It Began With The Inhaler

Amphetamines were first synthesized in 1887, but it took the invention of the bronchial inhaler by Smith, Kline and French in 1927 to really kickstart their use.

People soon discovered than when soaked in water, coffee or alcohol, the humble inhaler made an intensely powerful brew.

This little trick spawned a host of products with "brain" or "pep", cheap and easy pick-me-ups for a population trying to keep up with the rapid industrialization of the Western world.

Thus began a relentless commercial exploitation that would last over 50 years.

hyperactive kids

In 1935, doctors started prescribing narcoleptics, but soon found a more common and effective use - to calm hyperactive children, in exactly the same way Ritalin is used today.

In 1939, concerns about amphetamine related suicidal depression, hypertension, psychosis and addiction were beginning to surface. But pharmaceutical companies brushed these aside and increased production.


In the 21st century, amphetamines have but two legitimate medical uses: For narcolepsy and for hyperactive children. The 'pseudoamphetamine' Ritalin is prescribed to 130,000 children a year in the UK alone as a treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The medical profession remains split on whether this is a good or bad idea.