The term "Amphetamine" refers to a group of chemically related drugs, all of which produce
behavioral (the way someone acts) and physiological (physical functions of the body) effects.
Every drug in the amphetamine group is a psychostimulant (a drug that increases the activity of
the brain). Unlike many other frequently abused drugs, amphetamines are not natural, but can
only be made in a chemical laboratory (Lukas, 1989, p. 9).
Amphetamines were originally made in 1887 by a German scientist. They were forgotten until
1930 when it was discovered that they could increase a person's blood pressure. Three years later,
it was found out that amphetamines were helpful in treating lung congestion. In 1932, a
pharmaceutical (drug) company sold a nasal inhaler containing amphetamine. At the time, the
powerful stimulating effects of amphetamine, when taken internally (inside) were unknown
(Lukas, 1989, p. 9).
Between 1932 and 1946, the pharmaceutical (drug) industry developed a list of 39 uses for
amphetamines. Some of these uses included the treatment of morphine and codeine addiction,
tobacco smoking, heart block, head injuries, low blood pressure, and seasickness. Amphetamine
was said to be effective without the risk of addiction. Since nearly every abused drug was first
thought to be "non-addictive," this claim is not surprising and it is very wrong. Over the last 40
years, however, amphetamine use has changed. Amphetamine, or the "Pep Pill," was used by the
military during World War II. It is guessed that around 200 million pills were given to American
troops. Many of these soldiers that had used amphetamine during the war, returned to the U.S. to
spread the news of this invigorating (exciting) drug. By the 1950's, college students, athletes,
truck drivers, and housewives, in addition to soldiers, were using amphetamine for non-medical
purposes. Use of amphetamine spread all across the U.S. as its production increased. It was being
sold to treat obesity (fatness), narcolepsy (sleeping disorder), and depression, but people were
taking it primarily to increase energy, decrease the need for sleep, and elevate (raise) mood. By
the 1960's, some people began using amphetamine intravenously (shooting in the veins). At this
time, heroin addiction was being treated with intravenous amphetamine, making amphetamine in
injectable form readily available (Lukas, 1989, p. 9).
The 1960's were the peak of the speed (a street name for amphetamines) craze; however, the
Controlled Substance Act of 1970 made it hard to buy amphetamines legally. A cap was put on
the prescription use of these drugs. This made the street market grow to fill the need for continued
production. Instead of buying legally manufactured amphetamines, people bought speed and
crank that had been manufactured illegally (Inaba & Cohen, 1990, p. 70).
The late 1980's saw a rise in the availability and the abuse of these illicit (unlawful)
amphetamines, particularly "crank" (methamphetamine sulfate) and "crystal" (methamphetamine
hydrochloride - not to be confused with "angel dust" which is PCP). Once slowed down by the
tight control of chemicals needed to produce illegal amphetamines, clever street chemists now
change commonly available compounds and even use aluminum foil to produce "speed" products.
A a recent survey of street meth showed that 90% of the supplies were really "look-alike" drugs
such as phenylpropanlamine (a decongestant),ephedrine (allergy medication), or simply caffeine
tablets (Inaba & Cohen, 1990, p. 70).