How were the amphetamines discovered? Who first marketed these chemicals as medicines? How was the medical profession persuaded to prescribe them – as the first ‘antidepressants’? How many people in the 1950s and 1960s became addicted to the amphetamines so commonly prescribed by their doctors, both as diet pills and antidepressants? And, most important, how come Americans still can't live without their speed, more than 60 years after other countries started banning the drugs as medicines because they cause addiction and psychosis?
On Speed answers these questions. This book is the first history of the amphetamines based on unpublished inside documents from the drug companies, the government officials, and the doctors who made amphetamine into the blockbuster medicine – and disastrously popular, addictive drug of abuse – that defined the twentieth century.
Praise and Reviews of On Speed:
"A magnificent work: measured, thorough, strong on both the technical
details and the larger socio-cultural and ethical issues surrounding the
development, marketing, and distribution of these dangerous
mood-altering drugs. Rasmussen has dug into the medical literature and archives to find new information on every aspect of the
process by which amphetamines were invented, patented, and twinned with
- Robert A. Nye, Horning Professor of History (Emeritus), Oregon State University
"On Speed deftly captures amphetamine's impact on medicine, culture, and society... As the title promises, Rasmussen's account tracks the many manifestations of amphetamine from the 1930s to today in intricate and fascinating detail, from miracle drug to public enemy, a trajectory filled with lessons for the future.”
- John P. Swann, Historian, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
"This is a superb book."
- David Courtwright, Presidential Professor of History, University of North Florida, in Journal of American History
"[A] lively yet insightfully critical text whose pages turn quickly even without benefit of the drug in question."
- A. Daemmrich, in American Historical Review
- The Guardian (UK) "Perceptive" - Washington Post
"On Speed is a
fascinating and thoroughly researched 'biography' of a class of drugs
for which markets had to be created. The history of amphetamines over
the past 70 years shows the iron fisted grasp the drug industry has had
and continues to have over medicine"
- A. Shaughnessy, in British Medical Journal
"Enormously interesting.... On Speed makes an invaluable
contribution to our understanding of amphetamine’s history. More
important, it is a thought provoking account of the pharmaceutical
industry’s influence on psychiatric medicine."
- R. Mcketin, in Addiction
is as attention grabbing as any contemporary thriller: greed, politics,
drugs and addiction fill the pages of Nicolas Rasmussen’s historical
account of the rise of amphetamine use in the United States and
Britain... Rasmussen writes with a confident voice and meticulous attention to detail… Fascinating and timely.”
- M. Gnegy, in Nature Medicine
"This book... should be close to compulsory reading within mental health circles"
- D. Healy, in Journal of Attention Disorders
"Rasmussen is to be congratulated for excavating this hidden history... This is a work of impressive scholarship."
- I.D. Smith, in British Journal of Psychiatry
"Biased from the start..."
- M.A. Dawes, in New England Journal of Medicine
The Author: Nicolas Rasmussen is Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, in the School of Humanities at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He holds an M.Phil. in History & Philosophy of Science from Cambridge University, a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Stanford University, and a Masters degree in Public Health from the University of Sydney Medical School. His work on the history of amphetamine has been recognized with the 2007 Stanley Jackson Prize from the Journal of the History of Medicine and the 2007 J. Worth Estes Prize for history of pharmacology, from the American Association for the History of Medicine.