What is Benzedrine Sulfate?
Benzedrine, also known as benzedrine sulfate, is a brand name of the substance amphetamine sulfate. The stimulant was widely prescribed by doctors between the 1930s and 1960s to treat a range of conditions, including mild depression and ADHD. However, as its drug’s popularity grew, so did its misuse, resulting in the “speed epidemic”. While the benzedrine brand is no longer produced, the substance is still legal, though tightly controlled as a Schedule II Controlled Substance. This is due to the fact that amphetamine sulfate abuse can cause dependence, addiction, health complications, overdose and death. At present, forms of benzedrine sulfate are sold under other brand names.
The History of Benzedrine Sulfate
Benzedrine is the first amphetamine brand to be marketed and sold in the US. It was initially developed as the benzedrine inhaler by the company SKL in 1933 to treat asthma. It wasn’t until 1937 that amphetamine sulfate was sold commercially as a tablet. The tablet form of benzedrine sulfate was intended to treat narcolepsy and was available without a prescription. Because of its stimulant properties and SKL’s heavy marketing efforts, the drug quickly found other uses and its popularity grew.
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By 1945 as many as 13 million benzedrine tablets were produced monthly. SKL began pushing the use of benzedrine sulfate in psychiatry and general medicine through marketing campaigns. Benzedrine was marketed as a treatment for mild depression. In fact, it could be considered the first prescription antidepressant, as a doctor’s prescription would later be necessary to obtain the drug. Another early use of the benzedrine was decreasing hyperactivity in children, what would now be classified as ADHD. During World War II, the U.S. military employed benzedrine’s stimulant powers to fight fatigue in soldiers. The drug was especially popular among pilots who needed to stay alert. Though the British military, who also used the drug, decided to discontinue its use due to negative effects, the American military continued its use to keep soldiers focused and awake.
Benzedrine’s History of Misuse
As use of benzedrine grew, so did misuse. Even in 1937, when the drug was released for commercial sales, there were already questions about its dangers. Researchers published an article stating there was growing abuse among students and warning of the potential for serious consequences. Doctors began to see some cases of amphetamine psychosis as the stimulant could exacerbate conditions like anxiety and schizophrenia. In addition to students misusing the substance to enhance energy and cognitive capacities, housewives began to take benzedrine as an appetite suppressant and for mood enhancement. In 1959, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) attempted to take action to stop its growing abuse by banning benzedrine inhalers and requiring a prescription for the sale of benzedrine. However, benzedrine abuse continued to be popular.
Jack Kerouac is among one of the many notable individuals known to misuse the benzedrine for the buzz it provided. Members of the beatnik movement also abused the drug. Because of the wide success of the “wonder drug”, other companies also began producing similar amphetamines. By the 1960s, amphetamine production grew and individuals were using and misusing the drug to treat a range of ailments or to achieve a high. This became known as the “speed epidemic.” Doctors were widely prescribing the drug and even a tightening of restrictions in 1965 by the FDA to require more stringent record-keeping did little to stem use, as a large grey market remained. However, more attention was also being paid to the dangers of the drug. Finally, legislation in the 1970s classifying benzedrine as a schedule II drug helped reduce the widespread abuse, though amphetamine sulfate never fully went away.
What is Benzedrine Used to Treat?
The potentially dangerous substance remains highly controlled, but may be prescribed to treat conditions including ADHD, obesity and narcolepsy. Amphetamine sulfate pills and inhalers are no longer produced under the benzedrine brand name. However, a less potent form of the substance, Benzedrex, is still manufactured by its original makers. Adzenys, Dyanavel and Evekeo are also brand names of the substance currently available with a doctor’s prescription.
The Risks of Benzedrine abuse
Like other amphetamines, abuse of amphetamine sulfate–previously sold under the benzedrine brand–can be extremely risky. Abuse of stimulants such as benzedrine can be addictive and cause damage to the heart, brain and other organs. Other risks of amphetamine sulfate include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Chest pains
- Heart attack
- Loss of consciousness
What are bennies? Benzedrine street names
Though the Benzedrine brand is no longer available in the US, amphetamine sulfate and other amphetamines are still widely abused. Street names for amphetamines included:
What does Benzedrine Sulfate Do to the Body?
