A high-speed history of a very popular drug
AcknowledgmentsIntroduction1 The New Sensation2 Benzedrine: The Making of a Modern Medicine 3 Speed and Total War 4 Bootleggers, Beatniks, and Benzedrine Benders 5 A Bromide for the Atomic Age 6 Amphetamine and the Go-Go Years7 Amphetamine's Decline: From Mental Medicine to Social Disease8 Fast Forward: Still on Speed, 1971 to Today Conclusion: The Lessons of History Notes List of Archival Sources Index About the Author
Nicolas Rasmussen is Associate Professor in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of Picture Control: The Electron Microscope and the Transformation of Biology in America, 1940-1960.
"On Speed, a fascinating history of the use and abuse of amphetamines, is full of hair-raising detail. Even more compelling than the historical perspective--which allows for visits to Harlem Jazz clubs, the haunts of Greenwich Village beatniks and Andy Warhol's Factory--is Mr. Rasmussen's withering survey of the current scene, with speed, in the form of Ritalin and Adderall, prescribed to millions of American children who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, and millions more using it recreationally. Add a dash of theorizing about the medicalization of social problems, and you have a book that is, well, addictive." New York Observer "Fascinating and thoroughly researched... The history of amphetamines over the past 70 years shows the iron fisted grasp the drug industry has had and continues to have over the medical industry." British Medical Association "It's hard to believe that amphetamine, a drug of questionable medical utility and extreme addiction hazard, was once considered among the 20th century's pharmaceutical triumphs, on a par with penicillin and insulin. How it attained and lost that status is the subject of this perceptive book" Washington Post Book World "Rasmussen, who has taught life sciences and medicine at UCLA and other universities, examines amphetamine as a case study on the place drugs occupy in our culture and our fantasies (of miracle cures and elixirs). The story begins with chemist Gordon Alles's creation of amphetamine in 1929 and continues through its use for weight loss, attention deficit disorders and today's crystal meth craze. Smith, Kline & French (now GlaxoSmithKline) bought the rights for use of the drug and marketed it to treat depression. During WWII, British and American soldiers developed an amphetamine appetite as RAF medics distributed wakey-wakey tablets to bomber crews. At the book's core is an outstanding chapter, Bootleggers, Beatniks and Benzedrine Benders, describing how Benzedrine inhalers, available without a prescription, could be cracked open for a totally new kind of amphetamine experience, exerting a potent influence on music and literature, from Charlie Parker to Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Rasmussen has mined magazines, books and newspapers in addition to extensive explorations through U.K. and American archives. He concludes by calling for strong and immediate action to curb the widespread, dangerous use and abuse of amphetamines, emphasizing treatment and harm reduction (like needle exchange) rather than punishment, and better regulation of the pharmaceutical industry." Publishers Weekly "The German military consumed 35 million methamphetamine tablets in April, May, and June 1940" the blitzkrieg in a whole new light. Even more compelling than the historical perspective which allows for visits to Harlem Jazz clubs, the haunts of Greenwich Village beatniks and Andy Warhol's Factory is Mr. Rasmussen's withering survey of the current scene, with speed, in the form of Ritalin and Adderall, prescribed to millions of American children who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, and millions more using it recreationally. Add a dash of theorizing about the medicalization of social problems, and you have a book that is, well, addictive." Adam Begley (aka Begley the Bookie), NEW YORK OBSERVER "Rasmussen documents America's eighty year love affair with amphetamine and its various permutations. Monumental in scope and research, the book traces the history of this seductive drugs uses for a myriad of illnesses when the true sickness may be inherent to our unique American society. Given our current extraordinary use of this drug, On Speed is an urgent and necessary read." Lawrence Diller, M.D., author of Running on Ritalin "I've been waiting for a book on amphetamines for years and On Speed delivers. Crammed full of eye-popping detail, it brings the history of this extraordinary group of drugs and their effect on American culture vividly to life." David Healy, M.D., author of Let Them Eat Prozac "A magnificent work: measured, thorough, strong on both the technical details and the larger socio-cultural and ethical issues surrounding the development, marketing, and distribution of these dangerous mood-altering drugs. Rasmussen has dug into the medical literature and available archives to find new information on every aspect of the process by which amphetamines were invented, patented, and twinned with various 'disorders.' Rasmussen' s book is a must-read." Robert A. Nye, Professor Emeritus, Oregon State University "On Speed deftly captures amphetamine's impact on medicine, culture, and society. Rasmussen lays bare the decades-long attempts to employ amphetamine to gain strategic advantage on the battlefield, wage war against depression and attention deficit disorder, fight weight gain, counteract boredom, and seek thrills in everyday life. Along this journey, we learn about the dysfunctional American policies that failed to adequately address the toll amphetamine took on countless lives. As the title promises, Rasmussen's account tracks the many manifestations of amphetamine from the 1930s to today in intricate and fascinating detail, from miracle drug to public enemy, a trajectory filled with lessons for the future." John P. Swann, Historian, Food and Drug Administration