During WWII, the German Army distributed millions of its miracle pill, the now banned drug Methamphetamine known as Crystal meth, which remains a constant problem worldwide. A Berlin based drug manufacturer Kemmler Werke released a methamphetamine compound into the market during 1938. It was the high-ranking army physiologist Otto Ranke who uncovered this miracle drug. He recognized the ability of this drug as the ideal war drug that would keep tired pilots alert and an entire army euphoric. He tested the drug during September 1939 on university students, and discovered the increased production from the students, despite having been deprived of sleep.
It was Germany’s WWII Wehrmacht army base that distributed millions of the pills to their soldiers. The miracle drug had turned into a nightmare for many of the soldiers. The long-term effects on the body were devastating and they quickly became addicted to the stimulant. With the addiction came dizziness, depression, sweating, and hallucinations. Soldiers died of heart failure, and others committed suicide by shooting themselves during psychotic phases. Several of the army’s top health officials wanted to limit the use of the miracle drug due to the severe repercussions, but were unsuccessful in their attempts to do so.
The miracle drug referred to as Pervitin remained easy to obtain after the war. Doctors did not hesitate to prescribe the drug to patients as an appetite suppressant or those suffering from depression. University students remained the highest users of the drug, as they found the stimulant helpful with their studies.
Athletes also indulged in the drug Pervitin and their dependence increased as they discovered it decreased the sensitivity to pain and increased their performance and endurance. During 1968, a German boxer Joseph Elze, 28 died after collapsing from a knockout blow to his head. Without the methamphetamine drug, he would have collapsed sooner and might not have died. He was Germany’s first known victim of doping, yet the drug remained on the market.
Temmler Werke continued to supply the drugs to the armies in both the West and East Germany throughout the 1960s. The drug was removed from the West German army medical supplies in the 1970s and the East German Army continued until 1988 before removing the drug from its army.
The miracle pill Pervitin was banned in all of Germany, and with the banning of the drug, the illegal production began. In the United States, during the 1970s motor cycle gangs discovered crystal meth as an easy way to earn income, and began setting up large-scale drug laboratories in mostly the California cities of San Francisco and San Diego.
A chemist in Wisconsin, Steve Preslier, alias Uncle Fester the mad scientist published a drug cookbook titled “Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture” during the 1980s, and hence the drug was now produced in crystal form and no longer as a powder compressed into tablets.
The book is now in its eighth edition, this controversial book presented six different recipes for preparing the drug. Legal ingredients were used and a simple chemical reaction to extract the drug’s principal component from cough medicine and combined with other liquids such as drain cleaner, battery acid or antifreeze to increase the drug’s effectiveness.
Over time more illegal meth laboratories opened around the world. Some improvised drug labs were prone to explosions as the meth production created highly toxic explosive substances. According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), around 11000 meth labs were discovered around the country during 2010, compared with 7530 in 2009.
Meth can be smoked, swallowed, snorted, or injected, and addicts often consume more than the dose once taken by the German soldiers during WWII. The side effects are alarming, and weaken the immune system. Hair loss, weight loss, eczema, kidney, stomach and heart problems are a few of the dramatic effects of the drug.
Despite the dreadful side effects of this miracle drug, it has not lost it appeal. In 2011, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, based outside Washington, estimated that around 13 million American had tried crystal meth and the UN estimate around 24 million users globally.
Written by Laura Oneale