Pub. Date:
New York University Press
On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine

On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine

by Nicolas RasmussenNicolas Rasmussen
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Life in the Fast Lane: The author on the CHE
Uppers. Crank. Bennies. Dexies. Greenies. Black Beauties. Purple Hearts. Crystal. Ice. And, of course, Speed. Whatever their street names at the moment, amphetamines have been an insistent force in American life since they were marketed as the original antidepressants in the 1930s. On Speed tells the remarkable story of their rise, their fall, and their surprising resurgence. Along the way, it discusses the influence of pharmaceutical marketing on medicine, the evolving scientific understanding of how the human brain works, the role of drugs in maintaining the social order, and the centrality of pills in American life. Above all, however, this is a highly readable biography of a very popular drug. And it is a riveting story.
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. In the 1950s, psychiatrists and family doctors alike prescribed amphetamines for a wide variety of ailments, from mental disorders to obesity to emotional distress. By the late 1960s, speed had become a fixture in everyday life: up to ten percent of Americans were thought to be using amphetamines at least occasionally.
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 "mellow" drug, Ecstasy—are also amphetamines. Whether we want to admit it or not, writes Rasmussen, we’re still a nation on speed.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814776391
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 11/01/2009
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 994,795
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 1 - 17 Years

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.

Table of Contents

1 The New Sensation
2 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 Years
7 Amphetamine’s Decline: From Mental Medicine to Social Disease
8 Fast Forward: Still on Speed, 1971 to Today
Conclusion: The Lessons of History
List of Archival Sources
About the Author

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

On Speed 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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