Hitler's Drugged Soldiers
The Nazis preached abstinence in the name of promoting national health. But when it came to fighting their Blitzkrieg, they had no qualms about pumping their soldiers full of drugs and alcohol. Speed was the drug of choice, but many others became addicted to morphine and alcohol....Pervitin, a stimulant commonly known as speed today, was the German army's -- the Wehrmacht's -- wonder drug.
It was delivered to the soldiers at the front.
Many of the Wehrmacht's soldiers were high on Pervitin when they went into battle, especially against Poland and France -- in a Blitzkrieg fueled by speed. The German military was supplied with millions of methamphetamine tablets during the first half of 1940. The drugs were part of a plan to help pilots, sailors and infantry troops become capable of superhuman performance. The military leadership liberally dispensed such stimulants, but also alcohol and opiates, as long as it believed drugging and intoxicating troops could help it achieve victory over the Allies.
After a while, soldiers developed a tolerance to Pervitin. The German army demanded pharmacologists come up with a new drug -- one that would not only improve endurance, but self-esteem as well. Sound impossible? No, it was called D-IX, and it consisted of:
...five milligrams of cocaine, three milligrams of Pervitin and five milligrams of Eukodal (a morphine-based painkiller). Nowadays, a drug dealer caught with this potent a drug would be sent to prison. At the time, however, the drug was tested on crew members working on the navy's smallest submarines, known as the "Seal" and the "Beaver."
Doctors in Hitler's army became addicted to morphine:
Franz Wertheim, a medical officer who was sent to a small village near the Western Wall on May 10, 1940, wrote the following account: "To help pass the time, we doctors experimented on ourselves. We would begin the day by drinking a water glass of cognac and taking two injections of morphine. We found cocaine to be useful at midday, and in the evening we would occasionally take Hyoskin," an alkaloid derived from some varieties of the nightshade plant that is used as a medication. Wertheim adds: "As a result, we were not always fully in command of our senses."
The U.S. military may not be in a position to claim any sort of superiority. Heroin became established after the civil war, and got its name from being considered a "heroic drug" because it was believed that it would cure morphine addiction, which plagued U.S. soldiers.
Heroin (diacetylmorphine) was first synthesized in 1874 by English researcher, C.R. Wright. The drug went unstudied and unused until 1895 when Heinrich Dreser working for The Bayer Company of Germany, found that diluting morphine with acetyls produced a drug without the common morphine side effects. Heroin was considered a highly effective medication for coughs, chest pains, and the discomfort of tuberculosis. This effect was important because pneumonia and tuberculosis were the two leading causes of death at that time, prior to the discovery of antibiotics. Heroin was touted to doctors as stronger than morphine and safer than codeine. It was thought to be nonaddictive, and even thought to be a cure for morphine addiction or for relieving morphine withdrawal symptoms. Because of its supposed great potential, Dreser derived his name for the new drug from the German word for `heroic.'
As for speed, the Air Force routinely provides "go pills" to its pilots.
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