Amphetamines: Composition, Therapeutic use, Treatment. Amphetamines Effects. Reactions with other drugs.

Last modified: Thursday, 25. December 2008 - 4:51 am


Official names: Amphetamine (Adderall), laevoampheta-mine (Benzedrine), dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine), metham-phetamine (Methedrine)

Street names: Black dex, bens, bennies, benz, black and white, blackbirds, black bombers, black Cadillacs, black mollies, blacks, blue boys, blue mollies, brain pills, brain ticklers, brownies, browns, bumblebees, chicken powder, co-pilot, coasts-to-coasts, crisscross, cross tops, dex, dexies, diamonds, diet pills, dominoes, double cross, drivers, eye openers, fives, footballs, forwards, french blues, go, greenies, head drugs, hearts, horse heads, ice, jelly baby, jugs, leapers, lid poppers, lid proppers, lightning, MAP, minibennies, morning shot, nugget, oranges, peaches, pep pills, pink hearts, pixies, rhythm, rippers, road dope, rosa, roses, snap, snow pallets, sparkle plenty, sparklers, speed, spivias, splash, splivins, sweeties, sweets, tens, thrusters, truck drivers, turnabout, uppers, uppies, wake ups, West Coast turnarounds, whiffledust

Drug classifications: Schedule II, stimulant


Key terms

ADDICTION: Physical dependence on a drug characterized by tolerance and withdrawal.

APHASIA: Partial or total loss of the ability to explain ideas or understand spoken or written language, resulting from damage to the brain caused by injury or disease.

ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER (ADHD): A mental disorder characterized by persistent impulsive behavior, difficulty concentrating, and hyper-activity that causes lowered social, academic, or occupational functioning.

CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM (CNS): The part of the nervous system consisting of the brain and spinal cord to which sensory and motor information is transmitted, coordinating activity of the entire nervous system.

CRAVING: A powerful, often uncontrollable desire.

NARCOLEPSY: A rare, chronic sleep disorder characterized by constant daytime fatigue and sudden attacks of sleep.

PSYCHOSIS: A severe mental disorder characterized by the loss of the ability to distinguish what is objectively real from what is imaginary, frequently including hallucinations.

RUSH: A surge of pleasure that rapidly follows administration of a drug.

TOLERANCE: A condition in which higher and higher doses of a drug are needed to produce the original effect or high experienced.

WITHDRAWAL: A group of symptoms that may occur from suddenly stopping the use of a substance such as alcohol or other drugs after chronic or prolonged ingestion.



Amphetamine was first synthesized in 1886 by a German chemist, though it was not used for medical purposes until the early 1930s. Amphetamine dilates the small sacs of the lungs, providing relief to patients with breathing disorders. In 1931, the pharmaceutical company Smith, Kline, and French introduced the Benzedrine Inhaler to relieve the discomfort of nasal congestion due to colds, hay fever, and asthma. Soon after, the sulfate form of amphetamine was also aggressively marketed. Amphetamine was promoted as a sort of “wonder drug” without knowledge of its potentially addictive properties.

Because users complained of sleeplessness, druggists started compounding tablets for the treatment of a sleeping disorder known as narcolepsy in 1935. Amphetamine then became popular because it delayed fatigue. “Pep pills” soon became available over-the-counter. Truckers were quick to use the pills to keep awake during long-haul deliveries. The first reports of college students using amphetamines to beat fatigue while studying surfaced in 1936. Businessmen and their secretaries also began using amphetamines to induce increased alertness.

By 1937 amphetamine was being used to treat a condition known as minimal brain dysfunction, a disorder later renamed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The use of amphetamine for that disorder continues into the twenty-first century.

During World War II, soldiers on both sides of the war used amphetamines to maintain alertness and increase stamina. Historians speculate that overuse produced states of uncontrolled aggression that may have contributed to “berserker” charges by soldiers on both sides during many battles. Historians have said that from 1942 until his suicide, Hitler received daily methamphetamine (MAP), a kind of amphetamine, injections from his doctor. Many historians believe that the amphetamine abuse corrupted Hitler’s judgement, undermined his health, and probably influenced the course of the war.

Unfortunately, as the use of amphetamine spread, so did its abuse. The first major epidemic of modern times occurred in Japan after the end of World War II. Much of the country was devastated during the war, and the Japanese had to work long hours to rebuild their country. Japanese men who had been soldiers recalled how amphetamine kept them going during the war and sought to acquire the drug. As a result of that demand, inventories of amphetamines were released for sale without prescription. This led to a national epidemic that only ended in the mid-1950s after the Japanese government restricted access to amphetamines and passed stricter laws against illegal amphetamine use.

Major epidemics of amphetamine abuse and dependence occurred in the 1950s, 1960s, and again in the 1990s in the United States and western Europe, particularly in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. In the United States during the 1950s, the availability of over-the-counter amphetamine “diet” pills fueled the epidemic. Amphetamines were even given to race horses during that time since it was believed the drug made them run faster.

In the 1960s, public health authorities noted the first epidemic of intravenous drug use centered around the Haight-Asbury district of San Francisco, California. Individuals, soon to be known as “speed freaks,” had learned how to melt amphetamine down and inject the liquefied substance into their veins.

The new drug counterculture of the early 1960s prompted increased control measures. Countries throughout the world passed new laws and regulations in the 1960s and 1970s. In the United States, Congress passed the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) of 1970. The CSA included amendments to the federal food and drug laws that put strict controls on the production, import, and prescription of amphetamines. Many amphetamine forms, particularly diet pills, were removed from the over-the-counter market though they remain available by prescription.

As a result of those laws and regulations, and similar laws in other nations, a black market for amphetamines emerged in many countries. In the 1990s, illicit amphetamine production was increasingly reported in the western United States and eastern Europe, particularly in Poland and Hungary.


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