Read On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine by Nicolas Rasmussen Online


Life in the Fast Lane: The author on the CHEUppers. Crank. Bennies. Dexies. Greenies. Black Beauties. Purple Hearts. Crystal. Ice. And, of course, Speed. Whatever their street names at the moment, amphetamines have been an insistent force in American life since they were marketed as the original antidepressants in the 1930s. On Speed tells the remarkable story of their risLife in the Fast Lane: The author on the CHEUppers. Crank. Bennies. Dexies. Greenies. Black Beauties. Purple Hearts. Crystal. Ice. And, of course, Speed. Whatever their street names at the moment, amphetamines have been an insistent force in American life since they were marketed as the original antidepressants in the 1930s. On Speed tells the remarkable story of their rise, their fall, and their surprising resurgence. Along the way, it discusses the influence of pharmaceutical marketing on medicine, the evolving scientific understanding of how the human brain works, the role of drugs in maintaining the social order, and the centrality of pills in American life. Above all, however, this is a highly readable biography of a very popular drug. And it is a riveting story.Incorporating extensive new research, On Speed describes the ups and downs (fittingly, there are mostly ups) in the history of amphetamines, and their remarkable pervasiveness. For example, at the same time that amphetamines were becoming part of the diet of many GIs in World War II, an amphetamine-abusing counterculture began to flourish among civilians. In the 1950s, psychiatrists and family doctors alike prescribed amphetamines for a wide variety of ailments, from mental disorders to obesity to emotional distress. By the late 1960s, speed had become a fixture in everyday life: up to ten percent of Americans were thought to be using amphetamines at least occasionally.Although their use was regulated in the 1970s, it didn't take long for amphetamines to make a major comeback, with the discovery of Attention Deficit Disorder and the role that one drug in the amphetamine family--Ritalin--could play in treating it. Today's most popular diet-assistance drugs differ little from the diet pills of years gone by, still speed at their core. And some of our most popular recreational drugs--including the -mellow- drug, Ecstasy--are also amphetamines. Whether we want to admit it or not, writes Rasmussen, we're still a nation on speed....

Title : On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780814776018
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 352 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine Reviews

  • lisa_emily
    2019-05-27 06:56

    I love to read books about drugs. What better way to approach something so illicit and transgressive than through a logical and historical framework. Speed, itself, in recent times, has had a completely sordid reputation. Then we have the mythology of the rural American: anti-intellectual and bitter, clinging on to his religion and guns, with the meth lab out back. Rasmussen's book does a pretty good job of, without any overt agenda, looking at amphetamine's long and convoluted relationship to America. And he does focus on Americans' use of the substance, except for the first chapter, which describes the US's, Britain's and Germany's military use of amphetamine.I learned quite a bit about speed after reading this. I did not know how amphetamines were widely prescribed in the decades after WWII, roughly 5% of the population. I also did not know that speed was the first anti-depressant pills prescribed by doctors. Rasmussen also sketches out the insidious involvement drug companies had in the legislation of drugs. And although he does not moralize and delve into the horrific effects of amphetamine abuse; he does acknowledge America's unhealthy need for the drug.

  • Matthew
    2019-05-18 10:57

    I picked up this book after reading a review in the BMJ entitled "Speed: a drug in search of a disease". That sort of captures Rasmussen's premise; however, the book is as much about the history of amphetamines as about the changes in the pharmaceutical industry over the past 100 years -- both strangely fascinating topics. From the way it was discovered and patented, to the way it was almost shoved down soldiers' throats in WWII to keep up with Hitler, to its important role in early jazz and beat movements, to its use as an all-purpose anti-depressant, to the eventual recognition of its addictiveness and longterm problems, and then its recent rebirth in contemporary ADHD treatment and meth dens, amphetamines have had a storied and influential past. Rasmussen does a decent (but not great) job telling this history. The real value of the book comes from its discussion of the way that the pharmaceutical industry managed this history as it was unfolding. We have come a long way from the time when anyone could say that any tincture would do anything and basically get away with it, but the idea that we ever get objective scientific evaluation of the effectiveness of various drugs on patent is, in most cases, probably false -- or so Rasmussen does a good job arguing.

  • Greg
    2019-05-23 09:23

    A moderately interesting book about the history of amphetamine use and the cultural context surrounding it. I had no idea that so many people were using speed in the 50's and 60's. The statistics were staggering.The most innovative point the author made was who amphetamines in the 1960's served the exact same role as anti-depressant drugs do today. People got speed prescriptions primarily for depression. Speed was the original anti-depressant drug.When we look at how people are treated today, we see the same type of depressed person with the same types of complaints was once loaded up on amphetamines. And seeing some of the side effects of the newer drugs, I'm not sure we've made a good trade.

