Which Recreational Drug Destroys Users Most Quickly

information on the effects, side effects and contraindications of pharmaceuticals is the Physician's Desk Reference, published yearJy by Medical Economics, Inc. Often referred to as the '"PDR,'" this book is the best place to quickly check on pills, and it has an extensive, luxuriously illustrated guide.

AMPHETAMINES It is fitting that San

Francisco, nexus of the late 1960s "speed culture," was the birthplace of amphetamines in the late nineteenth century. It was in that city that Gordon A lies developed amphetamine, which was originally a substitute for cphcdrinc, a mild stimulant used as an asthma decongestant for thousands of years in China. Amphetamine (z-phenyl-isopropylaminel was first produced by Edelsano in 1887, but its other therapeutic properties were pretty much ignored nntij 1927, when the compound was studied as an elevator of blood pressure, a nasal and bronchial expander and a central-nervous-system stimulant. .

It is this last characteristic that made the new chemical so popular for nonmedical lifts immediately upon its availability. In 1932, Smith, Kline and French introduced Benzedrine in an over-the-counter nasal inhaler. Experimental types learned to break these f,B-bombs" open and soak the amphetamine-saturated wicks in water or coffee for a terrific spate of energy and high spirits. G.L's in Korea chewed the wicks during all-night battles. And thus the speed culture slammed into fii*st gear.

Truckdrivers, students, writers, artists, businesspeople and deadline-meeters of all types soon became enamored of the utilitarian aspects of amphetamine use-the tremendous boost in energy and concentration, the lack of need for sleep or food, the great productivity, and the euphoric feelings of confidence and sharpness.

The amphetamine lexicon is probably one of the most extensive. There are the generic terms-"tips," "uppers," "pep pills," "diet pills," "forwards," "leapers," "copilots"; the truncated brand names-''"bennies," t,dext" or "mettV": descriptions of the drug's physical form-"cartwheels," "Christmas trees," "footballs," "hearts," "pinks," "white crosses," "black beauties"; and the sometimes arcane tenninology of the methamphetamine w on) d-f'speed/" "crystal," "crank," "water."

Fittingly, amphetamines became widely available in this country for the first time during the period we call the Great Depression, The economy was totaled, war loomed across the seas, but all one needed was a few tablets of "splash" and perhaps a Busby Berkeley film, and happy days were here again. Amphetamines were found to produce excellent results against narcolepsy (sleeping sickness) in 1935, and in 1937 the paradoxical calming effect of amphetamine on hyperactive children was fii*st noted. Today, this last is one of the few medical conditions for which amphetamines are still prescribed, although even this usage has been roundly criticized. Over the years, the drug has been prescribed for obesity, mild depression, epilepsy, Parkinsonism and CNS depression brought on by sedatives, hypnotics or barbiturates.

Amphetamines were first used by soldiers in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War, but use of the drug really surged with the coming of the second Would War. The Germans, Japanese, Americans and British all issued the stimulants to troops, and use soared on the homefront as well.. Especially in wartime, the American way has always meant progress, speed, efficiency, broken records and, in general, intense activity. The amphetamines provided all this and more: euphoria, alertness, a brighter outlook and increases in self-esteem, confidence and ambition.

At the end of the war, the Japanese dumped their surplus amphetamines on the open market as if they were so many khaki socks in what is considered the first amphetamine "epidemic." During the peak year of 1954, it is estimated that the small, country had almost two million amphetamine abusers. Injectable methamphetamine was available legally in Japan from 1940 to 1948 and on the black market from the inception of the ban until the end of the epidemic in the late 1950s.

Another spate of speeding often alluded to occurred in Sweden, where physicians were at one time unusually liberal with the drug. In 1965, amphetamine tablets were made available free under the Swedish national health plan, and in 1966, physicians prescribed over six million doses. Harsh legislation in that country seems only to have produced a lucrative market in putloined pharmaceuticals and sometimes dangerous '"bootleg1" stimulants.

In the United States, the pervading antidrug attitude of the limes and the ugly repercussions from the highly publicized "speed freak" culture led lo tight controls on amphetamines in the late 1960s and culminated in the establishment of manufacturing quotas in the eady 1970s. Today, pharmaceutical amphetamines must be considered almost a rarity on the general black market and are on the brink of being outlawed as a prescription drug.

Chemically, amphetamine is an active molecule that exists either as dextrorotatory (d-) or

"Your mind might think you rc flying high, bate. on those Utile pills, but you ought to know it's dying, 'cauae-SPEEQ *3LLSr

Canned Heat "Amphetamine Annie;' 190a

"Speed will turn yoii into your parent*. ..rots your mind, rots your liver, cucaracha."

Frank Zappa radio public ennnuncemcnt uf the tarly 197U «

le vorotatoiy (1 -) amp hetamine.

Dextroamphetamine is best known by the bi^and name Dexedrine, and a combination of (d~) and (1-) amphetamines (often simply called "amphetamine") was long ago marketed under the name Benzedrine. Although the (d-) form is several times stronger than the (1-) in eNS stimulation, the (1-) produces more undesirable cardiovascular effects. The third and strongest type of amphetamine is methamphetamine, the n-methyl derivative first synthesized by the Japanese Ogata in 1919.

It is not known precisely how the drngs work, but the prevailing theory is that they trigger the release and block the uptake of stimulating chemicals in the body snch as epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine and norepinephrine.

The unsavory aspects of amphetamine use l^ange from mild irritability or insomnia to the devastating physical and mental changes brought about by the long-term injection of methamphetamine. The drug's immediate physical effects include stimulation of the heart rate and an increase in blood and pulse pressure, facts which should be taken into consideration by people with heart or circulation conditions.

