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Important Anniversaries in America's Affair With Salt-Based Stimulants

An incomplete history of our country's incongruous amphetamine laws.
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*In 1941, Smith, Kline and French—a corporate ancestor to GlaxoSmithKline—sells $500,000 worth of Benzedrine, an amphetamine tablet, to American consumers as a treatment for depression, narcolepsy, and Parkinson’s Disease.

*In 1945, the U.S. Army surveys fighter pilots regarding their use of amphetamines in World War II combat situations. Fifteen percent of respondents report using 5mg tablets of Benzedrine "regularly." That same year, researchers visit a military prison and discover that eight percent of the facility's prisoners are unstable and agitated from consuming the pure amphetamine oil contents of SKF Benzadrine Inhalers.

*In 1969, the U.S. House Select Committee on Crime holds a hearing titled, "Crime in America—Why 8 Billion Amphetamines?"

*In 1988, Congress establishes federal mandatory minimum sentences for methamphetamine production and trafficking. Ten grams of pure meth comes with a five-year mandatory minimum: 100 grams, 10 years.

*In 1991, surveys are sent to United States Air Force pilots about their use of amphetamines during the First Gulf War. Sixty-five percent of respondents say they have used dextroamphetamine in 5mg tablets "occasionally." Of those who say they used dextroamphetamine, roughly 60 percent "consider their use beneficial or essential to operations."

*In 1998, Congress passes the Methamphetamine Trafficking Control Act. Under the law, five grams of pure methamphetamine—about five sugar packets’ worth—comes with a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. Fifty grams comes with a 10-year sentence.

*In fiscal year 1999, 2,847 people are sentenced to federal prison for methamphetamine offenses.

*In 2002, the Christian Science Monitor reports on a document created by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which reads in part: "The capability to operate effectively, without sleep, is no less than a 21-century revolution in military affairs that results in operational dominance across the whole range of potential U.S. military employments."

*In 2005, Newsweek publishes "America's Most Dangerous Drug," a story about meth. The story contains this line: "The crystalline white drug quickly seduces those who snort, smoke or inject it with a euphoric rush of confidence, hyperalertness and sexiness that lasts for hours on end." PBS Frontline follows suit in 2006 with "The Meth Epidemic." The package contains these lines: "A Japanese chemist first synthesizes amphetamine in a lab. During World War II, the Japanese and Germans use the drug to keep tank drivers awake and increase workers' productivity."

*Also in 2006: Major League Baseball bans amphetamines (commonly called "greenies"). That same year, 28 players apply for an exemption from the policy due to their use of amphetamines to treat ADD or ADHD. In 2009, 106 players apply for the exemption.

*In 2013, Americans purchase $9 billion worth of pharmaceutical stimulants—many of them made from amphetamines—for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.

*In fiscal year 2014, 6,290 people are sentenced to federal prison for methamphetamine offenses, and Adam Levine makes a video titled, "It's Your ADHD—Own It" as part of a marketing campaign sponsored by the biopharmaceutical company Shire Plc.

Unlikely Patriots is our series of essays for July 4th that celebrates surprising, forgotten, and/or contrarian expressions of love for one's country.