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What is Benzedrine?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Benzedrine is a form of amphetamine that was once in widespread use in the West. The trademark is owned by Smith, Kline, and French, a pharmaceutical company which is itself owned by GlaxxoSmithKline (GSK). GSK no longer manufacturers Benzedrine, but a drug with an essentially identical formulation is still on the market, although much less widely used than Benzedrine once was.

The history of Benzedrine begins in the late 1800s, when chemists first began to produce synthetic amphetamines. At first, uses for these new chemical compounds seemed limited, but pharmaceutical companies began to recognize that they could be used as stimulants. Benzedrine was introduced to the market in 1928 as an over-the-counter (OTC) inhaler. Initially, the drug was designed to be used to widen the nasal and bronchial passages, relieving breathing difficulties.

However, consumers quickly realized that Benzedrine could have other, potentially more exciting, applications, and they started breaking the inhalers open to get at the drug inside, taking it orally rather than through an inhaler. This marked one of the earliest known recreational uses of a synthetic stimulant, and set the stage for the coming decades of rampant abuse.

By the Second World War, the drug was also being manufactured in the form of tablets. Doctors prescribed it to people who had difficulty waking up in the morning, along with patients who suffered from narcolepsy, and Benzedrine tablets were also shipped out by the caseload for use by soldiers on the front. Benzedrine, along with many other stimulants, was extensively used by soldiers from all of the nations involved in the war, and it was especially popular with pilots. In fact, advertisements for this drug stressed this point, saying that it would make people more alert.

Benzedrine was widely available in tablet and inhaler form in most drug stores, and people from all walks of life used it. Movie stars, flight crews, and truckers consumed large amounts of Benzedrine in the course of their work, and the drug also proved popular with bored teens, housewives, and many others.

By the late 1940s, Benzedrine abuse had attracted attention, and “Bennies,” as the pills were known, began to face serious scrutiny. The US Food and Drug Administration first tried banning the inhalers, and in 1959, it ruled that the drug would be sold by prescription only. By this time, numerous other amphetamine derivatives had reached the market, capitalizing on the success of Benzedrine, and while these drugs were also made prescription-only, the abuse of prescription amphetamines continues to this day.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1006024 — On Jan 13, 2022

OMG. I hope the people who have posted on here 10+ years ago will somehow find their way back to this site just to see this comment. I almost don't know where to begin!

First of all, Benzadrine was and is a racemic enantiomer of the amphetamine salt molecule. There are 4 major stereo isomers that have been, and still are (In 2022, I literally just picked up my refill 4 hours ago at Walgreens) in full scale production. And no"cellmania" none are called 'dexamphetanine'-- it's dextroamphetamine -- the chemistry involved to stabilize a dose of amphetamine into a salt, which can be trusted for stability and shelf life, delivery via oral ROA, and many more important qualities that the choice of acids used to adjust the pH from basic to alkaline rather than a gel cap or pressed pill of a ticking time bomb that is A. It's unstable in that it will deteriorate rapidly and become volitile / ripe for molecular alternations and categorically prior to the potential of morph into a deadly toxin, it can be seriously abused by simply adding water, heat and fire away, so it's forseen long since, that we must choose a proper acid - sulfuric, aspartate, saccharate, hydrochloric, etc., or risk having the compound (for example) become a biohazard from microbial growth. Many other chemicals need to be made more basic to render them stable. Also, I must include the detail that the proper ionization by pH reduction or elevation is extremely important to achieve success in the customization of a drug's metabolic profile, so that it will be, for instance, optimally received by the proper receptors and will not be destroyed in first pass metabolism in attempt to cross the blood-brain barrier.

So it's crucial to get a few facts straight here. The Amphetamine family associated with Benzadrine that lives on today, is as follows: Dextroamphetamine sulfate. That alone is the second most powerful amphetamine salt on the market. It's branded as Dexedrine, Dexedrine Spansules, ProCentra, Dextrostat, Metamine, Amfexa, and Zenzedi. I take 100% Dextroamphetamine sulfate, two 10mg tablets twice daily as needed for ADD. Adderall is also Dextroamphetamine. However, it contains 50% Dextroamphetamine sulfate, 25% Dextroamphetamine Saccharate, and then the nasty left handed stereo isomer- Levoamphetamine! Yuck. It is borh Levoamphetamine Sulfate & Levoamphetamine Aspartate, = 25% if the total. Now, not only is levoamphetamine the (–) enantiomer (spins equally but in the opposite direction of its mirror image) the right handed isomer Dextroamphetamine. So not only is levoamphetamine 300:1 weaker than Dextroamphetamine, but it also interferes with the potential of the dextroamphetamine, and it is responsible for the majority of the known common side effects. Yuck.

