Dextroamphetamine: History notes

Last modified: Saturday, 30. May 2009 - 3:24 pm

Dextroamphetamine has flown with the Mercury Missions, Apollo 11, and the first 24 space shuttle missions. Combined with scopolamine, an alkaloid of belladonna (Atropos belladonna, or deadly nightshade), the drug was the sole remedy for one of the biggest early challenges of space flight — motion sickness. It was also used to battle fatigue on some flights. For example, in 1963, Mercury 7 astronaut Gordon Cooper took the drug before re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.
However, this oral remedy was not always completely effective for nausea, because weightlessness of space made its absorption in the digestive tract unpredictable. According to NASA reports, during the first 24 missions of the Space Shuttle program, 67% of crew members on their first flight reported symptoms of space motion sickness. While the majority recovered from symptoms by the third day in space using the dextroamphetamine and scopolamine combination, the 72-hour wait ate up a considerable portion of the mission. In 1988, intramuscular injections of the more effective drug promethazine replaced dextroamphetamine/scopolamine as the space-sickness drug of choice.

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