A Tweaker's History of The World
History of Adderall In Honor of the Nationwide Shortage
Today the FDA announced that there is a nationwide shortage of Adderall. A sad day for all. I can hear the pitter patter of Rx bottles being poured out for all of the deadline-missing homies. Degenerates the nation over were already quite aware of this drought going back to the beginning of summer.
Boo hoo the tweakers can’t get their fix.
Many of you might feel similarly, and I don’t blame you, but what you might be failing to realize is an adderall drought is the worst thing that could happen to a post-industrial nation. The nerd in me can’t wait until strung-out data scientists track the GDP deficit associated with this drought in a couple years. For now, I figure I shouldn’t squander the adderall I’m currently on, and provide a fun little stroll through the historical archives of amphetamine use.
One could say, all of the post-industrial capitalism can be attributed to adderall use, but that would be crazy…right?
The reasonable among you might say:
“Vers, there’s no way that the appearance of amphetamines coincides exactly with the rise of modernism and the knee in the exponential curve for technological growth."
Yes, that is exactly what happened.
Amphetamines are inextricably linked to modern society in the same way that without coffee and tea we would never have had The Enlightenment.
Before coffee and tea, it was very difficult to consistently find clean water. In a time period where dysentery was fatal, you can’t chance drinking from water sources which weren’t naturally occurring springs. Instead, everyone just drank beer and wine all the time. It was safe, but since everyone was drunk absolutely nothing got accomplished. The discovery of tea and coffee—which is prepared by boiling water—meant that the average person could drink sterilized water and now not only were they sober they were regularly ingesting a stimulant. Shortly there after we had The Age of Reason and the Industrial Revolution.
A similar paradigm shift occurred at the end of the 19th century.
Amphetamine was first synthesized by a Romanian chemist named Lazăr Edeleanu in 1887. Edeleanu wrote extensively on amphetamine but never discovered its physiological effects. In 1929, a biochemist in California named Gorden Alles injected himself with 50 milligrams of the drug to experience its physiological effects. He was trying to develop a drug that would be more effective than ephedrine, which was used for asthma, allergies, and colds. While he noted that his nose did clear up and he experienced a feeling of improved well-being, he mostly commented on the “sleepless night.” He later patented amphetamine hydrochloride and amphetamine sulfate in 1932.
Soon after, Alles went to a pharmaceutical company and they created Benzedrine, a decongestant inhaler, which took over the academic world throughout the 1930s. It’s funny, if you thought the over-prescription of ADHD in 2022 was a problem, imagine 1930s and everyone claiming congestion issues. The library during finals week sounds like a symphony of inhalers. Is this where the bookish nerd who constantly puffs his inhaler for asthma meme comes from? It’s been a trope in media basically my entire life, but the association was never obvious to me. In real life, asthma was a normal distribution over all social castes. Maybe that’s an article for another day (probably not, I’m horrible about keeping promises for content).
Famously, Benzedrine was used by Nazi and Allied soldiers during WW2. The point of this obviously was to make sure that soldiers were stimulated and were able to fight for far longer without additional rest. The euphoric effects of amphetamines also allowed soldiers to dive—quite literally—headfirst into danger. Kamikaze pilots in WW2 were hopped up on amphetamines before they manically plunged to their doom as a living weapon. Over 200 million amphetamine tablets were given to German soldiers between 1939 and 1945. Even Hitler himself used to get zooted, as the famous video of him tweaking at the Olympics in 1936 showed.
The 1936 Olympics was interesting in multiple ways because not only did we get this hilarious video of Hitler being “just like me,” this was the Olympics where the entire world was introduced to Benzedrine as it was used for doping the athletes to improve performance. The Nazis, who famously wanted to stay at the cutting edge of science, took this drug and immediately began incorporating it heavily into their research. The German chemist Friedrich Hauschild started using this drug regularly after this and went on to synthesize methamphetamine while working for Temmler-Werke, a Berlin-based pharmaceutical company in 1937.
Side note: were it not for methamphetamine being invented, then you would have completely missed out on the hilarious escapades of my podcast host Lukas. Check out what is easily our most popular episode.
Pervitin, as it was branded, was heavily advertised in Germany where the product could be purchased without a prescription. This makes sense when you consider the Nazi ethos. The Aryan race is strong, hyper vigilant and powerful. Weak people use drugs for escapism; they use heroin and drink alcohol. Aryans are looking for a drug to be more present, to be more alert, to have more vigilance. Consequently, it was seen as an imperative to get German citizens on methamphetamine. “Germany, awake!” One of Hitler’s favorite phrases, and one of the phrases used by Alan Turing to decode the Enigma Machine (a cryptography schema which Nazi soldiers used to encrypt their messages). Was not only a reference to vigilance, but to the presence of mind which methamphetamine brought the German people as they drew closer to the mythos of the Aryan ubermensch.
The famous military implementation of Pervitin was during the invasion of Poland in September 1939. During the battle, “Germany overran its eastern neighbor by October, with 100,000 Polish soldiers killed in the attack. The invasion introduced a new form of industrialized warfare, Blitzkrieg…[the] lightning war…” The Blitzkrieg was a strategy which was based upon unprecedented quickness and catching the enemy off guard. The point being that soldiers are human, not machine. They need to rest, they need time to coordinate. The speed of the blitzkrieg was literally enabled by methamphetamines (i.e. speed). In fact, it probably couldn’t have been implemented without meth. There’s tons of information out there on the military application of methamphetamine during WW2 so I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.
Back in the States, and after the war, Benzedrine was the drug of choice for many beatniks such as Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs. It’s said that Kerouac wrote “On the Road” in a 20 day Benzedrine bender. If you’ve ever read any of Kerouac’s writing it is immediately apparent that he was tweaking. Kerouac is quite literally famous for innovating the style of “spontaneous prose.” Uh okay, that’s literally just him manically going off on a meth tangent, but sure we’ll give it to you. I go into spontaneous prose every time the addy kicks in during a group chat discussion derailing the chat for hours with some tangent I’m very passionate about.
Whomst among us cannot relate.
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