed that it contained a “meth-like substance.” Had Walter White and Jesse Pinkman brewed it up in an underground lab? Grab your DEA badge. Let’s investigate.

CRAZEY LIKE A FOX

Let’s just say Matt Cahill has a shady history. In 2002, he concocted a weight-loss pill containing DNP—an industrial chemical used in pesticides and explosives that had been a diet drug in the 1930s, until consumers began going blind and dying. According to USA Today, Cahill sold it online, along with steroids and other drugs. He was busted, and sentenced to two years in federal prison for mail fraud and introducing a misbranded drug into commerce. (DNP is still sold on the gray market. We’ll tell its long, strange story in a future “Worst Supplements Ever.”)

In 2004, Cahill launched Superdrol, a “supplement” with the main ingredient methasterone, an anabolic steroid which had avoided drug classification (he licensed Superdrol to another company the next year). And in 2008, after serving his prison sentence, he began selling Rebound XT, an anti-estrogen “supplement” that contained ATD, an unapproved chemical compound, leading to another felony charge in 2012 (the case was dismissed three years later).

None of this was bad for business. His previous company, Designer Supplements, and new one, Driven Sports, launched in 2008, earned renegade reputations for pushing the envelope. No bullshit. They were the real deal. If you wanted promises delivered—results with risks—Matt Cahill was your guy. In late 2011, he introduced CRAZE to a bodybuilding market that was going crazy for pre-workout supps but was wary of the hype. “You have NOT experienced workout energy like this,” was CRAZE’s promise. It delivered. Sold wherever you could find supplements, including GNC and Amazon.com, it was an immediate success. In October 2012, CRAZE was awarded the Bodybuilding.com “New Supplement of the Year.”

THE ONE WHO KNOCKS

And in October 2013, came headlines like this one: “Meth-like Substance Found in ‘Craze’ Workout Supplement.” Over a year before, in June 2012, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency found prohibited stimulants in CRAZE and listed it on its “High Risk Dietary Supplement List.” But who pays attention to government agencies? And in July 2013, USA Today published a lengthy exposé of Cahill and questioned CRAZE’s stimulants. But who reads USA Today?

However, when a paper came out on October 14, 2013 from the watchdog group NSF International, alleging, after tests (including some by Harvard scientists), that CRAZE contained a substance (N,a-DEPEA), not listed on the label, that “has a structure similar to methamphetamine,” news spread wide and fast. There was even a two-minute segment on ABC News with George Stephanopoulos. Meth in supps?! It was a story too good to ignore. Driven Sports disputed the findings, but CRAZE was pulled from shelves—creating a customer rush to grab it—and the company destroyed its remaining inventory in early 2014.

George Stephanopolus scolds CRAZE. / ABC News.

The researchers said they tested CRAZE after athletes who used it failed urine tests, and they speculated that N,a-DEPEA is likely less potent than methamphetamine but more potent than ephedrine. “It has never been studied in the human body,” a Harvard researcher told USA Today. “Yes, it might make you feel better or have you more pumped up in your workout, but the risks you might be putting your body under of heart attack and stroke are completely unknown.”

Matt Cahill and Driven Sports are still around. D.S. released CRAZE v2 in 2014, and then CRZ the O.G. in 2018. (Note: It’s not the original gangsta formula.) Cahill was never charged with spiking the original CRAZE with meth-lite—but then the U.S. government is lax at policing the supp industry—and we know of no health issues associated with CRAZE’s ingestion. Some users still mention it with awe, not unlike those who went through a drug phase and only remember the highs. “Man, that original CRAZE, that was the shit.” But we all should demand truthful labeling. When an unlisted ingredient is discovered in a proprietary blend, and it’s a close cousin to a highly addictive and destructive drug, that’s crazy. We can’t go yah, even if bros loved the rush. We’re Team Nah all the way.