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Did you know that American soldiers had easy access to stimulant medications (Benzedrine), otherwise known as “pep pills,” going back to World War II? It’s true, and you can probably deduce the reasons why, to stay alert and be better able to concentrate when tired. The practice of essentially prescribing “speed” to members of the armed forces persisted through the Vietnam War.

Soldiers leaving on specific missions had permission to take dextroamphetamine (nearly twice as potent as the Benzedrine); 20 milligrams for 48 hours of heightened performance, The Atlantic reports. Few soldiers were following dosing instructions, and between 1966 and 1969, military personnel took 225 million tablets of stimulants—heavy use was rampant. For those of you familiar with stimulants, then you know dextroamphetamine by another name, Dexedrine; it’s the same drug today’s doctors prescribe for conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“We had the best amphetamines available and they were supplied by the U.S. government,” said Elton Manzione, a member of a long-range reconnaissance platoon (Lurp).

Stimulant medications can be helpful in some situations with careful monitoring by a physician; however, in many cases, these drugs are misused, regularly diverted for nonmedical use. Naturally, these types of drugs carry a high-risk for dependence and addiction; what often begins as trying to gain an edge for studying or being able to stay alert at work, develops into a stimulant use disorder.


Motivations for Stimulant Misuse

stimulant use disorder

People most commonly associate drugs for treating ADHD with youths. While it is true that young people are more likely to receive a prescription, a significant number of adults take drugs like Adderall and Ritalin daily. Mostly with a prescription, but far too often without. A new study delves into the prevalence of stimulant use, misuse, and use disorders; the findings of the research appear in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

The majority of study participants (53 percent), as to be expected, report their primary motivation for use as needing help with alertness and concentration. The most common way people obtain stimulants for misuse is from friends and family (56.9 percent); interestingly, people who misuse these types of drugs more often meet the criteria for stimulant use disorder and were more likely to acquire their pills from a doctor. The researchers found:

  • Around 16.0 million adults (U.S.) used prescription stimulants in the preceding year.
  • 5 million misused prescription stimulants without use disorders.
  • 0.4 million had use disorders.

Those who misuse stimulants the most list cognitive enhancement as their reason for use; they are also found to be more likely to divert medications to other people.


Stimulant Use Disorder Treatment

The desire to enhance mental function is something many people share, but efforts to do so can come at significant cost. Stimulant use disorder can derail people’s lives and without treatment outcomes are never promising. At Hope By The Sea, we can help you begin the process of recovery and teach you how to navigate life without the need of pharmacological narcotics. Please contact us today for a free consultation.