On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine

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Overview

Incorporating extensive new research, On Speed describes the ups and downs (fittingly, there are mostly ups) in the history of amphetamines, and their remarkable pervasiveness. For example, at the same time that amphetamines were becoming part of the diet of many GIs in World War II, an amphetamine-abusing counterculture began to flourish among civilians. By the late 1960s, speed had become a fixture in everyday life: more than 7% of Americans were active users of amphetamines.

Although their use was regulated in the 1970s, it didn't take long for amphetamines to make a major comeback, with the discovery of Attention Deficit Disorder and the role that one drug in the amphetamine family-Ritalin-could play in treating it. Today's most popular diet-assistance drugs differ little from the "diet pills" of years gone by, still speed at their core. And some of our most popular recreational drugs-including the supposedly "mellow" drug, Ecstasy-are also amphetamines. Whether we want to admit it or not, writes Rasmussen, we're still a nation on speed.

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Editorial Reviews

David Brown
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 by a historian of science at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher

" is a significant contribution to the field and should enjoy a broad readership; it will remain in the definitive history of amphetamines in America for years to come."-Bulletin of the History of Medicine,

"Rasmussen has made a significant contribution by mining many heretofore unused archival sources and large ranges of the scientific and medical literature and presenting through analysis and easily understood history of amphetamines and their society to date."-Historian,

"[A] wonderful book that should be required reading for anyone interested in the history of drug use in the United States."-ISIS,

"Nicolas Rasmussen's On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine provides an intriguing and highly readable perspective on the drug and its history... the book is an important piece of scholarship. It is thoroughly researched and engagingly written and should find a wide audience among historians and mental health professionals. On Speed is a groundbreaking study, a fascinating story, and, above all, a timely and thought-provoking call to reflect on the current-day use of psychotropic medication."-Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry,

"Rasmussen blends science, medical history, and social history with fresh archival research. He fills the narrative with telling details and cultural insights. . . . This is a superb book."
-Journal of American History

,

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814776391
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet 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.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1 The New Sensation 6

2 Benzedrine: The Making of a Modern Medicine 25

3 Speed and Total War 53

4 Bootleggers, Beatniks, and Benzedrine Benders 87

5 A Bromide for the Atomic Age 113

6 Amphetamine and the Go-Go Years 149

7 Amphetamine's Decline: From Mental Medicine to Social Disease 182

8 Fast Forward: Still on Speed, 1971 to Today 222

Conclusion: The Lessons of History 255

Notes 261

List of Archival Sources 347

Index 348

About the Author 352

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