With the rising use of drugs like meth becoming so prevalent in the U.S. and around the world, it’s easy to see these substances as relatively new on the scene. In reality, most drugs including meth are anything but new, even though the attention they’re receiving might seem somewhat new.
While methamphetamine isn’t a new drug, it has become more potent and in many ways more dangerous in recent years, however.
In the 1930s, amphetamine was introduced at the commercial level as Benzedrine. It was available as an over-the-counter inhaler for nasal congestion, but it quickly became seen as something useful for getting high. In 1937 amphetamine became available as a prescription tablet.
Methamphetamine, on the other hand, was discovered in 1919 in Japan. It was more powerful, and the crystalline powder also proved easier to make, so it was seen as an ideal option to inject.
The roots of methamphetamine started with ephedra, which is a plant that’s been used for thousands of years to make teas to treat asthma, coughs, and congestion. With the synthesis of amphetamine in 1887, ephedrine was used to create amphetamine by isolating it from the plant.
The 1919 version of crystallized meth was also produced using ephedrine paired with iodine and red phosphorous.
There wasn’t one particular reason amphetamine and methamphetamine were originally created, but they were instead just applied to all sorts of disorders.
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Nazi leaders in World War II distributed methamphetamine to soldiers in a tablet form called Pervitin. It also started being sold to the German public in 1938, and the use of over-the-counter meth was relatively commonplace by this point. Some of the ways Pervitin was marketed was as an anti-depression treatment, and of course as a pill that would magically create alertness.
The introduction of Pervitin to Nazi troops was done after Otto Ranke, a military doctor, experimented with the drug on college students.
Based on his research he decided that the use of the drug would help Germany win the war because soldiers would be able to stay awake for long periods of time and march much further without a break.
After the first introduction of methamphetamine to Nazi soldiers, it was again done in 1940 when 35 million tablets were sent to the front lines during the Blitzkrieg invasion of France. There is also evidence showing it wasn’t just Nazi soldiers who used drugs during this time. Allied soldiers were also rumored to have used amphetamine to prevent them from becoming tired when fighting.
Many of the Nazi leaders were also said to have used drugs including methamphetamine.
Japanese Kamikaze pilots were believed to have been given large amounts of methamphetamine as well before they would launch their suicide mission, and following the war, the drug became a significant problem in Japan, as military stores became available to the public in Japan.
By the 1970s the U.S. made it mostly illegal, which is when the rise of using it illegally in rural communities started to rise because people couldn’t afford the expense of cocaine.
It was during the 1980s when motorcycle gangs on the West Coast started getting into the meth business that crystal meth started to become more widely used. These gangs found they could create crystal meth by combining household products with cold medicines. It was seen as a win for the gangs, as it was easy to make and much more potent than regular meth.
By the 1990s Mexican drug cartels started producing and distributing meth in the U.S.
To sum up, who invented meth, it started with the Germans and the Japanese. The widespread history of meth really dates back to World War II, and then the drug was used in various prescription medications. Once West Coast motorcycle gangs got into the business, they discovered how to make crystal meth, which is what we most commonly think of now when we hear the term meth.
If you or a loved one live with methamphetamine addiction or are using methamphetamine recreationally and want to stop, it’s time to seek professional help. The Recovery Village® provides care to those struggling with methamphetamine. Reach out to one of our knowledgeable representatives today to learn how you can start on your path to recovery.