Benzedrine is the trade name of the racemic mixture of amphetamine (dl-amphetamine). It was marketed under this brandname in the USA by Smith, Kline and French in the form of inhalers, starting in 1928. Benzedrine was used to enlarge nasal and bronchial passages and it is closely related to other stimulants produced later, such as Dexedrine (d-amphetamine) and methamphetamine.
Early users of the Benzedrine inhaler discovered that it had a euphoric stimulant effect, resulting in it being one of the earliest synthetic stimulants to be widely used for recreational (i.e., non-medical) purposes. Even though this drug was intended for inhalation, many people abused it by cracking the container open and swallowing the paper strip inside, which was covered in Benzedrine. The strips were often rolled into small balls and swallowed, or taken with coffee or alcohol. The drug was often referred to as "Bennies" by users and in literature.
In the 1940s and 1950s reports began to emerge about the abuse of Benzedrine inhalers, and in 1949, doctors began to move away from prescribing Benzedrine as a bronchodilator and appetite suppressant. In 1959, the FDA made it a prescription drug in the United States. Benzedrine and derived amphetamines were used as a stimulant for armed forces in World War II and Vietnam. In Sir Ian Fleming's novel Live and Let Die, the character James Bond receives benzedrine tablets amongst other materials intended to aid him in a mission. Bond takes a tablet and later credits its effect with preventing him from fainting after severe injury.
When Benzedrine became a controlled substance, it was replaced by Propylhexedrine (also known as Hexahydrodesoxyephedrine). Propylhexedrine was also manufactured by Smith, Kline and French and was marketed under the name Benzedrex. Although Benzedrex has slight potential for abuse it has been the cause of death by intravenous use. The Benzedrex inhaler is still available today, but is no longer manufactured by Smith, Kline and French.
Benzedrine should not be confused with the fundamentally different substance Benzphetamine.