  • Nick Black
    2019-05-26 10:14

    pretty solid, but more pop sociology than pop science (what the hell is "feminist medicine"?). don't go in expecting much in the way of chemical analyses, despite the central tenet that the vast majority of drugs which have meant to replace amphetamines are mere amphetamine cores with (patentable) Ready Whip-like candy toppings. don't expect much in the way of neurophysiology or neuropharmaceutical theory either. i'd have enjoyed seeing things like the expression of serotonin reuptake inhibition and dopamine release in theoretical neuroscientific models. no such luck! a quick, fun read, though.

  • Willy C
    2019-05-21 11:23

    A fascinating history of amphetamine (and other related stimulants) use in the US, the UK, and a couple of other countries. It covers the discovery of amphetamines, the history of their medical use, their recreational use, the marketing drug companies used on consumers and physicians, and the societal implications of widespread amphetamine use.It had a lot of obscure information on amphetamines, mostly from military studies on it and unpublished research pharmaceutical companies revealed during lawsuits, and used those arguments mostly to push one of the main points of the book: amphetamines may have some objective beneficial effects on cognitive and physical performance, but the central motivation in amphetamine usage by the military and medical professionals was their effect on morale.Military studies generally found no large gains in performance from amphetamine relative to caffeine, though repetitive tasks and tasks involving maintaining concentration over long periods had some benefit. The main effect the military focused on was the boost in morale that amphetamines brought-- heightened aggression, 'pep', etc.The impaired judgement that comes along for the ride is dangerous, but even by the military, was generally overlooked or viewed as minor in comparison to the confidence and 'good feelings' soldiers taking it reported.I was a little disappointed in the relatively scare coverage given to the research on amphetamine for reducing performance decrements in conditions of fatigue or sleep deprivation. It's mentioned, but generally dismissed, even though my impression is that the literature on this specific use is actually somewhat positive. The author also quickly dismisses any self-reports by artists who used amphetamine for its purported effects on creativity by arguing that scientific studies had generally found no positive effects on creativity-- even though the work artists and musicians do is pretty different than divergent thinking tasks often used to evaluate creativity in scientific studies.Studying artistic creativity in a way that has external validity and real relevance to artists in real-life conditions shouldn’t be reduced to studies that assume performance in divergent thinking tasks are everything-- what about artists who take amphetamines to finish up some boring but necessary drawing/coloring? Or musicians who value the overconfidence amphetamines give to their playing? How about some people who think amphetamine psychosis might be helpful in some contexts? personally think most people who use amphetamines are deluded by the euphoria and confidence boost into thinking that their work made on it is superior to their sober work (a point the author makes very articulately), but there may very well be contexts in which peoples’ performance objectively benefits.Apart from that, I felt the book got stale towards the last quarter of the book. The author’s main point (amphetamines have been overhyped and their dangers underreported) had been made midway through, and no new insights really surfaced towards the end.

  • Kelli
    2019-05-14 05:00

    As I was reading and contemplating a contemplative article by a writer I love - "Amphetamine of the Year" by Alana Massey - I got caught in the research blackhole of checking out each page she hyperlinked, as well as their sources, as well as random wikipedia pages related to same (List of Celebrity Deaths by Drug Overdose, for example). So what should have been a 5-minute break between chores turned into a 4-hour read-a-thon about stimulants through history. And that is how I came to read Rasmussen's tome. Linking a long-form article to a Google eBook is a new area of interest, not only because authors can become suddenly relevant via one quote (like, legitimately relevant because people are reading more of their work, not because that one quote can stand alone but because immediately-purchasable eBooks are changing the whole game of sourcing. Before the immediately-readable eBook, scholarly readers expected to follow up on foot- or endnote sources later, like way later, whenever you could hit the university library again. But now with instantly attachable WHOLE BOOKS to supplement a minor point you make in an online-published essay, newer essays and scholarly articles can be written with big ideas encircling them, truly, even bigger than the small portion that a person quotes. Assuming an interested reader will follow the links down the white rabbit's hole. Essays on "Vice" or "Medium" can be propped up by peer-reviewed texts rather than hearsay or personal biography on the part of the reporter. It follows then, that Massey's shorter article on the uses of government speed now packs a whalloping punch when considered in view of reading "On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine." Rasmussen is a consummate intellectual, taking a reading of historical events along with society's wants and needs (he has a PhD. in Philosophy, PhD. in Biological Sciences, and currently studies the history of science, among other certifications) and masterfully showing cause/effect of why certain generations of people prefer the types of drugs that they do (government interference - or lack of -, social pressures - war, women's lib - and how those preferences in turn shape society. Throughout it all, amphetamine is prevalent which is specific to that drug as opposed to say, an LSD or MDMA. Easy, quick read with content that is historic, relatable, full of hypotheses that another socio-scientists might want to investigate, and overall a very informative book with no trace of dry, drab or boring textbook about it.

