A Brief History of Methamphetamine
- Methamphetamine Prevention in Vermont

1887: Amphetamines are first synthesized.

1919: Methamphetamine, a stimulant, is developed by a pharmacologist in Japan. The drug alleviates fatigue and produces feelings of alertness and well-being.

1930s: Doctors begin using amphetamines in the United States to treat asthma and narcolepsy.

1932: The amphetamine Benzedrine introduced as an over-the-counter bronchial dilator for the treatment of nasal and bronchial congestion associated with colds.

World War II: Methamphetamine and amphetamine are given to Allied bomber pilots to sustain them on long flights. The experiment fails because soldiers become irritable and can't channel their aggression. Primarily, amphetamines were used by soldiers to fight off fatigue and enhance performance.

1945-1950s: Post-war Japan experiences the first meth epidemic. It spreads to Guam, the U.S. Marshall Islands and to the U.S. West Coast.

1950s: Still marketed to treat obesity, narcolepsy and sinus inflammation, "pep pills" or "bennies" are sold for non-medical purposes. Some truckers, homemakers, college students and athletes pop pills to stay awake or keep active.

1960s: Doctors in San Francisco drug clinics prescribe injections of methamphetamine to treat heroin addiction. Illegal abuse occurs in subcultures such as outlaw biker gangs and students, which cook and use the drug.

1970: Methamphetamine, or speed, is regulated in the Controlled Substances Act; a public education campaign is mounted.

1980s: Drug treatment counselors see increased abuse among men who have sex with men. Mexican drug manufacturers begin bringing methamphetamine north of the border. Forms of methamphetamine that could be smoked are introduced.

1990s: New ways to cook methamphetamine appear. Some new versions are four to six times stronger. Greatest use is seen in the Southwest and West. Methamphetamine use begins and grows in the rural Midwest. Rural locations become ideal for cooking of methamphetamine because of geographic isolation, available supply of ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and anhydrous ammonia.

1996: Congress passes the Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act, which regulates mail order and chemical companies selling precursor chemicals. For example, people who buy large quantities of red phosphorous, iodine and hydrochloric gas must show they will use them for legitimate purposes. Law enforcement agents are allowed to track large mail order purchases of pseudoephedrine, another precursor chemical. Chemical supply companies are punished if they sell chemicals to people who make methamphetamine.

2000: In the Inland Northwest, and in much of the West, methamphetamine is the favored hard drug, surpassing crack, cocaine and heroin. It's still prescribed for some medical purposes.

Adapted from:

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