I have read that germans used extensively Pervitin (Methamphetamine) in WWII. So, I guess there are other drugs used in wars and battles throughout history.

What were the most used drugs in battles and wars? When did they start to be used? Is there evidence that empires (such as the Roman Empire or more recent ones) relied on drugs to win battles? If not, what did they use to enhance their performance?

  • 2
    To be more precise: do you talk about "every-day" drugs (in a wide sense, including coffee, tobacco, wine or beer) that where consumed by soldiers commonly, without being ordered to do so, or about drugs that were "ordered" to be used? The difference is that in the first case it's the decision of the individual soldier to use drugs or not, while in the second case, drugs were applied purposefully by higher ranks to manipulate the soldiers.
    – tohuwawohu
    Jul 6, 2016 at 7:45
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    I am asking about any drug that was used to improve soldiers productivity. It is not important if they were ordered to do so or not. I am trying to link "pharmaceutical innovations" (to be more specific, development, discovering, or new uses of drugs) to military productivity and the success or failures of armies. There is extensive evidence that wars speed up innovation and that innovation allows countries to win wars, so the question is about that specific component of innovation concerning drugs and performance. Note that innovation here can also mean new uses of existing drugs.
    – Belisario
    Jul 6, 2016 at 17:27

2 Answers 2


It's probably alcohol, with tobacco (nicotine) and caffeine at distant second and third.

These drugs don't directly enhance performance, but are great at maintaining morale. In the case of alcohol, although it impairs performance and is easily abused, can also increase courage - see the term Dutch Courage. Many historical militaries also practiced a "last drink" ritual before engaging in particularly risky battles, like Japan's bushi-nin. See also: https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/q/25250

For evidence that these drugs were widely used, look no further than soldiers' rations:

  • The C-ration included cigarettes and instant coffee
  • The Red Army's rations included a small amount of vodka
  • French rations included (very cheap) wine, and sometimes coffee

The natural drug epinephrine (adrenaline).

  • The CIA thought LSD would be a War winner. Jul 5, 2016 at 23:53
  • @user14394 Unsupported assertions are not a substitute for actual research and records. The development and research on LSD under CIA auspices was related to the old search for "truth serum" (among other things). See MKULTRA if you want to learn a few things. LSD began it's life as an analeptic drug. (aid to respiration and circulation). The high was a discovered side effect, sort of like the wood production of Viagra was a discovered side effect of a heart medication. Jul 8, 2016 at 12:34

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