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When we were researching our book Isoldens Liebestrank (Iseult's Love Potion) and asked Peter Stafford what he considered to be the best aphrodisiac, he replied clearly and succinctly: "Speed." Speed is the street name for amphetamines and similar drugs. It is closely related to ephedrine.

Amphetamine was first synthesized in 1887 by Lazar Edelano, but the effect of amphetamine on the brain wasn't discovered till 1910, in England (Geschwind 1996, 376B). Soon after that, many variations were synthesized and sold as appetite suppressants, wake-up pills, stimulants, and uppers. Amphetamine research in Germany peaked during the Nazi regime, at about the same time American students first discovered amphetamines as a study aid (it inhibited sleep and promoted alertness), "chemical helper" in exam situations, and even for endurance sports. Meanwhile, Japanese Kamikaze pilots were pumped up on amphetamines, especially pervitin, a German invention. In the postwar era there were many who consumed amphetamines in Germany. (Did this help with Germany's highly touted "economic miracle"?) In the United States there were experiments with amphetamines for use in psychiatry and therapy.
Until recently, amphetamine was considered purely a product of the experimental laboratory-- an exclusively synthetic molecule. But amphetamine is not produced under laboratory conditions alone; it is also found in nature, including in some species of acacia (Clement et al. 1977).

Amphetamines are among the most effective stimulants known today. Many derivatives have been developed, such as Ritalin, Captagon (phenethylline), methamphetamine, and MDMA (cf. herbal ecstasy), that have empathogenic and hallucinogenic effects, along with the basically stimulating effect. (Cho and Segal 1994).

Very early on, writers discovered the value of amphetamine as a potent work drug. The beatniks-- particularly William Burroughs, both senior and junior-- used amphetamines as an aphrodisiac, and they praised the "speed" that this molecule provided for their creative abilities. Other writers, such as Swiss orientalist Rudolf Gelpke (1928-1972), fell victim to an excessive use of amphetamines.

Amphetamines rose to fame in the gay culture (cf. poppers). Prostitutes also liked them because they enabled sustained, emotionless interactions. And on the techno/disco scene, amphetamines fuelled all-night dancing (cf. recreational drugs).

The effect of amphetamines is to feel "hopped up," "speeded up," and "totally amped." Think of cartoon figures, such as Speedy Gonzales, Speed Freak, and Speedhead; the musical style of Motorhead Speed Metal 9an extremely fast-paced hard rock style, very similar to Death Metal;0 and musical classifications (see also bands with names like Speed, Speedball, Speeddealers, Speed Baby and others). Amphetamine use is often accompanied by heroin usein the music business, a combination known in street slang as a speedball, or highball. Mixed with cocaine, it has the dubious and infamous name of "Hitler sandwich." But not everything called speed automatically implies amphetamines.

Amphetamines often stimulate aggressive behaviour or encourage a disposition toward aggressiveness and brutality (more frequently when sex is involved), The gruesome, ritualistic murders of Sharon Tate and her companions were not provoked by LSD, as was widely believed; the murderers were under the powerful influence of amphetamines. Charles Manson and his infamous family were not peace-loving hippies, but crazed messianic Satanits (Sanders 1995). Hitler, who used amphetamines and gave them to his troops, has been called a speed-freak. Rock bands such as Canned Heat, tried to warn against amphetamine use in songs like 'Amphetamine Anne" (1967).

Amphetamine's effects are similar to phenylethylamine, and many people report a strong increase of libido with its usage (Fast and Bernstein 1983, 42ffB). In order to encourage that result, amphetamines are either dissolved orally in coffee or soft drinks, swallowed in pills, or "for a rush with orgiastic happiness and omnipotent feelings similar to the one from shooting-up heroin or cocaine" (Geschwine 1996, 400B).

Text: The Encyclopaedia of Aphrodisiacs Psychoactive Substances For Use In Sexual Practices. Christian Ratsch and Claudia Muller-Ebeling, 2003.

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