Flashback Friday: An Oral History Of Benzedrine Use In The USA

in Culture

For this edition of Flashback Friday, we’re bringing you an excerpt from The Drug User by legendary drug aficionado, Herbert Huncke, originally published in the October, 1991 edition of High Times.

Although not as well known as his fellow “Beats”—Kerouac, Ginsberg, Cassady, and Burroughs—Herbert Huncke is just as important. Writer/ junkie/thief/hustler Huncke has been in and out of prison and various addictions throughout his 70-odd years on the planet. The always-neatly-pressed Huncke has had a life checkered with adventures (quite a few of them not very pleasant), and as a result his writings are engrossing, enlightening and perversely entertaining. His last book, Guilty of Everything (Paragon House) tracked the ups and downs and ins and outs of his sometimes-debilitating heroin habit.

Benzedrine—an amphetamine—was widely used in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s by n’er-do-well crank-heads who would order it over-the-counter from their local drugstores. It first took the form of pills—Bennies—and later, nasal inhaler after the pills got a little too popular. The inhaler form proved even more handy, and the drug was subsequently reclassified under the Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1971. The following is an excerpt from The Drug User (Blast Books), a compilation volume that looks at drug use from a historical perspective (deliberately ignoring the already well-documented ’60s), which is due to be released this month. Along with Huncke’s piece, there are contributions from other well-known drug users, including William S. Burroughs, Baudelaire, Anais Nin, Aldous Huxley and Jean Cocteau.

Go back to the 1930s—though it must have been discovered somewhere in the ’20s, I’m almost sure—start from say ’32, under cover before ’33, I know that— Benzedrine was then only known by a few: nurses and doctors, students at universities where they’d come …

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Author: High Times / High Times

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