  • Matt
    2019-05-05 06:25

    "Individual shortcomings and disorders exist only by contrast with society's standards of normality and health..." so says Rasmussen in his short and vivid historical account of amphetamine. Like many good historians, Rasmussen tempers his, at times, obsessive citation-making of the phenomenon in question with a healthy dose of realistic speculation. Over the course of the books, he does well to objectively illustrate that drugs (not just amphetamine) marketed by pharmaceutical companies have played a tremendous role in defining and treating "illnesses" that seem to "plague" us today. The book contains numerous examples of how untenable a free-market drug industry is--from legislators getting large, self-protective kick-backs, to the bold and unflinching marketing of drugs to patients through doctors. In the latter vein, Ramussen gives quite a lot of attention (in addition to his great survey of the US Military's involvement with the research and usage of amphetamine). With statistical evidence recorded over the past half-century, he notes how the general practitioner came to embrace medications like amphetamine as a panacea for the majority of psychosomatic complaints individuals presented in the doctor's office. Amphetamine, in particular, was not only a perfect drug for doctors, but for patients seeking alleviation of largely socially-defined symptoms. Here, I find myself cautious but agreeable to Resmussen's claim that many of the US citizens mental ills are symptoms only by proxy to the way in which society treats individuals that do not adhere to the defined norms of the culture. Rasmussn acknowledges the existence of pathology; his angle is not to destroy psychiatry. He merely asks the reader to consider how much weight we give to efficiency, thinness, high motivation and "pep." Given that Americans today are almost, ratio-wise, as much consumers of amphetamine as they were in the late sixties hey-day of the drug (this led to the scheduling system and increased FDA control over drugs), it gives the reader a reason to pause and consider what might be at stake in the next couple decades if Americans continue to seek relief purely through drug (even legal) means. All-in-all, a good read. And the section on the Beats was fun and insightful.

  • Michael Burnam-Fink
    2019-05-23 13:24

    On Speed is a comprehensive, if sometimes problematic history of amphetamines. Rasmussen does yoeman's work, tracing the history of amphetamines from a minor decongestant in the 1930s, to a military enhancement medicine in the 1940s, to widespread prescription as an antidepressant and diet drug in the 50s, it's role in the Beat and Hippie subcultures, and eventual prohibition in the 1970s after a series of 'speed kills' campaigns. Rasmussen's historical record of people, discoveries, new usages for old substances, drug production and legislative events is a great source for anybody working on related problems. The section on military use of amphetamines in WW2, and the way that speed hollowed out Haight-Ashbury were particularly interesting.Unfortunately, he is on less solid ground when talking about the social effects of amphetamines, particularly the recent (1990 onwards) explosion of illegal methamphetamine and the exponential increase in ADHD diagnoses. Rasmussen takes the standpoint that the psychological effects of amphetamines are mostly an increase in self-confidence, well-being, and energy, and that addiction and psychosis is a nearly inevitable result of exposure to amphetamines. This is a common opinion, and not necessarily wrong, but a more reflexive examination of the topic might postulate the reality of both benefits and harms, instead of a knee-jerk pharmacological puritanism. Similarly, the 'scientific idea' of amphetamine, in terms of its functioning, gets short shrift, being described mostly in the economic terms of drug development.On the whole, however, this is an invaluable and well-researched historical book. My political disagreements with Rasmussen cannot detract from his scholarly accomplishments.

  • Jose Salgado-Wiggin
    2019-05-08 13:21

    Wonderful book, not only to understand the history of the discovery, promotion and consumption of amphetamine, promoted by pharmaceuticals, culture and the regulatory authorities to a certain extent. Also exposes some of the dark tricks of the fda and how the pharmaceutical industry works. The different uses of amphetamines, from the jazz culture to the "technologies of the self" very interesting book to read, full of dense research.

  • Shevon Quijano
    2019-04-28 07:56

    This book really opened my eyes to the extensive use of amphetamines and methamphetamines in our country (and world) since its creation in 1929. The conclusion beautifully summed up the foundational societal problems that has led to this level of medicalization. Incredible. This is information that every person should be aware of.

  • Militant Poetry
    2019-05-10 08:13

    I really liked this book and found it really well researched! I'm reading it a second time now. A must read for anyone taking Stimulant medications such as Dexedrine or Adderall or just wants to debate idiot junkies who have no idea what their taking xD

  • Michael Thomas Angelo
    2019-04-26 04:59

    As a student of public health and the effect that amphetamines have in the community, as well as a sometimes avid user, I found this book to be comprehensive in its historical corrective acount of the trajectory of methamphetamine.

  • Gaby Chapman
    2019-05-23 05:59

    How the most popular pharmaceutical of all time is responsible for the American Health system we have today.

  • Jennifer Oh
    2019-05-03 12:26

    Good history, incredibly interesting... but ultimately, the ending bothered me a bit--it came off as preachy which was unexpected given the rest of the book was fairly objective.

  • Karin
    2019-05-12 04:56

    OMG, intro + first couple of chapters = absolutely boss. THIS is what the hist of sci should look like, kids!

  • Tyler B
    2019-05-23 09:57

    Well researched and written in an easy-to-read style.

  • Stacey
    2019-05-26 08:56

    Thorough, interesting history of amphetamines and their more recent relatives.