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Fact Files: A Speedy History of Amphetamines and Meth

Amphetamine on a submarine?

Amphetamine was first synthesised in 1887 in Germany. Methamphetamine - also known by the street names meth, ice, crank or speed - was synthesised from ephedrine in 1893 in Japan. Initially difficult to make, the process was eventually streamlined in 1919 by using red phosphorus and iodine to reduce the ephedrine into a crystallised form - crystal meth. 


During World War II, both amphetamine and methamphetamine were distributed extensively to soldiers to help depression and for keeping troops awake for combat. Methamphetamine and amphetamine continued to be commonly prescribed up until the 1950s and 1960s for a range of medical conditions, including depression and obesity.


The following poster is an example of an advertisement in the 1940's promoting amphetamine among housewives. The ad states the user will ‘stay fit and slim’ while doing the housework by taking a couple of grams of amphetamine on a daily basis. This 'magic powder’ is also claimed to purify and enrich the blood, so that the user feels better in health and has the ‘energy to carry on working throughout the night.’



Poster advertising from the 1940s states the user will 'stay fit and slim' by taking amphetamine. Image credit: News Dog Media





Find out more about drug residue testing at Envirolab Services 

Do you have an existing or prospective purchase of a home or business premises, rental property or a vehicle that you suspect may be contaminated by meth residue or various other illicit drugs and chemicals? Perhaps you're looking to conduct testing of a workplace, school, social housing or short and long-term accommodation?

Envirolab Services is a NATA Accredited laboratory offering professional testing services for methamphetamine, amphetamine, pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, MDA and MDMA. Sample testing services of other illicit drugs are also available on request. We can provide easy-to-use swab kits for sampling surfaces, which include the precursors in each test. 

Contact us today to discuss your sample testing requirements.

Environmental contamination testing services - Ask Envirolab





Additional resources and information

Learn more about some of the projects we've worked on, including an interesting discovery in N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) wipe samples.


Australia has a number of surveys and data systems that provide a snapshot of trends in substance use and harm, including the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS). Conducted every 2 to 3 years since 1985, the survey collects information on alcohol and tobacco consumption, and illicit drug use among the general population in Australia. It also surveys people's attitudes and perceptions relating to tobacco, alcohol and other drug use.


The cut-off levels of common drugs in Australia have been defined under the Australian AS/NZS 4308:2008 Standards (urine testing) and the AS 4760:2019 Standards (saliva testing).

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