BLITZED: DRUGS IN NAZI
By Norman Ohler
What happens when a world leader is wacked out on drugs?
It’s an intriguing question for our troubled times, especially when one considers the behavioral changes of the addict. Drugs can cloud judgment enough to cause erratic decisions, dulled responses, unprovoked hostility and paranoia, backtracking and backpedaling. It’s just not a great fit for any leader of a supposedly free country.
That’s the scenario faced by unsuspecting Germans under Adolf Hitler in Norman Ohler’s nonfiction account, Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany. Ohler’s research uncovers a vast amount of data that suggests Hitler was hooked on various opiates throughout his stay in power (injected by his personal physicians) and that he ordered powerful amphetamines administered to Nazi troops in order to bolster their “fighting” spirit.
It’s an interesting scenario, considering that the Philippines now has a president who has revealed to the media (Philippine STAR, BBC, etc.) that he has used Fentanyl, a synthetic opiate said to be 10 times stronger than heroin and blamed for a record number of US drug overdoses last year, to treat chronic pain. Fentanyl is manufactured largely in Chinese labs, though there’s no market for it there; instead, it’s prescribed by doctors elsewhere in the world as a painkiller, though its powerful effects have led to heartbreaking addictions. It’s the main culprit in pop star Prince’s O.D. last year, though the unsuspecting singer thought he was taking Percodan.
Naturally, President Duterte, who suffers from chronic back pain and migraines, denies that he is a candidate for addiction, saying he uses it “only when it is prescribed.” (“Addiction is only with regularity, my friend,” he clarified to the BBC.) Duterte also told The STAR his doctor told him to stop using Fentanyl because he was “abusing the drug” and exceeding the recommended dosage. Later, he claimed he was “only kidding” about this admission, which certainly makes fact-checking the President more of a challenge.
The truth is, drugs affect behavior in many ways. Ohler’s account of Hitler’s grip on power comes with staggering revelations: Germany, pre-WWII, was a leader in manufacturing and exporting pharmaceuticals including heroin (for pain management) and methamphetamine (the basis of shabu) as a prescribed “upper” for bummed-out Germans. Cultural opinion on drugs fluctuates widely through history, with cocaine at one point being an over-the-counter drug (and alleged ingredient in Coca-Cola) until it was outlawed by the US in the 1910s. So it’s not surprising that, as addiction takes its toll, public opinion shifts in the opposing direction.
Hitler, far from an anti-drug crusader, had hundreds of thousands of methamphetamine pills — marketed as Pervitin — shipped to Nazi troops on the front lines of Poland, France, and Russia. The Fuhrer himself, by Ohler’s account, had a physician regularly injecting him with Eukodol (a powerful opiate) mixed with high-grade cocaine — the classic “speedball” combo that killed comedian John Belushi. But that’s really the tip of the iceberg. The journals of Dr. Theodor Morell, Hitler’s personal physician, reveal a bewildering cocktail of drugs, including belladonna, heroin and methamphetamine, administered to Der Führer on the regular.
The worst part perhaps is that Hitler’s drug dependency led to denial and self-delusion. “There are all these stories of party leaders coming to complain about their bombed-out cities,” Ohler told the New York Times, “and Hitler just says: ‘We’re going to win. These losses make us stronger.’”
Denial is a classic defense strategy of the addict, the haze of clouded judgment that causes them to flip off every criticism and tell people everything’s just greaaaat. One is tempted to say it’s the cause of US President Donald Trump’s self-centered delusions and reflexive denials, though he clearly doesn’t need illicit drugs to feel the way he does: he is his own drug.
But it begs a different analysis of President Duterte’s frequent public outbursts, which are often walked back the next day by himself or his spokespeople, often accompanied by denials that he actually “meant” what he said the day before. Denial can be a tricky thing.
There are also concerns about Duterte’s fatalistic view of the presidency — he has stated to the media that he doesn’t care whether he lives or dies, as long as the Filipinos are saved from the scourge of drugs. Drugs can indeed be a scourge, and it’s possible that someone with more than a passing familiarity with their effects would understand this better than others. Drug abuse can also lead to a sense of self-loathing, or certainly a loathing of the condition of addiction, which holds little room for sympathy for fellow addicts. One might even resent that public funds are spent on rehabilitation, claiming such people are beyond saving, or “no longer human.”
Hitler eventually crashed, as most addicts do; Ohler writes that his physicians could no longer find a viable vein to inject his drug cocktails, and in his final years in the bunker, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, though his shaky symptoms could just as easily be signs of “cold turkey” withdrawal, muses Ohler. High Hitler, indeed.