Methamphetamine, is a drug which may seem fairly modern thanks to the fact that it must be created in a laboratory rather than derived from plant sources like many other drugs can be. However, it’s precursors did come from a plant called ephedra. This plant, which grows in many areas of the world, was used for thousands of years to make teas as a treatment for lung issues such as congestion and cough.
The plant’s usage began to change when an amphetamine called ephedrine was isolated from the leaves of the ephedra plant. Ephedrine was first made about a hundred and thirty years ago. Methamphetamine followed within a decade, created by the Japanese, and crystal meth itself was first manufactured almost a hundred years ago by adding iodine and phosphorus to ephedrine.
These drugs were created without any particular purpose in mind, and were tested out for many functions as people tried to figure out what these new substances could be used for.
METH’S ROLE IN WORLD WAR TWO
Methamphetamine comes in powder form and dissolves easily in water, making it easy to prepare as an injection. Because of this, by the time World War II rolled around, both sides were using it in injections or in tablets to keep their soldiers awake for prolonged periods of time.
The Japanese dosed their kamikaze pilots heavily with methamphetamine before sending them to their deaths. In just four months in 1940, the German military alone was responsible for consuming more than 35 million tablets of methamphetamine. The British and Americans were feeding their soldiers a slightly different amphetamine called Dexedrine.
THE GROWING ABUSE PROBLEM
After the end of World War II, methamphetamine was officially around, and it wasn’t going anywhere. In Japan, military stores of meth became available to the general public and spawned an epidemic of injecting meth. In the United States and other countries, methamphetamine became a popular diet aid, antidepressant and stimulant. It was used by everybody from truck drivers to college kids to athletes, to improve performance and stamina. It was around this time that the growing evidence of its addictive powers began to concern medical professionals.
The methamphetamine problem worsened in the 1960s when injectable meth became more readily available. Despite heavy abuse and marked danger to users, methamphetamine wasn’t made illegal (for most uses, anyway—it was still available by prescription but under much more strict regulation) until 1970. At that time, motorcycle gangs took over most of the manufacture and distribution of meth in the United States. They supplied mainly to rural users who couldn’t afford more urban/expensive drugs like cocaine or heroin.
In the 1990s, Mexican drug lords and their organizations began to produce large quantities of methamphetamine from laboratories based in California. They produced as much as 50 lbs from a single batch, and distributed it from there across the country and even into Europe. Asia established its own suppliers, primarily based in Thailand, Myanmar and China. In the United States, there were and are still also smaller operations operating out of people’s homes. These are the ones which tend to hit the news when they explode due to the instability of the ingredients used in cooking meth.
Meth is now well known worldwide as a drug which is highly addictive, which trashes the body and which often ruins the user’s life by making it impossible for them to think about anything other than getting their next fix. Despite this, and unknown to many, it’s available in prescription form for weight loss and for ADHD treatment under the name Desoxyn.