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Pilots in Iraq and methamphetamine use

A variety of amphetamines were legal for many years. In broad terms, their stimulant action on the user is similar to such drugs as Ritalin or cocaine. Some people abused them, and most were made illegal. This seems only to have spurred the spread of labs which resemble the stills or bathtub gin of alcohol Prohibition. The more enforcement, the more the growth in the number of labs.

Military use is of dextro-amphetamine (Dexedrine) and the policy is described in detail in NAVMED P-6410, 1 JAN 2000. 

See: Air Force Performance Manual


*    Most combat pilots use government issued "speed," called "go pills," and have for over 40 years.

*    This is done to reduce fatigue and to sharpen concentration. [Appetite suppression is another common effect.]

*    Pilots must sign a form which indicates that the drug is not approved by the FDA but that those who refuse to use it are subject to removal from missions.

*    Pilots must be allowed to make their own decisions about how much to use and when within certain limits.

*    The military claims they have had no problem with addiction. (They cannot say the same for alcohol.)

The fundamental points:

*    The effect of a drug is very dependent on the person or persons using it.

*    Allowing limited legal use increases society's ability to educate, to monitor and control dosage and to generally develop cultural norms about intelligent use that all help to deter abuse.

*    When some dramatic adverse reactions are allowed to end restricted use, more damage results than if legal use is allowed to continue. We learned this in regard to alcohol during alcohol Prohibition.  We have failed to apply this perspective to currently  illegal drugs.

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