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Thread: Combat and the use of performance enhancing substances

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    Moderator's Note

    This post has been edited down, as the link provided acted as the catalyst for creating this thread. It originally appeared in a far wider discussion on 'Infantry Unit Tactics, Tasks, Weapons, and Organization', which suddenly looked at Finnish practices in the Winter War and WW2:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=4550 (ends)

    You can't ignore also this point, that can compensate for some comfort deprivation.

    http://www.hs.fi/english/article/Fin.../1135245022270
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 06-11-2012 at 10:25 AM. Reason: Copied here and amended

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Kaur,

    What a find, that last link! Just one example:
    During the Winter War a ridiculous amount of drugs came to Finland. By the end of 1940, 1,511 kg. of opium alone was delivered to the military pharmacy in Helsinki. It was supplied mainly by the American Red Cross and the Swedish state.
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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Kaur,

    What a find, that last link!
    I’ve seen passing mention of amphetamine use in the Wehrmacht, as well. Perhaps someone should start a “Combat and the use of performance enhancing substances” thread. I understand why it hasn’t happened, but some frank public discussion of steroid use amongst contemporary military personnel might not be a bad thing.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Combat and the use of performance enhancing substances

    SWC have a number of medical-related threads scattered in various arenas and to my knowledge nothing like this subject.

    Thread created at ganulv's suggestion, hence his post and Kaur's appearing before this.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-01-2018 at 04:59 PM.
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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Default A couple of resources related to amphetamine use.

    The work of Nicolas Rasmussen, a professor at the University of New South Wales, seems to be a good place to start on the subject of amphetamine use. Here’s a link to a video of Rasmussen responding to some questions regarding amphetamine use during World War Two.

    The USAF has issued stimulants to its pilots over the years and afaik continues to do so. I would be interested in knowing whether any of the other branches authorize use (recon units and reactor engineers, perhaps?). In the case of the Air Force the official “why” seems to be as an anti-fatigue measure on longer missions, but I do wonder whether they also see off-label use to improve reaction time and heighten awareness.

    I am also curious as to the extent of use of Red Bull/Five Hour Energy time drinks by deployed personnel. Does anyone care to share their observations?
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Council Member Uboat509's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    The work of Nicolas Rasmussen, a professor at the University of New South Wales, seems to be a good place to start on the subject of amphetamine use. Here’s a link to a video of Rasmussen responding to some questions regarding amphetamine use during World War Two.

    The USAF has issued stimulants to its pilots over the years and afaik continues to do so. I would be interested in knowing whether any of the other branches authorize use (recon units and reactor engineers, perhaps?). In the case of the Air Force the official “why” seems to be as an anti-fatigue measure on longer missions, but I do wonder whether they also see off-label use to improve reaction time and heighten awareness.

    I am also curious as to the extent of use of Red Bull/Five Hour Energy time drinks by deployed personnel. Does anyone care to share their observations?
    I have yet to see any form of amphetamine or other prescription stimulants being authorized for use by the Army. That said, ordinary stimulants like caffeine and energy drinks are everywhere. When I was in Iraq Rip Its were available at every chow hall though in smaller cans than the industrial sized kegs that one routinely sees on the shelf here in the US.
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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    The Army used to issue 100 tablet bottles of 5mg of Dextro Amphetamine Sulfate to every Medic in his aid kit. They were authorized to issue 'em to the Troops they supported in combat and even on training exercises. They did that latter bit very rarely (but almost always claimed they'd issued them after every big exercise -- we had happy Medics back then... ). There were few to no problems with that in the 50s and early 60s and both Troops and the Medics acted sensibly and I'm unaware of any major abuse scandals in that period.

    Unfortunately -- or fortunately, view point dependent -- that issue and usage was halted during Viet Nam when abuse became the norm instead of the exception. Contrary to UBoat 509s statement, I'm told there still some units that have access to newer, less side effect-prone stimulants. Don't know...

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    Default No More Heroes: Madness and Psychiatry In War

    That's the title of a book Richard A. Gabriel wrote in 1988. Chapter 5 (I believe) is called The Chemical Soldier, where, if memory serves, he discusses efforts to reduce psychological casualties through the use of drugs.
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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Unfortunately -- or fortunately, view point dependent -- that issue and usage was halted during Viet Nam when abuse became the norm instead of the exception. Contrary to UBoat 509s statement, I'm told there still some units that have access to newer, less side effect-prone stimulants. Don't know...
    And even D-amphetamine sulfate doesn’t have that bad of a side-effects profile for an otherwise healthy user. Extended-release forms of several substituted amphetamines are now widely available. They wouldn’t be the choice if rapid onset was vital, but they would work well to keep sleep at bay.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    The Army used to issue 100 tablet bottles of 5mg of Dextro Amphetamine Sulfate to every Medic in his aid kit. They were authorized to issue 'em to the Troops they supported in combat and even on training exercises. They did that latter bit very rarely (but almost always claimed they'd issued them after every big exercise -- we had happy Medics back then... ).
    If you don’t mind a little bit of the restaurant’s food ending up at the cooks’ places at the end of the night things are going to go a lot smoother in the kitchen the next day.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Default Wwii

    The Nazi's loved methamphetamine - dosed their chocolates with the stuff. Hitler took multiple amphetamine shots a day. The Japanese distributed the stuff pretty widely too.
    “[S]omething in his tone now reminded her of his explanations of asymmetric warfare, a topic in which he had a keen and abiding interest. She remembered him telling her how terrorism was almost exclusively about branding, but only slightly less so about the psychology of lotteries…” - Zero History, William Gibson

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Does Russian vodka and Somali Khat count, too?


