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What is Benzedrine?

Benzedrine is the brand name of amphetamine sulfate. Also called "bennies," Benzedrine was the first amphetamine prescribed for medical use.

Amphetamine is a powerful stimulant of the central nervous system (CNS). Stimulant medications increase heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. Someone using amphetamine experiences a sudden burst in energy, making the person excited, talkative, and restless.  

The Benzedrine trademark is owned by the pharmaceutical company Smith, Kline, and French, which is now known as GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Today, GSK is no longer manufacturing Benzedrine. 

History of Benzedrine

Lazăr Edeleanu, a Romanian chemist, developed the first amphetamine in 1887. In 1932, it was rediscovered and patented by an American scientist named Gordon Alles. He was trying to create a drug for nasal congestion. 

After getting the patent for the drug, Alles worked with the pharmaceutical company Smith, Kline, and French (known as GlaxoSmithKline today). 

GlaxoSmithKline marketed the drug as a decongestant as Benzedrine inhalers. Back then, it was sold over the counter because there were no prescription drugs yet. From inhalers, Benzedrine evolved into tablet form.

In the early 1960s, doctors started to notice the dangers of Benzedrine. People who took the drug experienced side effects such as psychosis. Some doctors gave the drug to their patients who wanted to lose weight, which sometimes resulted in death. Healthcare professionals saw that people were becoming addicted to Benzedrine. Amphetamine overdose has become a problem.

The Controlled Substances Act of 1971 prompted the decline in Benzedrine use. The law classified the drug as a Schedule II controlled substance. This required pharmacists and doctors to keep detailed records of how the drug is dispensed. As a result, Benzedrine production declined, and obtaining the drug has become difficult for patients.

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What is Benzedrine Used For?

Benzedrine inhaler was used to treat nasal congestion. Benzedrine pills, on the other hand, were used for narcolepsy, depression, and chronic fatigue. Its off-label uses include treatment for:

  • Alcoholism
  • Morphine addiction
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Schizophrenia 

Throughout several decades, there have been different uses of Benzedrine. For example:

  • In the 1930s, college students used Benzedrine as a study aid.
  • During World War II, American soldiers used Benzedrine to keep them awake and focused.
  • In the 1950s and 1960s, housewives used Benzedrine as a mood and diet pill.
  • In the Beatnik period of the 60s, artists used Benzedrine as an energy booster.

Benzedrine is no longer available in the United States. However, amphetamine and other Benzedrine-related chemicals are still used to treat several conditions. They are still classified as Schedule II controlled substances. These conditions include:

  • Narcolepsy
  • Binge eating disorder
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms

Side Effects & Risks of Benzedrine

When used as prescribed, stimulants can be effective and safe. In fact, they are used in treating ADHD. However, Benzedrine, being a stimulant, brings side effects and carries risks. 

Benzedrine is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Schedule II drugs have a high potential for misuse. One significant risk of Benzedrine use is addiction. This could possibly lead to amphetamine toxicity and withdrawal symptoms.

There are physical side effects associated with amphetamine use, such as Benzedrine. These are:

  • Blurred vision
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding)
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Dry mouth
  • Epistaxis (nosebleed)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Excessive sweating
  • Hypotension or hypertension (low or high blood pressure)
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nausea
  • Skin problems (acne, hives, rash)
  • Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
  • Weight loss
  • Respiratory problems

Behavioral effects of Benzedrine use include:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Restlessness

Is Benzedrine Habit-Forming (Addictive)?

The fast and simple answer to this is, yes, Benzedrine is habit-forming or addictive. Despite being prescribed for therapeutic use, the misuse potential of Benzedrine is very high.

The use of Benzedrine has a stimulatory effect on the central nervous system. As a result, the person is in an excited state. They experience excitement, euphoria, and a sense of well-being. 

Similarly, the person who uses Benzedrine also feels a sense of superiority and power over other people. They feel more confident and motivated. These feelings are what drives a person to abuse the drug.

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Signs of Benzedrine Abuse & Addiction

Benzedrine addiction is very much the same as amphetamine addiction. As a neurological stimulant, Benzedrine is highly addictive. 

People use the drug to stop themselves from overeating, gain endless energy, and stay awake. The drug is very attractive to those who want to lose weight or those who don't want to sleep. As a result, these people continue to take the drug despite its harmful effects on the body.

Chronic Benzedrine use negatively impacts the central nervous system. It can even cause psychosis.

Signs that a person may be suffering from Benzedrine abuse and addiction include:

  • Having unusual cravings for Benzedrine
  • Using Benzedrine in larger doses than prescribed
  • Frequently asking for Benzedrine prescription refills
  • Using stimulants even if they are causing problems at work, in school, and with family or friends
  • Placing their addiction before all other obligations at home, work, or school
  • Performing poorly at work or in school
  • Losing interest in activities that they used to enjoy doing
  • Using Benzedrine despite being in dangerous situations
  • Higher incidence and severity of side effects
  • Experiencing tolerance or withdrawal symptoms

Is Benzedrine Legal in the United States?

The brand name Benzedrine is no longer available in the United States. However, its generic drug amphetamine is still available. It is sold under the brand names Adzenys, Dyanavel, and Evekeo. These drugs are considered legal but are still classified as Schedule II Controlled Substance. 

Treatment for Benzedrine Abuse & Addiction

There is no FDA-approved medication for amphetamine addiction. Because Benzedrine is an amphetamine, it follows that there is currently no medication for Benzedrine addiction that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

As with amphetamine addiction, treatment for Benzedrine addiction utilizes different types of behavioral therapies. These include cognitive-behavioral therapy, cognitive management, and the Matrix Model

Benzedrine addiction treatment may take place either in an outpatient facility or an inpatient one. However, this would depend on how severe the addiction is. Severe cases would require enrollment in an inpatient rehab facility.

The first step in every treatment program is detoxification. This is done to remove the drug from the body. It is a medically supervised process to ensure patient safety. Withdrawal symptoms are managed by using medications. 

After detoxification, the underlying causes of the addiction are treated. This happens either inside or outside a rehabilitation center.

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Resources

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"Amphetamines." Better Health Channel.

Reifenstein, Edward C., and Eugene Davidoff. “The Psychological Effects of Benzedrine Sulfate.” The American Journal of Psychology, vol. 52, no. 1, 1939, pp. 56–64. JSTOR.

Kleemeier, Lyla Bechtel, and Robert Watson Kleemeier. “Effects of Benzedrine Sulfate (Amphetamine) on Psychomotor Performance.” The American Journal of Psychology, vol. 60, no. 1, 1947, pp. 89–100. JSTOR.

Rasmussen, Nicolas. "America's First Amphetamine Epidemic 1929-1971," American Journal of Public Health, 2008 June; 98(6): pp. 974-985.

"Amphetamines." Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Hicks, Jesse. "Fast Times: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of Amphetamine," Science History Institute, 14 April 2012.

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