While the drug was initially used for medical purposes, as a bronchodilator, early users of the Benzedrine inhaler discovered it had a euphoric stimulant effect, resulting in its being one of the earliest synthetic stimulants to be widely used for recreational (i.e., nonmedical) purposes. Even though this drug was intended for inhalation, some people used Benzedrine recreationally by cracking the container open and swallowing the paper strip inside, which was covered in Benzedrine. The strips were often rolled into small balls and swallowed, or taken with coffee or alcohol. Because of the stimulant side effect, physicians discovered amphetamine could also be used to treat narcolepsy. This led to the production of Benzedrine in tablet form. Benzedrine was also used by doctors to perk up lethargic patients before breakfast.
In 1937, the effects of Benzedrine, and thus stimulant use, was studied in children with behavior and neurological disorders.
When amphetamine became a controlled substance, it was replaced by propylhexedrine. Propylhexedrine was also manufactured by Smith, Kline and French and was marketed under the name Benzedrex. The Benzedrex inhaler is still available today, but is now manufactured by B.F. Ascher & Company, inc.
In the series of books by Ian Fleming, the character James Bond repeatedly makes use of Benzedrine in times of peak stress and typically during the climax of various books. Actually, Ian Fleming first makes reference to Benzedrine in his first book Casino Royale written in 1953. Le Chiffre, alias "Die Nummer", "Mr. Number", "Herr Ziffer" and other translations of "The Number" or "The Cipher" in various languages, is the paymaster of the "Syndicat des Ouvriers d'Alsace" (French for "Alsatian Workmen's Union"), a SMERSH-controlled trade union. In the very early scenes, Le Chiffre is noted to make use of a Benzadrine inhaler as he plays baccarat. This detail is not lost in the 2006 film remake of the same name with 'Le Chiffre' played by Danish actor, Mads Mikkelsen,also uses an inhaler. Benzedrine, however, was now considered to be too 'druggy' so a platinum cased Salbutamol inhaler makes do instead.< 'Casino Royale' 1953 Ian Fleming/ 'Casino Royale' 2006 Filmref> The character of James Bond's first use of Benzedrine is in the form of tablets in the book Live and Let Die "...He still felt perfectly fresh and the elation and clarity of mind produced by the Benzedrine were still with him..." This scene occurs as James Bond is maneuvering through an underwater coral reef toward the island of Surprise off the coast of Jamaica. The next instance of James Bond using Benzedrine is in Moonraker where early in the book he uses a champagne and Benzedrine mixed drink (to which he says "Never Again.") to stay alert to beat the villain Hugo Drax at a game of high stakes contract bridge. Additionally, when James Bond is about to deal with two gangsters in The Spy Who Loved Me over a long night at the "Dreamy Pines Motor Court motel "...He took out two and when I gave him the coffee he swallowed them down. 'Benzedrine.' That'll keep me awake for tonight." says Bond.
^Cullen, Pamela V. A Stranger in Blood: The Case Files on Dr John Bodkin Adams, London, Elliott & Thompson, 2006, ISBN 1-904027-19-9. Suspected serial killer John Bodkin Adams was using it thus in the 1950s.