The use by college students of a new, powerful but poisonous brain stimulant called Benzedrine last week kept college directors of health in dithers of worry. Cases of over-dosage have been uncovered at the Universities of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Chicago. Elsewhere students who, while cramming for final examinations, collapse, faint, develop insomnia, or show a slowed pulse rate are under suspicion of using the substance. They call it "pepper-up," "pep pills."
Swallowed as a tablet or inhaled as a gas, Benzedrine at first shrinks mucous membranes, raises blood pressure, quickens the heart, sharpens the wits. These effects are powerful enough to snap a schizophrenic out of his murky mentality (TIME, Sept. 14). Small doses of the drug maintain his intelligence. Overdoses, such as uninformed college students seem to be using, bring on dangerous after effects.
This week University of Chicago's director of health, Dr. Dudley B. Reed, was to publish a warning in the University's daily paper. University of Minnesota's Dr. Ruth Boynton already warned, without much apparent good: "It's burning the candle at both ends. It means burning up more energy than the body has time to replenish. While we know the pills keep one awake, so little is actually known of their cumulative effects that we think it unwise for students to take them without a physician's advice. No more than two of these pills should be taken in any 24-hour period. The size of dose, however, depends a great deal on the individual. People with heart trouble and high blood pressure obviously should not take Benzedrine."
At the University of Toronto, the dean of women, Marion Black Ferguson, tried another method to forestall the pep-pill fad among woman students. She sees that they maintain their wits and vigor by taking pills containing calcium and phosphorus, eating regularly, going to bed early.