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On Speed

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction1 The New Sensation2 Benzedrine: The Making of a Modern Medicine 3 Speed and Total War 4 Bootleggers, Beatniks, and Benzedrine Benders 5 A Bromide for the Atomic Age 6 Amphetamine and the Go-Go Years7 Amphetamine's Decline: From Mental Medicine to Social Disease8 Fast Forward: Still on Speed, 1971 to Today Conclusion: The Lessons of History Notes List of Archival Sources Index About the Author

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A high-speed history of a very popular drug

About the Author

Nicolas Rasmussen is Associate Professor in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of Picture Control: The Electron Microscope and the Transformation of Biology in America, 1940-1960.


"Brilliant." The Guardian "Fascinating and thoroughly researched... The history of amphetamines over the past years shows the iron fisted grasp the drug industry has had and continues to have over the medical industry." British Medical Association "Rasmussen blends science, medical history, and social history with fresh archival research. He fills the narrative with telling details and cultural insights... This is a superb book." Journal of American History "On Speed, a fascinating history of the use and abuse of amphetamines, is full of hair-raising detail... Even more compelling than the historical perspective - which allows for visits to Harlem Jazz clubs, the haunts of Greenwich Village beatniks and Andy Warhol's Factory - is Mr. Rasmussen's withering survey of the current scene, with speed, in the form of Ritalin and Adderall, prescribed to millions of American children who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, and millions more using it recreationally. Add a dash of theorizing about the medicalization of social problems, and you have a book that is, well, addictive." Adam Begley (aka Begley the Bookie), The New York Observer "It's hard to believe that amphetamine, a drug of questionable medical utility and extreme addiction hazard, was once considered among the twentieth century's pharmaceutical triumphs, on a par with penicillin and insulin. How it attained and lost that status is the subject of this perceptive book." Washington Post Book World "Rasmussen ... examines amphetamine as a case study on the place drugs occupy in our culture and our fantasies (of miracle cures and elixirs)... At the book's core is an outstanding chapter, Bootleggers, Beatniks and Benzedrine Benders, describing how Benzedrine inhalers, available without a prescription, could be cracked open for a totally new kind of amphetamine experience, exerting a potent influence on music and literature, from Charlie Parker to Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg." Publishers Weekly "Rasmussen documents America's eighty year love affair with amphetamine and its various permutations. Monumental in scope and research, the book traces the history of this seductive drug's uses for a myriad of illnesses when the true sickness may be inherent to our unique American society. Given our current extraordinary use of this drug, On Speed is an urgent and necessary read." Lawrence Diller, M.D., author of Running on Ritalin "For historians of medicine, this book provides a new, empirically rich study of a major drug class and joins a growing body of recent work on pharmaceutical history; for historians more generally, it offers an excellent entree to broader themes in twentieth century therapeutics; and for policy makers, industry insiders, and others, it is a lively yet insightfully critical text whose pages turn quickly even without benefit of the drug in question." American Historical Review "Rasmussen deserves applause for providing a well-considered history and critique of amphetamine's development and role in contemporary medicine." Nature Medicine

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