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From the Journal of Psychedelic Drugs.

This article, reprinted from the Spring 1969 issue of the Journal (vol. 2, issue 2)-when it was still the Journal of Psychedelic Drugs--is among the first to describe high-dose, intravenous methamphetamine abuse in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco. Methamphetamine use was increasing in 1967 and 1968, sometimes orally as an adulterant of psychedelic drugs or as a primary drug of abuse, but it was increasingly being abused in an intravenous, high-dose binge pattern that proved pernicious, not only to the users, but to the hippies and other members of the Haight-Ashbury community. Even among drug-using Haight-Ashbury subcultures, the high-dose methamphetamine abuser was marginalized, but became increasingly visible and unavoidable because of violence associated with dealing methamphetamine and because of the users' hyperactivity and paranoia.

Methamphetamine was not a new drug. Oral methamphetamine, under the pharmaceutical trade name of Desoxyn[R], and methamphetamine, in oral tablets and in ampoules for intravenous administration under the trade name of Methedrine[R], had been available for years. Injectable Methedrine was prescribed for treatment of heroin addiction by a few San Francisco physicians and that created concern among San Francisco's medical community and law enforcement. Clearly, prescribing a stimulant for treatment of heroin dependence was not a good idea, repeating Sigmund Freud's misadventure treating his friend's morphine addiction with cocaine. But there was little evidence that prescription methamphetamine use was creating a major public health problem.

Increasing restrictions on methamphetamine's medical use and eventual withdrawal of Methedrine from the pharmaceutical market decreased availability of prescription methamphetamine and increased the market for illicit methamphetamine, known variously as "meth," "crank" or "speed." In the late '60s, Dr. Roger Smith, a criminologist who was the Director of the Amphetamine Research Project at the University of California Medical Center, led a team of researchers who conducted interviews with drug users in the Haight-Ashbury. In this important early paper, he clearly describes the social contexts of intravenous methamphetamine use and the recruitment of new users by friends. This presages later waves of methamphetamine abuse within the gay community and the otherwise inexplicable continued abuse of methamphetamine to the present despite its obvious destructiveness to users. The article is being reprinted here because of its historic importance.

Donald R. Wesson, M.D.

DOI: 10.1080/02791072.2011.587714
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Author:Wesson, Donald R.
Publication:Journal of Psychoactive Drugs
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2011
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