Every war is full of horror and when you look at the gruesome details of each one, it’s hard to imagine how anyone survived. It’s not too surprising to hear that there are reports of drug use in almost every conflict. In many cases throughout history, mind-altering substance use was sanctioned by the government. Whether it was to calm down or pump up for a fight, drug use during battle has been documented since the Viking era. Here is Part 1 of an in-depth look at drug use during battle, the military history.
Alcohol has been a part of a soldier’s ration since the substance was invented. A multi-use tool, it was an effective disinfectant, analgesic, and nerve soothing remedy. Have you ever heard of alcohol being referred to as ‘liquid or Dutch courage’? If you have, you can thank the British Royal Navy. They coined the term back in 1652, during the First Anglo-Dutch War.
Soldiers on the British side were given alcohol as part of their rations but didn’t have a lot to choose from. As a result of the war, malt and other import materials were in short supply, but Jenever could be made locally. Thus, Jenever became the drink of choice for the soldier of the British Navy. Because of its herbal blend, it was known for having a calming effect on the nerves. British soldiers would often drink their ration before going into battle, earning it the nickname ‘Dutch or liquid’ courage.
Government Sanctioned Stimulants
Stimulants have been used in battle since they have been around. During both World Wars, drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine were widely used to reduce fatigue and appetite, and increase focus and aggression.
During WW2, the use of methamphetamine was a part of military strategy for both the British and the Nazis. The increased alertness and reduced appetite were extremely useful for troops on all sides. However, the Germans used this drug a lot more. According to reports, from April – July of 1940, Germany distributed thirty-five million methamphetamine tablets to the Western Front. Britain distributed seventy-two million tablets to their troops over the course of the entire war.
Pain killers were needed to treat injuries but they were used for a lot more than that. Opiates like morphine were given to soldiers for a variety of reasons. Along with reducing pain, morphine was the answer for diarrhea, muscle spasms, and even agitation. As one could imagine, this created a lot of addiction issues. In fact, opiate addiction was so prevalent after the American Civil War, it became known as ‘soldiers disease’.
Military History Crossword
Listed below, is a military history crossword puzzle and it’s all about drug use during war and combat. Some of the questions are taken from the article above but for others, you will have to wait till this Wednesday. The answers will be revealed in Drug Use During Battle, Part 2 – Soldier Stories. Quiz yourself on this subject and stay turned.