When the German pharmaceutical company Temmler Werke released a methamphetamine compound in 1938, a Wehrmacht (German army) physiologist recognized its potential application in wartime. After a study demonstrated that the drug increased productivity in sleep-deprived university students, the military began distributing millions of the tablets to pilots and soldiers on the front (who dubbed it Panzerschokolade– tank chocolate).
After long-term use, however, many soldiers became addicted to the stimulant. Side effects included sweating, dizziness, depression and hallucinations. Reports emerged of soldiers dying of heart failure or shooting themselves during psychotic breaks. Despite efforts by some Third Reich health official to limit distribution of the drug, it’s use continued throughout the war.
In the 1960s, both East and West German armies continued the use of stimulant pills. Not until the 1970s did West Germany’s Bundeswehr remove the drug from its medical supplies. The communist German Democratic Republic followed suit in 1988.
Today, methamphetamine is a major drug of abuse. Taken orally, smoked, snorted, or injected in a water or alcohol solution, methamphetamine is an extremely addictive drug. The drug increases the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine (involved in reward, motivation, pleasure, and motor function) in the brain.
Repeated use often leads to addiction – a chronic, relapsing condition characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use. Long-term users may experience anxiety, confusion, insomnia, mood disturbances and display violent behavior. They may also show symptoms of psychosis, such as paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and delusions. Long-term methamphetamine use has many negative consequences for physical health, including extreme weight loss, severe dental problems (“meth mouth”), and skin sores caused by scratching.