Tweaking Soliders: the Nazis and Methamphetamine

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As leader of the Third Reich, it is commonly known Adolf Hilter advocated for Lebensreform (life reform).  Chief among this belief was that members of the Aryan Race should abstain from drug and alcohol use in order to create a pure and strong race.  However, at the same time Lebensreform was being advocated by Hilter and party officials like Heinrich Himmler, Nazi military men were nonetheless being fed the methamphetamine Pervitin in massive quantities during World War II.

Referred to as “pilot’s salt” or “tank chocolate” by members of the Wehrmacht (German armed forces), Pervitin was seen as a wonder drug by officials who freely distributed it to military men.[1] The drug increased German soldiers’ alertness and endurance, and gave them confidence and euphoric feelings   No member of the Wehrmacht was immune from the drugs effects: pilots, infantrymen, and civil defense soldiers, were consuming large quantities of methamphetamine by order of the Nazi high command.

The use of amphetamine was not uncommon throughout industrialized countries during the 1930s and 40s.  Indeed, Dexedrine and other amphetamines would be given to allied pilots during the War to maintain alertness.  However, in the 1938, German paramedical company Temmler Werke began working on Pervitin, a new drug that was structurally different then previous “pep” pills on the market.  The Academy of Military Medicine in Berlin, decided to study methamphetamine to determine if it could be beneficial in combat situations.  In tests, the academy noticed that subjects dosed with Pervitin were able to perform better in mathematical and memory tests in a controlled environment.  As a result, 3 mg tablets of Pervitin were included in medical supplies for German military units during the invasion of Poland in 1939.[2]
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