    The Incas chewed coca a lot and IIRC the Zulus and other extremely foot-mobile African tribe armies made use of some chewing stuff, too.

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Default Performance enhancing, not degrading.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Does Russian vodka […] count, too?
    Though in all seriousness I do understand the role of alcohol as a coping mechanism, even if it is not the optimal choice. I have always assumed that all of the drinking in Beowulf had something to do with anxiety over the possibility of Grendel showing up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    The Incas chewed coca a lot
    The Quechua still do, as well as consume coca tea. It’s supposed to help with life at altitude. I don’t know that there have been any good studies about that, though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    IIRC the Zulus and other extremely foot-mobile African tribe armies made use of some chewing stuff, too.
    There’s kola nut in West Africa.

    Also worth noting that the nicotine content of Nicotiana rustica (the “wild tobacco” traditionally used by American Indians) is around 9% as compared to the 1%–3% of cultivated tobacco.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Quote Originally Posted by ganulv View Post
    Though in all seriousness I do understand the role of alcohol as a coping mechanism, even if it is not the optimal choice.

    It's an ancient bravery-enhancement drink.

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    Default “A shot of courage”

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    It's an ancient bravery-enhancement drink.
    as my sometimes sober friends say.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    Curious, is steroid use common in combat arms units? I've heard whispers in cadet land but it's nearly impossible to seperate the solid info from the bs here

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Cuyahoga Kid View Post
    Curious, is steroid use common in combat arms units? I've heard whispers in cadet land but it's nearly impossible to seperate the solid info from the bs here
    I cannot say that it never happens but it is most definitely not sanctioned. I have seen more than one guy get hammered over steroid use. Guys on steroids tend to be emotionally labile and they also tend to focus on strength and size at the expense of endurance which is more important than pure strength.
    “Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.”

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Khat: useful in combat?

    Having read the Wikipedia entry I'm not convinced of its useful application in combat:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khat

    It shows the effects as:
    Khat consumption induces mild euphoria and excitement, similar to that conferred by strong coffee. Khat can induce manic behaviors and hyperactivity similar in effects to those produced by amphetamine.
    There are also unpleasant drawbacks too when suffering from withdrawal.

    I have a vague recollection that in Somalia, in 'The Blackhawk Down' incident, a comment that if the raiders had gone in later most of the local fighters would be in non state to fight - having had their Khat chewing session.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member ganulv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    Guys on steroids tend to be emotionally labile
    Not to defend anabolic steroid use, but even for guys not at war there are confounding factors in regards to this. Which is to say, it could well be that the kind of person interested in cycling anabolic steroids might be emotionally labile to begin with.

    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    I cannot say that it never happens but it is most definitely not sanctioned.
    In the college sports programs I have first- and second-hand knowledge of a lot depends on the head coach. Plenty talk a big game to their players and bosses about how they don’t stand for that crap. But some of those coaches pull aside the linebacker who put on fifteen pounds of muscle in June and some of them don’t. This isn’t an accusation and it isn’t based on any observations of my own, but I have to wonder if something similar doesn’t go on in the military, i.e., there are units in which the whip is cracked and units in which the blind eye is turned.

    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    Guys on steroids […] also tend to focus on strength and size at the expense of endurance which is more important than pure strength.
    I think a lot of people just don’t understand the relationship between strength, power, and muscle size. Or that steroid use + lifting for muscle mass can lead to connective tissue injuries (when a football player tears his ACL, MCL, and LCL at one fell swoop forgive me for assuming that he’s juicin’). A lot also don’t seem to understand how effective judicious steroid use can be for a number of injuries.
    If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed. – Mark Twain (attributed)

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    The filaments need to grow stronger as well, true. Likewise, martial arts practitioners and (semi) pro fighters also need to strengthen their bones with repeated impacts. Add speed of muscles and muscle memory to the list. Muscles alone actually don't mean much.

    Then again, users of those substances (not only steroids) do not need to train that much and still have substantial growth of muscle mass. This can lead to a reduced risk of injury.


    Last time I I saw an obvious steroid in a changing room. He got pissed off by where I had laid my towel on the bench.
    I was thinking of how useless all his muscles will be if he actually attacks me. I had kept the proper distance and would have cracked his right knee if he had tried to strike a blow with those big slow arms. He was really aggressive and obviously having a discussion between his small inner angel and devil about whether to attack.

    Personally, I don't get what much muscle or even the removal of the last fat from the belly is good for.
    I could certainly benefit from redistributing some weight, but I haven't had a single occasion of insufficient strength in years.

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    Just out of curiosity... do armies that issue amphetamines for use in combat make any provision for the post-rush physical and mental crash? It does inevitably come, and the longer and higher you stay up, the harder you fall. The thought of a bunch of armed men in the throes of a major post-speed hard landing is... interesting, to say the least.
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