While amphetamine use may be getting tons of attention today due to its increased use and abuse in the work place and amongst college students, it actually has been going on since the early 1930s. Amphetamines, you could say, built this country. Whether it was crack, meth, speed, Adderall, Ritalin, etc., the truth is – this country has had a speed problem for a long time. And it doesn’t look like it is going away anytime soon.
The Origin of Amphetamines
Amphetamines were first created in 1887 a chemist, who was named Lazar Edeleanu. He synthesized the drug from a chemical compound that Ma-Huange a plant found in China included. They did not begin to be considered medicine until the 1920’s when it was found that they changed how the lungs worked. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, amphetamines were used over the counter to treat things such as asthma, hay fever and the common cold.
Around the time amphetamines were becoming medicinal, a psychiatrist named Abraham Myerson hypothesized that amphetamines adjusted the hormonal balance in the central nervous system and that they stimulated adrenalin. Dr. Myerson believed that depression stemmed from a lack of adrenalin, so he decided amphetamines would be a GREAT antidepressant. Obviously, this is not how amphetamines work, but the company that was producing the drug ran with the idea and began promoting them as antidepressants.
Due to advertising and marketing campaigns, the use of amphetamines expanded. Doctors were encouraged to recommend over the counter amphetamines for things like Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, motion sickness, night blindness, obesity, narcolepsy, and impotence. They were also used to extend wakefulness and became really popular among truck drivers, students and athletes (this we know to still be true today.)
By World War II, the sales of amphetamines had quadrupled and 1945 saw over 500,000 Americans were using or abusing them. At this point it was still not considered dangerous nor was it controlled in any way. Amphetamines were still an over the counter medicine and they were fueling the depressed and tired who had to go to work after the war. And you can see the effect it began to have on our culture. Everything had to be built better, food cooked faster, women had to do more, men had to do more etc.
The Illegal Amphetamine Drug Trade: The 1960s
A survey in 1962 states that the US annual amphetamine salt production had reached about 80,000 kg. That is roughly, 43, 10 mg pills, per American, per year. Through the rest of the 1960s amphetamine production grew to beyond 8 BILLION doses manufactured yearly. The widespread use made the public health hazards of amphetamines even more obvious. The problem the medical society found most troubling was the amphetamine-induced psychosis.
Oh, and the addictive potential. When the drug was introduced, pharmacists noted it was habit forming—like caffeine and nicotine. By the 1960s it was clear that many people were hooked on the drug. The 1960s also saw the first ILLEGAL drug trade in amphetamines.
Amphetamines From the 1970s to NOW
In 1970 there was some regulation of amphetamine production and it changed amphetamines from an over the counter med to a prescription med. After this, the government began to control how much amphetamine was produced by US drug corporations.
And while there was a slump in amphetamine use after federal control began, use has only INCREASED in recent years. According to the DEA, from 1995 to 2007, production of amphetamines has increased by more than five times and in 2005 more amphetamines were produced in American than any other time in history—even when they were OTC (over the counter.) The reasons behind this obviously have to do with their being overly prescribed for those individuals who have ADD or ADHD. And the saddest part about that is they are mainly prescribed for children and teens.
As of 2011 in the U.S., 6.1% of children 4-17 years old were on ADHD medication.
Amphetamines which are prescribed for ADHD include:
- Adderall/Adderall XR
- Desoxyn (NOTE: Desoxyn is methamphetamine)
Methylphenidate prescribed for ADHD can be found under the brand names:
- Focalin/Focalin XR
- Methylin/Methylin ER
- Ritalin/Ritalin SR/Ritalin LA
- Metadate ER
- Quillivant XR
Both drug categories are addictive and can cause serious side effects (noted above), a fact recognized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). That is why such drugs fall under Schedule II of the United States Controlled Substances Act. Wonder why Ritalin is called “Kiddie Coke”? It creates young drug addicts who crave the drug and they could possibly end up crushing it, snorting it, smoking and even injecting it.
The Present Day Amphetamine Epidemic
Todays amphetamine use looks a lot like it did before World War II. (Just not on accident and without the ignorance. AKA we are knowingly getting people addicted to this stuff.) Many individuals who are using amphetamines today are using them in the work force to help the produce more and better than they ever have. And many of those individuals who are using amphetamines in the work place started using the drug either as a child or as a young adult in college.
We all know the story of the “study drugs.” College aged students getting Adderall or Ritalin from the friend with “ADHD” who has been taking it as a kid, and pushing through all-nighters studying on the drug, writing papers on the drug, and taking tests on the drug to make their way through college. Well, those people are now working. And they are continuing to use these amphetamines to push through their 40 hour work week.
So as you can quite clearly see, while America was built by many things amphetamines played an important role in fueling those things/people. Now we are left with many people who have addictions to the substance and who don’t know life without it. The truth about amphetamines is that they are basically a pill version of crack, cocaine or meth. They are drugs. Drugs that have the same affect as any other illegal speedy drug. And it is time we stop handing these pills out like candy to every individual who has trouble focusing.