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Friday, January 6, 2017

Brief History of War and Drugs from Vikings to Nazis

A brief history of war and drugs: From Vikings to Nazis

From World War II to Vietnam and Syria, drugs are often as much a part of conflict as bombs and bullets.

Adolf Hitler presides over the dedication of the Reich Leadership School in Bernau, Germany [The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images]

by Barbara McCarthy

Adolf Hitler was a junkie and the Nazis' narcotics intake gives new meaning to the term 'war on drugs'. But they weren't the only ones. Recent publications have revealed that narcotics are as much a part of conflict as bullets; often defining wars rather than sitting anecdotally on the sidelines of them.

German author Norman Ohler says the Third Reich was permeated with drugs [Barbara MCCarthy/Al Jazeera]

In his book Blitzed, German author Norman Ohler describes how the Third Reich was permeated with drugs, including cocaine, heroin and most notably crystal meth, which was used by everyone from soldiers to housewives and factory workers.

Originally published in German as Der totale Rausch (The total Rush), the book details a history of abuse by Adolf Hitler and his henchmen and releases previously unpublished archived findings about Dr Theodor Morell, the personal physician who administered drugs to the German leader as well as to the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

"Hitler was a Fuhrer in his drug taking too. It makes sense, given his extreme personality," says Ohler, speaking from his home in Berlin.

After Ohler's book was released in Germany last year, an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper posed the question: "Does Hitler's insanity become more understandable when you view him as a junkie?"

"Yes and no," Ohler answers.

Hitler, whose mental and physical health has been the source of much speculation, relied on daily injections of the "wonder drug" Eukodol, which puts the user in a state of euphoria - and often renders them incapable of making sound judgments - and cocaine, which he started taking regularly from 1941 onwards to combat ailments including chronic stomach spasms, high blood pressure and a ruptured ear drum.

"But we all know he did a lot of questionable things before that, so you can't blame drugs for everything," Ohler reflects. "That said, they certainly played a role in his demise."

In his book, Ohler details how, towards the end of the war, "the medication kept the supreme commander stable in his delusion".

"The world could sink into rubble and ashes around him, and his actions cost millions of people their lives, but the Fuhrer felt more justified when his artificial euphoria set in," he wrote.

But what goes up must come down and when supplies ran out towards the end of the war, Hitler endured, among other things, severe serotonin and dopamine withdrawals, paranoia, psychosis, rotting teeth, extreme shaking, kidney failure and delusion, Ohler explains.

His mental and physical deterioration during his last weeks in the Fuhrerbunker, a subterranean shelter for members of the Nazi party, can, Ohler says, be attributed to withdrawal from Eukodol rather than to Parkinson's as was previously believed.

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