The Beatles were clearly on drugs during the height of Beatlemania and beyond. But what happened the first time they did illegal substances?
The first drug The Beatles tried was the stimulant Benzedrine, in June 1960. John Lennon remembered it well.
“The first drugs I ever took, I was still at art school, with the group,” he says in Anthology. “We all took it together– was Benzedrine from the inside of an inhaler.”
It was all thanks to a poet named Royston Ellis, who was friends with the band. They even supported him during one of his coffee shop poetry nights.
According to George Harrison, Ellis was the one who figured out how to get high from an inhaler.
“Ellis had discovered that if you open a Vick’s inhaler you find Benzedrine in it, impregnated into the cardboard divide,” Harrison said.
They figured out that chewing up that cardboard strip (aka “a spitball”) would give them a euphoric high.
So what happened when The Beatles tried this for the first time?
“Everybody thought, ‘Wow! What’s this?'” Lennon recalled. “And talked their mouths off for a night.”
Years later, Paul McCartney tried Benzedrine again while living with the family of his then girlfriend, Jane Asher. This time, Asher’s father, Dr. Richard Asher, told McCartney how you could extract the drug from an inhaler.
As Barry Miles writes in his book Many Years From Now, Dr. Asher “loved to shock his family.” One time he wrote a prescription for McCartney for a nasal inhaler and showed him how to use it.
“You take off the top and place it on your little finger, like so,” Dr. Asher told McCartney. “Then you take a sniff with each nostril as per normal; then, after you’ve finished with it, you can unscrew the bottom and eat the Benzedrine.”
Hey, those are the doctor’s orders. What was McCartney supposed to do?
“We learned about that stuff up in Liverpool but hearing it coming from him was quite strange,” McCartney said later.
This may remind you of the time a different doctor encouraged The Beatles to do drugs, slipping LSD into their coffee cups without their knowledge.