American Amphetamine Addiction
Nicolas Rasmussen (Professor of History and Philosophy) gives expert video advice on: During the mid-1960's, how prevelant were amphetamines in the average American life?; What role did amphetamines play in hippie culture during the 60's?; How did the movement against methamphetamines come about in the 1960s? and more...
What role did amphetamines play in hippie culture during the 60's?
Apart from that there's problems in hippie culture so you've got the mainstream pill popping concerns, you've got the troops in Viet Nam in the late 60's. Within hippie culture there seems to be a developing clash between the peace loving acid and marijuana users who seek enlightenment and universal love and people who are taking high doses of amphetamines, particularly by injection. This is where you first start seeing methamphetamine as a specific abusive phenomenon, where injectors, in many, but not all parts of the country, prefer injecting methamphetamine.
How did the movement against methamphetamines come about in the 1960s?
Amphetamine is preferred by the injector, it's not just methamphetamine. In San Francisco, it's methamphetamine though, and there is a big, kind of a movement against "speed freaks" or "speed" as a dangerous drug. There's a thought that the counter-culture tries to keep kids from experimenting with speed, right. It'll kill you. And there's a "speed kills" kind of general campaign led by some of the most credible figures. Allen Ginsberg, you could say, starts it off. He had a famous interview in 1965 where he declared speed to be a bad thing for the counter-culture community. By the mid '67, '68, you've got this sort of general campaign which is getting mainstream media attention that speed is particularly bad, so it's this first kind of panic about methamphetamine in particular with the mainstream media. Cynics have argued that the attention of the mainstream media to the injection of methamphetamine is to take attention off the fact that drugs seized on the street at the time were over 90 percent product from U.S. pharmaceutical firms.
How did America's amphetamine problem become a political issue?
At the end of the 60's there is a political issue now that the pharmaceutical industry is producing all this Speed, there's a general kind of concern about drug abuse with the Heroin epidemic that appears to be growing. Of course the children of the middle class are experimenting with drugs and college campuses in the late 60's and drugs have become much more, not just a stigmatized outsider thing that was the urban poor's problem, it had become sort of our main stream problem in the US. So new drug control legislation was introduced at several points in the 60's. In three cases with the express intent of controlling amphetamines. All three times really failed to control pharmaceutical amphetamines. But the third try, the 1970 Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention Act had created the modern drug regulation framework with schedules, one for the most prohibited, Heroin, and LSD was put on it straightaway, down to the most harmless ones. Schedule two was for the most dangerous and strictly regulated substances that could still be prescribed by medicine. And the advocates for amphetamine control wanted to have amphetamines, methamphetamine and also methylphenidate, brand name Ritalin which was popular with certain injection abusers at the time; again, in blind tastings experienced users couldn't tell the difference.
How did pharmaceutical companies react to the drug regulations of 1970?
They tried to put those on Schedule II. The lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry had succeeded in excluding six thousand different amphetamine products from Schedule II, and they got put on Schedule III. Only I think it was six fairly low-selling methamphetamine, injectable methamphetamine, was placed on Schedule II. So only injectable methamphetamine was initially placed on Schedule II because of the drug industry lobby. At least that argument has been made. But the 1970 legislation gave the Bureau of Narcotics, the forerunner of the DA, and the FDA the right to reschedule drugs and they did that. The next year in 1971 they rescheduled amphetamine, methamphetamine and methylphenidate to Schedule II and said that you can produce as much as can be legitimately justified medically. There is no preventing doctors from prescribing it. It is just that when they prescribe it, special records are kept, or whatever. When they announced the rescheduling of amphetamines, but before the rule came into affect, amphetamine consumption by prescription jumped sixty percent. So obviously, there are a lot of medical-amphetamine users who felt that their medical amphetamine use was not going to be justifiable once the scheduling came into affect. By 1972 medical use of amphetamine had dropped to one tenth.
Is there a relationship between Attention Deficit or Hyperactivity Disorder and amphetamine abuse?
There is this great prescription for it's high rates, increasing rates of prescription for Attention Deficit which I think should be worrying. By some calculations it appears, and to me this strikes me as implausible, but it appears that Attention Deficit is 100,000 percent more prevalent today than it was only 30 years-ago that's a pretty large increase in a disease. Well naturally what's happening is that disease hasn't increased if it is a disease, if it is a disease, we have a recognition of a disease, but there's got to be a over recognition at least locally. The DEA has found that in certain school districts 20 percent of the kids have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit and are on a medication whereas in other school districts five percent or less. The pharmaceutical industry is aware of the increasing concerns about over-prescription or possible over-prescription of amphetamines to school children for attention deficit. And there's a number of new drugs related to some extent to generally remotely to amphetamines which are said to be free from all of amphetamines drawbacks yet still affective for attention deficit and to promote alertness and prevent sleep and so on. It may be true but those claims have been made before many times new diet drugs related to amphetamine but without all the drawbacks and one after another, they proved to be more dangerous, less effective or both. People recognize drugs by their brand names; the fact is that there is really only two popular drugs for attention deficit today although there are these new ones. I mentioned there are two new drugs there are new drugs, which are said to be much safer. They are the old drugs, the most popular drugs are the old drugs Methylphenidate best known as Ritalin and the old fashioned amphetamine, the same essentially as Benzedrine, invented in 1929. The same drug that was during World War II and seems to have produced considerable addiction problems both in the military and in the civilian medical usage and that drug is simply amphetamine and dextramaphetamine and goes under many popular names, but adderall is most recognized.