Benzedrine, an amphetamine, works by stimulating the body’s Central Nervous System (CNS). Like other stimulants, amphetamines increase the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These chemicals are responsible for feelings of happiness and pleasure. The effects of amphetamines like benzedrine can be felt very quickly, depending on how it is ingested.
Though the substance can have many harmful effects on the brain and body, benzedrine abusers may use the drug to:
- Increase energy
- Improve focus
- Reduce appetite
- Help control problem behaviors
- Increase confidence
- Feel a sense of euphoria
However, amphetamine sulfate can also cause a number of health issues and be quite habit forming. Currently sold brands of amphetamine sulfate should only be taken when prescribed by a doctor and following medical instructions. Short- and long-term misuse can have a number of deleterious effects on one’s mental and physical health.
The risks of mixing amphetamines with other substances
Mixing amphetamines like benzedrine sulfate with other substances can be especially risky, increasing the odds of overdose. Amphetamines should not be taken with many other types of prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, controlled substances and illegal drugs. If you are prescribed amphetamines, be sure to consult your doctor before taking it with other substances, legal or illegal, and follow all medical instructions for use. Taking amphetamines with other drugs can increase the chances of long-term damage to the body, overdose and death. For example combining:
- Amphetamines and certain antidepressants can increase the risk of irregular heartbeat and seizures.
- Amphetamines and alcohol, a depressant, can increase heart rate and blood pressure.
- Amphetamines and opioids increase the risk of irregular heartbeat and seizures.
Side Effects of Short-term Benzedrine Use
As mentioned, benzedrine use has a number of negative effects that can be experienced even from short term use of the drug. These include:
- Dry Mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Problems sleeping
- Increased heart rate and breathing
- Dilated pupils
- Dry mouth
- Increased sex drive
- Energetic fits
- Heart attack
The dangers of amphetamine sulfate are higher for individuals with mental health conditions including severe anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. For some, it can exacerbate the symptoms of their condition and even cause psychosis.
Can you get addicted to amphetamines like benzedrine?
Simply put, yes. Short-term use of amphetamines can have negative effects on a person and longer-term use can make the body and brain dependent on the stimulant. As a person continues to use amphetamines, over time, the original dosage may no longer achieve the intended effect, causing them to increase their dosage and build what is called tolerance. Both dependence and tolerance are two factors that lead to addiction. Dependence on a drug can create changes in the brain, intense cravings and compulsive use despite the negative consequences of substance use. In other words, a substance use disorder. Those with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia have a higher risk for developing substance use disorders.
If you are concerned that you may be addicted to amphetamines, the following are symptoms of a substance use disorder:
- Problem sleeping
- Challenges focusing on tasks
- Issues in relationships, friendship and with coworkers
- A loss of interest in activities or relationships
- Impulsivity, anxiety and confusion.
- Continued use despite the negative effects on one’s life
Effects of chronic amphetamine use
Though amphetamines can be prescribed for therapeutic purposes, chronic abuse of ampehemtaines like benzedrine can have a number of adverse effects. Over time, using substances such as benzedrine sulfate may take a toll on the body and mind. Chronic use of amphetamines can cause:
- Vitamin and sleep deficiencies
- Tooth rotting
- Loss of coordination
- Increased the risk of illness
- Paranoid behavior
- Strange behavior or violent behavior
- Slowed growth in young individuals
Learn more on helping a loved one with addictions and how recovery works
Are you concerned about a loved one’s substance abuse? Check out the following guides to learn more about substance use disorders, talking to the person in your life about getting treatment and how to support addiction recovery:
- Guide for Teen Addiction
- Guide for Addiction in Adult Children
- Guide for Women and Addiction
- Guide for Dealing with an Addicted Spouse
- Guide for Adult Children of Addicts
- Guide to Parenting as an Addict
- How to Help a Drug Addict Son
- How to Let Go of a Drug Addict Son
- How recovery works: 10 things to know about a loved one’s addiction
How to recognize benzedrine overdose
Use and abuse of amphetamines such as benzedrine can cause overdose and even death. Overdose can occur from legitimate use or from misuse.
