Speed, Ecstasy, Ritalin: The science of amphetamines

Speed, Ecstasy, Ritalin: The science of amphetamines 

Leslie Iversen 

Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press | 2006 | 222pp | ?24.95 (HB) | ISBN 0198530897 

Reviewed by John Gray

Leslie Iverson is a distinguished pharmacologist who has specialised in the chemical messengers involved in nerve cell communication and how drugs affect that communication. He has combined quality research with sitting on a variety of committees, including his current membership of the UK Home Office Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.  

This book is a balanced analysis of the historical and contemporary use of amphetamines by diverse users, including those suffering from various medical conditions, professional cyclists, poets, musicians, single mothers and politicians. It is not written as a popular text, but could be enjoyed by interested and informed lay-readers, as well by scientists, especially neuroscientists, and the wide range of practicing people, including social scientists, who have to deal with the problems caused by drug abuse. 

Iversen sees valuable medical uses for amphetamines, especially in methylphenidate (Ritalin) treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but is much more dubious about the use of Ecstasy for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or the use of amphetamines as anti-obesity agents. 

Although not accepting all the alarmist views on the dangers of amphetamines, Iverson advises caution in taking these drugs to alter mood swings, enhance sexual function or improve sporting performance. 

The UK has the highest rate of amphetamine use in Europe, and although we have not yet seen the more serious neurological effects associated with the widespread use of methamphetamine in the US and Japan, there is no room for complacency.