War *with*drugs

So with the recent upload of the Allies on drugs, I’m reminded of a question I asked a few years ago when WWII did a special on the Germans on drugs…

Did any opponent figure out the highs and lows of the drug use and use it to their advantage? There were enough side effects, but they also apparently not so common for the entire force.


Not to my knowledge (“they’re coming off their highs, hit 'em now!”, like that.) Understanding of the effectiveness of amphetamines (Allies)/methamphetemines(Axis) was generally focussed on effects, not causes.

It would be an interesting tactic to figure out when a group of enemy tooks a stimulant, and then attack when they’re coming off of it (and hopefully in a coma.)

The problem is trying to gauge an opponent’s “wiredness” is that they might take more (and you don’t know when they took their first dose and in what strength.)

Men on both sides on long missions would be allowed to take multiple ‘doses’ to stay sharp (my favorite story is of a German one-man submarine pilot, given several doses of methamphetamines for a multi-day undersea mission, he took 'em all at once before even setting off!)

There’s also the matter of more exotic concoctions; the Germans came up with one - “D IX” - with Eukodal (oxycodone), cocaine, and Pervitin (methamphetimines). In the end, they dropped the super-upper when it was determined that the men taking it were so wired that the effects were pretty much exactly opposite of what was wanted. (The major user turned out to be Otto Skorzeny and his commandos, who never met a drug they didn’t like.)


I kind of figured that, since drug reactions are far from universal. But it was something I wondered about once Indy had the Germans on drugs a while ago.


I find it difficult to acknowledge and accept that military leaders purposely pushed drugs on their troops. As a nuclear trained submariner in the late 1970s, the use of drugs were a one way ticket off a submarine because we needed to trust one another with our lives without reservation. I am disappointed with this history and I hope it is not repeated.


Well, I’ve read (NIH report) that aircrew (USAF and probably Navy) during Desert Storm would occasionally use amphetamines to stay sharp during the around-the-clock air campaign. The Navy actually has guidelines post-DS for dispensing amphetamines to air crew (Lancet), which implies use during.

I’ve talked to a tanker during the same campaign who said that some tankers of the “left hook” took speed to stay sharp; after the Battle of Medina Ridge, a number fell asleep in their tanks (the entire crew), and men had to be sent over to make sure the tank wasn’t knocked out.



In times of war military leaders are looking for the advantage any way they can and will turn a blind eye to the legalities of whatever it is that gives them the advantage. In many cases governments were complicit in these as well.

This was and still is the standard in many militaries even now(mostly third world militaries) get your soldiers stoned and high as it keeps them awake, gives them courage and feel less or no pain when getting hit.


There are multiple cases of British, American, Australians, Canadians and other allied militaries where after fighting non stop for up to 8 days with little to no sleep collapsing and sleeping for up to 4 days due to exhaustion and coming down off the amphetamine highs they had endured.

Once asleep many of these men would not be able to be woken up no matter how much they were shook, slapped or any other method to them up. Often they were carted off to infirmaries or barracks to sleep off the drug and nothing was said after they would come out of their sleep.

War first deal with addiction later.


A submarine is a very different environment though, one where the use of drugs indeed pose more danger than benefit. I don’t think it would be all that weird for one branch of the military to be very strict on drugs while another would actively encourage the use of them.


I do not see any branch of the military where it would be a good idea to let the personnel use drugs.
Any substance that alters the behaviour of the user would be a bad thing.
Not only the side effects and possible addiction on the user but also that it is not how they trained.
And giving someone on drugs access to guns/weapons/heavy equipment does not sound like a good idea to me


I don’t necessarily disagree with your view of drugs in the military being a bad idea, but some of those things are also part of the way that we see drugs now. Addiction and the negative side effects of drugs were typically not that well known. Cocaine was still legal and commonly available until the early 19th century. Heroine and Morphine were common drugs in many households. Restrictions typically focused on purely recreational use (or were just disguised racism), but heavy drugs for medicinal purposes were still commonly available by the start of ww2. The mentality with drugs was just vastly different from nowadays, so I don’t think the idea of drug use to create ‘better’ soldiers is all that foreign.


IMHO, we should separate the idea of letting someone use drugs for recreation and pleasure vs. telling soldiers to use them for performance enhancements.

Heck, we know that paratroopers later in the war were instructed to take motion sickness drugs when they really didn’t need it thanks to the massive training. And the side effects of those are rather anti-fighting.

I very much see why they would have told soldiers to take uppers and deal with the side effects later knowing the advantage they gave the fighting troops. Heck, I would not be shocked to hear that some branches were feeding troops steroids during training just to get more performance, once the benefits were known. There’s no “fair” in a war when it comes to soldier performance.

Lastly the long term side effects? While someone might be concerned, looking at how the military still treats long term health and the environment- I can’t see how anyone would weigh that over fighting capability.


The best motto to live by is “operate the way you train and train the way you operate.” Continuous training reinforces the desired behaviors that will lead to success and inculcates confidence in one self and others. The US military has a long history of developing effective training programs and I am one who benefited.