The History of Meth in The United States | Banyan Palm Springs

The History of Meth in The United States


Methamphetamine or meth is a stimulant drug that is occasionally used to treat ADHD or help people who are overweight but is more commonly used recreationally.

Because of its highly addictive quality, many people who abuse meth eventually need drug addiction treatment to stop. Although meth use in America is mostly illegal now, it wasn’t always this way. The history of methamphetamine in the United States extends way back and comes with some surprising anecdotes.

The Complicated History of Meth Use in The United States

Methamphetamine was believed to have first been created by a Japanese chemist, Nagai Nagayoshi, in 1893 from another stimulant with the intent of treating narcolepsy and asthma.1 Its widespread use throughout the world and in the United States didn’t occur until much later.

The history of meth in the United States stems largely from World War II. A powerful stimulant, meth helped keep soldiers awake and made them more aggressive. Because of these desired qualities, countries from both sides of the war started to adopt its use for their troops.2 While methamphetamine use abroad was growing, so was the use of this amphetamine at home.

Before the war, methamphetamine was available in pharmacies in the United States under the name Benzedrine. Nicknamed bennies, this drug started to grow in popularity after the war.2 People across the country started to use meth to stay awake, lose weight, and combat depression, but with the rise in use also came a rise in problems.3

Reports on meth psychosis and addiction grew in numbers. The FDA took note of these harmful effects, and in 1959, they made it available by prescription only. Although it was harder to get ahold of the drug, at the same time, meth injections were growing in popularity. Dr. Max Jacobson or “Dr. Feelgood” became famous for these injections and treated various celebrities including JFK and Marilyn Monroe.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the medical use of meth began to decline in the United States. Because of growing concerns over addiction and harmful side effects from this powerful drug, new laws that restricted the prescription of meth were put in place.3 Unfortunately, people who had used the drug regularly before this time were already addicted. Over time, meth detox and treatment programs were created to help these people stop using this drug.

Although it has been 50 years since these restrictions went into effect, meth abuse is still a widespread problem. The history of meth in the United States stems from medicinal use, but now methamphetamine is rarely used in a medical setting. Instead, meth is transported and used illegally in this country in alarming numbers. In 2017, it was estimated that 1.6 million people in the United States used meth in the past year, but not everyone is able to stop.4 If you or someone you care about has become addicted to methamphetamine, our Coachella Valley detox center may be able to help.

At Banyan Palm Springs, we help people get and stay sober. Call 888-280-4763 to learn more.


  1. GIZMODO- That time in 1893 when a Japanese chemist invented crystal meth
  2. GIZMODO- Nazis Weren't the Only Ones Using Meth During World War II
  3. NCBI- America’s First Amphetamine Epidemic 1929–1971
  4. NIH- What is the scope of methamphetamine misuse in the United States?
Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.

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