"Modern man is the victim of this era" reads the headline.
"War...rumors of war...atomic devastation...too much government...economic uncertainty- all part of a complex pattern, all part of these troubled times. Today, countless factors are taking their psychic toll in your patients. Mental depression is one of the most common results.
'Dexedrine' Sulfate can do much to help the depressed patient. By restoring mental alertness and optimism, by inducing a feeling of energy and well being. 'Dexedrine' lifts your patient out of the gloom of depression and helps him face the future."
Dexedrine, for those of you not in the profession, is a brand name for a type of amphetamine. If nothing else, Nicholas Rasmussen's new book, On Speed, The Many Lives of Amphetamine will forever serve as documentation that there was a time when Big Pharma said the appropriate response to the threat of nuclear war was to start passing out crank.
The book is more than a collection of amusing historical pharmacy anecdotes though. (Another favorite - the tale of an early generic version of amphetamine produced in defiance of Smith, Kline & French's patent and sold in many cases "without the significant savings passed along to the customer." The name of the knockoff? Profetamine. Get it? Profet...Profit? It would be a few more years before pharmacy became the nation's most trusted profession.) In it, Rasmussen makes the case for amphetamine as a key marker of the end of the period of "snake oil" medicine and the beginning of the evidence-based medical era. He isn't shy about the downside of modern pharmaceutical marketing, although at times it seems as if he is trying a bit too hard, such as when he says the Cox-2 inhibitors Bextra and Celebrex "promised to make arthritis suffering obsolete" (they never claimed to be more effective than older arthritis meds, only to be easier on the GI tract) or that the original contraceptive formulas "probably cause cancer" (recent studies show that being on birth control tablets actually cut a woman's overall lifetime cancer risk) The documentation of amphetamine as "a drug in search of a disease," however, will sound familiar to anyone in the health care field, and may well beg questions such as why Attention Deficit Disorder was not nearly a problem on today's scale back when Dexedrine faced no competition as an anti-depressant.
While the book also follows the trends of amphetamine abuse in general society, from cramming college students, ramped up soldiers, jazz musicians, beat poets, hippies who figured out "speed kills" through today's ecstasy raves and crystal meth epidemic, it's most valuable as a chronicle of how where we've been in medicine explains a lot about where we are today.
Personally, if we were about to get nuked, I'd think I'd rather just quietly go to sleep.