Developed by the Temmler pharmaceutical company, based in Berlin, Pervitin was introduced in 1938 and marketed as a magic pill for alertness and an anti-depressive, among other uses. It was briefly even available over the counter. A military doctor, Otto Ranke, experimented with Pervitin on 90 college students and decided, based on his results, that the drug would help Germany win the war. Using Pervitin, the soldiers of the Wehrmacht could stay awake for days at a time and march many more miles without resting.
A so-called “stimulant decree” issued in April 1940 sent more than 35 million tablets of Pervitin and Isophan (a slightly modified version produced by the Knoll pharmaceutical company) of the pills to the front lines, where they fueled the Nazis’ “Blitzkrieg” invasion of France through the Ardennes mountains. It should be noted that Germans were not alone in their use of performance-enhancing drugs during World War II. Allied soldiers were known to use amphetamines (speed) in the form of Benzedrine in order to battle combat fatigue.
Studiesshow that two thirds of those who take crystal meth excessively suffer frompsychosis after three years. Since Pervitin and crystal meth have the sameactive ingredient, and countless soldiers had been taking it more or lessregularly since the invasion of Poland, the Blitzkriegon France, or the attack on the Soviet Union, we must assume psychoticside-effects, as well as the need to keep increasing the dosage to achieve anoticeable effect.
As it becameobvious the Nazis were going to lose, military efforts became increasinglydesperate, and life was cheaply traded for grasping attempts at victory.Teenage recruits were dosed with amphetamines and shipped to the front; Navypharmacologists tested dangerous mixes of high-grade pharmaceuticals on pilots.At a wine bar in Munich, Ohler meets with a Navy official who tells him how inthe final months of the war, members of the Hitler Youth were loaded intomini-submarines and sent to sea with not much more than packets of cocainechewing gum.