Writers or truckdrivers who use diet pills sevei*al days in a 10w may find themselves irritable, anxious, aggressive and in a fatigued but sleepless state at the end of a week. As amphetamines squelch the appetite and suppress the senses of smell and taste, food is un templing if not downright unswallowable. While the drug tends to cause diarrhea, a user may in fact become constipated from lack of raw materia). .

Amphetamines tend to dehydrate the body, so fluids must be regularly brought up to par. Many people experience stomach distress from ups, as well as stiff muscles in the back and neck, an aching jaw (from the repetitive grinding of teeth) and possibly a headache. Speed tends to make many people break out; others squeeze, pick and otherwise bother existing blemishes to such an extent that a pockmarked, infected face is one of the hallmarks of an intense speed freak.

As use continues, or the dose increases or periods of sleep grew less frequent, the adverse effects become mone severe. The personality, is definitely modified, most often afflicted with paranoia and delusions. Even though at first the user may view this development with a certain intellectual detachment, chronic heavy use typically destroys mental balance and the delusions become strikingly real.. While a hit of speed will energize a relaxed mind to new incisiveness, repeated doses of amphetamine cause an already overstimulated brain to produce bizarre behavior, usually of a compulsive nature: The oveipepped housewife might decide that she must dust the spare lightbulbs stored in the closet; the writer or artist wiJJ perhaps feed two dozen pencils into the sharpener, all the while marveling at his terrific productivity.

It should be noted that amphetamines woiic not by creating energy, but by freeing adrenaline and other hormones that regulate body activity. This means that it's possible to "overdraw* one's energy reserves-the bank analogy is admittedly oversimplified but still valid. Day after day, you can show up with your, amphetamine withdrawal slip and get some extra energy to spend on the town-until that lime when the funds are depleted and you come up wiib nothing.

Natural tolerance to amphetamines seems to vary among individuals. Severe adverse reactions have been observed in people receiving the common therapeutic dose of 30 milligrams. While many narcoleptics, hypeiicinetic children and chronic chubbies have been maintained on a constant dose of amphetamine for years with no decrease in sensitivity, tolerance to the drug's euphoric and stimulating effects usually develop rapidly.

Most of the really terrible consequences of amphetamine use are seen in those individuals who develop a habit of injecting methamphetamine, one of the most debilitating forms of drug use ever devised. But it should not be forgotten that all the amphetamines, even the small. pUJs with the cute nicknames, can produce most of (he dire symptoms observed in mainliners. Of course, the danger of infection from a syringe is absent with oral doses. Also, while one can sometimes eat two turkeys and a pizza while high on diet pi_l)s, it is almost impossible to eat when flying on meth, which increases the possibility of malnutrition.

The high from injected amphetamine differs in quantity and quality from the pep-pill high. The shoot-for-the-stars rush, the instant gratification,

the feeling of "where has this ecstatic, powerful me been all ray life?" makes tlie needle a seductive hitch much easier to get hooked on than pills. People can shoot speed once or several times and never touch it again, but once started, the desire to continue is strong. Usually, a neophyte will begin hitting up as a recreational sort of tiling, maybe tor a weekend once or twice a month.

Classically, the sprees will grow longer, the dose and frequency will jump and the sleep periods will shrink in frequency and duration. The final scenario involves runs of several days during which the speedster might shoot hundreds of milligrams several times a day, staving off the fatigue and depression that inevitably follow a high dose amphetamine jag. When he finally does crash, it is into a deep sleep that can last several days. After awakening and eating an enormous amount of food, the archetypal speed head will whip out the works and get hopping.

Such chronic intoxication can result. in a psychosis that is usually clinically indistinguishable from paranoid schizophrenia» This sorry state is characterized by paranoid delusions (cops i,n the cupboard, spys across the hall), anxiety, tremors, memory loss and auditory, tactile and visual hallucinations. Especially nasty are the "crank bugs"-little black insects seen crawling and darting around or else felt, bun owing beneath the skin. While not conclusive, evidence suggests that an oversccretion of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex is the immediate chemical cause of schizophrenia. Amphetamines, of course, facilitate the releasing of dopamine in the body.

Actually, speed was the first illicit high that was publicly criticized by conntcrcultural personalities. Seeing the violence, suspicion and general degeneracy wrought in the Haight-Ashbury crystal set, hip oracles let it be known: SPEED KILLS.

Whatever positive results, it might have achieved, this slogan is as gross an exaggeration as the 1930s* "Murder Insanity Death*' canard about marijuana. There are few, if any, cases of amphetamines causing death directly; in Drugs from A to Richard R. Lingeman mentions a report of an individual who survived the injection of 15,000

milligrams of methamphetamine. But indirectly, the drugs can be implicated as killers. Athletes stoked up on speed have died from heart failure, and people with undetected high blood pressure have probably popped vital tubes after taking amphetamines. Drivers and operators of machinery have gone to their deaths because the symptoms of overstimulation or crashing impeded their judgment, vision or reaction time.

Fortunately, speed is also inefficient as a "killer" of the personality. hi almost all cases, the amphetamine psychosis is temporary and disappears weeks or even days once the drug is avoided. A six-month or year abstinence from speed will usually erase all symptoms with the possible exception of a small amount of permanent memory loss. Amphetamines are not usually classified as addicting substances, as there is no physical dependence and no typical withdrawal symptoms. While not producing the specifics of opium withdrawal, the abrupt cessation of amphetamines after eh ionic high-dose use causes extreme depression and fatigue. While it may not be a "true" addiction, the daily use of amphetamines over a period of years is a habit terribly hard to break. The fact that some users will continue to base their life on speed while their bodies and lives deteriorate strongly dilutes speed's " n onaddict i n g" stat u s.

San Francisco's Height Ashbury district

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  • JANE
    Which recreational drug destroys users most quickly?
    3 years ago