If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, it is important to know how to recognize the signs of amphetamine overdose so that you can immediately contact emergency services like 9-1-1. Learn how to respond in case of an overdose.Being able to know when to seek emergency help can reduce or prevent damage to vital organs and potentially save a life. Some common signs of amphetamine overdose include:
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Increased or decreased body temperature
- Chills, nausea, and/or vomiting
- Tremor, shakiness and/or restlessness
- Agitation, disorientation, irritability and/or aggressive behavior
If you recognize signs of overdose contact emergency services immediately.
Amphetamine addiction treatment and recovery
Addiction is a chronic brain disease, and like other diseases, it can require professional help and treatment to heal. If you or a loved one are struggling with an amphetamine use disorder, you have likely experienced the physical, emotional, mental, legal, financial and relational consequences of addiction. Treatment and recovery changes lives, and getting professional support can be a critical part of the healing process.
Will I go through withdrawal?
When a person with a substance use disorder decides to get treatment, they often will go through with withdrawal. For some, detox can be a necessary step prior to beginning a treatment program. Current users who are physically dependent on amphetamines like benzedrine are likely to experience physical, mental and emotional symptoms when they stop using. The extent of withdrawal symptoms can depend on several factors including the length and severity of a person’s addiction, their age and other health conditions. The body and brain are used to having the substance to function, and when use is stopped, there can be a number of painful and uncomfortable symptoms including:
- Trouble concentrating or focusing
- Intense cravings
Discontinuing use of a drug “cold turkey” can be dangerous in some cases. Therefore, it is advisable to contact a physician or addiction professional when stopping chronic use, as they can help limit the risks and possibly reduce withdrawal symptoms.
Getting treatment for amphetamine use disorders
Treatment is a critical part of the healing process for those struggling with substance use disorders. Getting sober is only one part of the recovery process. Without the emotional healing and tools for coping, staying clean and sober can be extremely challenging. A sustainable recovery requires identifying and addressing the underlying issues that caused the addiction to develop in the first place, learning healthier ways of managing difficult emotions, building functional behaviors, repairing relationships and developing effective coping mechanisms.
Longer stays in treatment programs can increase the odds of maintaining long-term sobriety, allowing participants to acquire the life skills necessary to support a healthy, drug-free lifestyle. If you are seeking a treatment program for yourself or a loved one, look for an accredited facility with evidence-based programming that addresses their specific needs.
For instance, those with substance use disorders are more likely to struggle with co-morbid conditions like depression, anxiety, anorexia and other disorders. It is important to find an accredited program that considers these and other needs, like the Liberty Ranch Rehabilitation Center.
Liberty Ranch’s evidence-based intensive outpatient program (IOP) provides partial hospitalization, outpatient care, psychiatric evaluation services, and family counseling to those struggling with addiction. Clients in the IOP program work to heal from their addictions, learn how to manage triggers, build new life skills and develop functional ways of coping. Surrounded by the serene, rolling hills of Kings Mountain, Kentucky, participants can take time away from stressors and triggers to rebuild and heal in a safe and supportive environment. Liberty Ranch also offers a specialized program for women that not only addresses the traditional scope of treatment, but also considers the specific challenges women with addiction face.
If you or your loved one is in a dangerous or emergency situation, please call 911 or contact your local emergency services. Otherwise, the following resources may be helpful to you and your family.
Peer Support Networks
Peer support networks can be a critical part of recovery, especially following treatment or a stay at a sober living facility. They provide safe spaces where those with substance use disorders can share, learn and be held accountable as they navigate recovery. Use the meeting locators to find an Alcoholic Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meeting near you. Nar-Anon, Al-Anon, and Families Anonymous can also be extremely helpful resources for loved ones of addicts to learn about addiction, seek fellowship and get support.
If you want to learn more about treatment options for your or your loved one, contact Liberty Ranch for a free consultation