Ok so stay away from Adderall. Ask for Dexedrine, and you will get a generic version that is balls to the wall potent as hell.

As for the cellmania, no, dextroamphetamine (let alone a chemical that you have made up called 'dexamphetamine' is most certainly not the "basis" or in any other way associated with the production of MDMA nor crystal methamphetamine.

Desoxyn is even available for ADHD, ADD, Narcolepsy, and severe obesity. That's the brand name for the Rx methamphetamine hydrochloride USP, and I have a prescription for that as well. By the way, I have been addicted to Oxycontin, Fentanyl, Cocaine, and alcohol, yet I have been taking my "very addictive drug" for 22 years without ever once taking it other than exactly as directed. I have never felt the urge to take more, and I have on many, many occasions forgotten to take my dose/thought I had only to see the tablets in my pill dispenser later, and I despise people who are uneducated in a particular subject, but they go ahead and explain/pass on incorrect information to others.

Ignorance is a very serious problem in this world especially this nation. You really should learn the facts as they are, not "as you understand from reading" or anything else but the actual facts and then you can consider sharing. Otherwise and until then, please don't pass along any more fiction.

By anon990372 — On Apr 18, 2015

1969 was the best of times and was the worst of times. Older speed freaks coaxed us eager teenyboppers into going to the drug store for them to pick up gel caps when they were making doses. We thought it funny then but in the sellers' defense, TV sold us the counter culture. What a waste. They used to call some asolphate? Only made me not eat and talk too much. Why do people still take this crap? I know counter culture won and those church going folks have more worry about arrests than pot smokers do now while they hunt same sex relationships.

By anon358016 — On Dec 09, 2013

The Hi-Tech "Benzadrine" isn't the same benzadrine from the 30's. Benzadrine was just a brand name for the chemical stimulant amphetamine. Hi-Tech is just trying to capitalize on the brand name but it doesn't contain any amphetamine. It actually contains caffeine. I'm sure they've sold many bottles of the stuff on this false advertising.

By anon274830 — On Jun 13, 2012

I take Adderall for both ADD and to fight off the extreme sleepiness and fatigue that usually hits me at about 10 a.m. on days that I work, which is only about six months out of the year. During my working days I take two 10mg Adderall tablets when I wake up in the morning. I then take one additional 10mg tablet after lunch at about 1 p.m. in the afternoon.

I've found Adderall to absolutely not be addictive in my case and when I'm not working I often forget to take it. When I forget to take it, I end up being sleepy all day.

By anon248047 — On Feb 15, 2012

I think it should be taken off of all shelves.

By anon218380 — On Sep 28, 2011

These days benzedrine (amphetamines) are normally prescribed for ADHD,ADD and people who need weight loss for health reasons. It is generally given as dexamphetamine or adderral.

By anon160370 — On Mar 15, 2011

Is the OTC brand name "Benzadrine" by Hi-Tech the same or just similar to the old benedrine from the 1930s?

By anon147818 — On Jan 30, 2011

Benzedrine used to be standard issue in the survival packs in ship's lifeboats. The man on duty would take one if he was sleepy.

By vishru — On Jan 11, 2011

what diseases does it cause?

By anon129929 — On Nov 26, 2010

Just found out from a tobacco group that it is contained in cigarettes.

By anon114180 — On Sep 27, 2010

This is a great little blurb about the history of how amphetamines came out if anyone, like me, happens to be writing a huge paper on it lol. thanks a bunch.

By anon107043 — On Aug 28, 2010

yes, benzedrine is used today. lol. i have a huge bottle of the pills here, myself. they are used for dietary weight loss, although if used recreationally, they give people a high near the same as speed (amphetamine) does.

By CellMania — On Aug 13, 2010

@dill1971: Well, from what I understand just from reading, Benzedrine is just another name for amphetamine, which is called dexamphetamine. That is a very addictive stimulant drug. It is the chemical basis for ecstasy, and crystal meth.

It became very popular as an appetite suppressant drug. From what I can understand, it is now mainly used for recreational purposes rather than medicinal ones.

By dill1971 — On Aug 13, 2010

Is benzadrine still around today? If so, what is it used for now?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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