Dexedrine Defense


The two U.S. pilots who mistakenly dropped a bomb on Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan last April apparently plan to argue that their judgment was clouded by the uppers the Air Force pressured them to take. This defense sounds desperate to me, but it's interesting that the U.S. military uses dexamphetamine in a way that would be condemned as abuse in the case of a college student or truck driver. An Air Force spokeswoman calls the drug a "fatigue management tool."

The International Program on Chemical Safety lists hyperactivity in children and narcolepsy as appropriate indications for a dexamphetamine prescription. (The Physicians' Desk Reference mentions these two, plus obesity.) "Perfomance enhancement" is listed under the heading of "misuse."


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  1. Even for hyperactivity, dexedrine is a “last ditch” medication, if Ritalin or other safer stimulants don’t work. And we don’t expect hyperactive kids to fly fighters.

  2. Heh, go read any of the pilot accounts of the Gulf War. They were on massive upper/downer cycles due to their hard-core sorty rate, and the fact that they had to “sleep” next to the runways – with the jets taking off right next to them. Many of them admitted to exhaustion and addiction afterwards.

    Would Afghanistan be any different?


  3. I’m sure the NRA would list “spraying foxholes” as misuse of a rifle as well, but the rules are a little different in the military.

  4. This is simply an example of the government doing precisely what it urges its own citizens not to do (take dexamphetamine as a “performance enhancer”). Another example of such behavior by government would be state lotteries in states where gambling is illegal.

  5. One must learn not to fire small arms at night under a combat air patrol.

  6. It’s equally interesting (not at all interesting) that the U.S. military uses tanks and bombs in a way that would be condemned in the case of a college student or truck driver.

  7. I think the key issue here, is whether or not such stimulants actually affect judgement. If that is the case, such as for alcohol, it wouldn’t make much sense that the Air Force would allow such use, much less recommend it. Obviously someone is just trying to twist the generally accepted notion of pharmocologically influenced behavior to avoid blame for a bad decision. Next time I screw up at work, I’m going to blame the coffee…

  8. And of course none of these guys would ever dream of using speed once they’re out of the military – goodness, that would be highly illegal – just like driving a truck on bennies, right?

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