A Brief History of Amphetamines/Methamphetamines
Www.drugabuse.gov describes methamphetamine as:
‘…a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Also known as meth, chalk, ice, and crystal, among many other terms, it takes the form of a white, odorless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that easily dissolves in water or alcohol.’
In this paper, I am going to write a brief history of how this drug came to be known as one of the most feared and dangerous drugs. I cannot begin to explain methamphetamine without first giving details on how it came to be.
Ephedrine is the active ingredient in amphetamine. It was first synthesized in 1887 by Lazar Edeleano, a German chemist. Six years later, in 1893, Nagayoshi Nagai sunthesized methamphetamine. Less than 20 years later, in 1919, a Japanese pharmacologist named Akira Ogata synthesized methamphetamine hydrochloride, which is now known as crystal meth. Although, both drugs came into the world with very little fanfare, in 1929, amphetamine came into focus after Gordan Alles studied its psychoactive effects. Those properties that were discovered led to the Philadelphia pharmaceutical firm Smith, Kline, and French to publicly produce the Benzedrine inhaler in 1931 that was promoted to relieve nasal congestion as well as asthma symptoms.
Within just a few years, amphetamine was considered a ‘wonder drug’ in the United States. Shortly after the Benzedrine inhaler was introduced, in 1937, the same company started producing Benzedrine tablets. It was quickly recommended for the treatment of more than two dozen conditions including narcolepsy, epilepsy, depression, schizophrenia, alcoholism, morphine (codeine) addictions, obesity, and the treatment of hyperactive children just to name a few. Early on amphetamine was universally considered safe and not addictive. One report in 1944 even went as far as stating ‘…addiction is very rare and only occurs in the severe psychopath who would have probably become addicted to some drug or other anyway.’
During World War II, more than two hundred million amphetamine tablets were distributed freely to American soldiers to combat fatigue. In the years following the war, sales of Benzedrine exploded in the United States. The United States was not the only country hit hard. Because Japan also used large amounts of amphetamine and methamphetamines in regards to keeping soldiers awake and able to fight, once the war was over, Japanese military factories had an overabundance of the pills. Pharmaceutical companies started selling them over the counter and methamphetamine use reached epidemic proportions causing the first documented methamphetamine epidemic in the world. In 1941 methamphetamine was introduced as an over the counter medication called Sedrin in the United States. In a short span of time, the stage was set for a methamphetamine surge that would take the United States by storm for decades.
The first surge of methamphetamine use began as...