Many things were supposed to be prohibited while in service: smoking, getting drunk with alcohol, and of course, being high on drugs. You’ll want to perform your best while on duty, so it is imperative that you are in your best state of mind. However, one Finnish soldier proved that that’s not always the case, as he managed to survive a Soviet attack by getting high on meth, with a dose for 30 people. Now, this is not to say that getting high while at work was actually a good idea to get things done but simply to tell Aimo Koivunen’s astounding story.
Amphetamine Use During WWII
It was during World War II when amphetamine and methamphetamine were used both by Axis and Allied Forces. Pervitin, methamphetamine hydrochloride, developed by chemists Hauschild and Dobke from the German pharmaceutical company Temmler, was advertised as a stimulant in the form of a tablet. The German and Finnish militaries commonly used it to give them a boost of energy. It was rumored that Adolf Hitler developed an addiction to it in late 1942.
Millions of these tablets were distributed across German military ranks and divisions, as well as elite forces and tank crews, to induce wakefulness. Thirty-five million 3mg doses of Pervitin were manufactured for the Germans between April and July 1940. Servicemen were only given three tablets a month.
Amphetamine was also distributed to Allied bomber pilots to sustain them by fighting off fatigue and also enhancing their focus during long flights. During the Persian Gulf War, the American bomber pilots would pop “Go Pills” in the form of the prescription amphetamine Dexedrine to keep themselves alert on long missions.
Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
It was March 18, 1944, four years of nearly uninterrupted war since the Finnish soldiers started fighting. Koivunen was leading the Finnish skiers when they found themselves surrounded by the Soviets. The gunfire made them scramble to safety before they raced for survival on their skis. Koivunen led his fellow soldiers through the deep, untouched snow. Since he was at the very front, the soldiers behind relied on him to cut the tracks so the rest of them could glide across. It proved to be grueling work, and Koivunen felt his arms and legs giving up from fatigue. He then remembered the package of Pervitin pills in his pocket that was given to him by the commanders, promising a burst of energy. Initially, he resisted taking the drug, but he thought that moment would be the perfect time to use some help. Incidentally, he was carrying the Pervitin for his entire squad. The thing was, he couldn’t stop on his tracks to savor the moment of picking one pill, swallowing it, and waiting for the promised boost. He was, at that moment, still pressing through the snow and his thick mittens made it hard for him to just take a single dose. And so, he just downed the whole bottle of 30 methamphetamine pills. It wasn’t long until he began skiing much faster. Behind him, his squads kept up with his pace, perhaps noticing Koivunen’s sudden aggressiveness in skiing.
Soon, the Soviets couldn’t keep up, so were his fellow soldiers. His vision went blurry, but he did not stop skiing. Without seeing anything, he continued to cut through the snow as much as he could. The next day, he woke up to realize that he had crossed around 62 miles (100 kilometers), and he was by himself.
Since he was still under the influence, with no food and ammunition, he felt that the best course of action was to keep on skiing. Throughout his meth-fueled trek, he ran into Soviet troops multiple times. He also passed over a landmine, and the explosions caused the fire as he skied over them. Miraculously, he wasn’t harmed.
He laid on the ground delirious, drifting in and out of consciousness with no help arriving. The effect of 30 pills did not wear off easily, and he still had the energy to get up and keep going. Days passed, and he was starting to feel hungry, something that the drugs suppressed him from feeling. He had nothing to eat but pine buds and a Siberian jay that he caught and ate raw.
Still high from the megadose of meth, he finally made it back to the Finnish territory, expectedly looking wild from his indeed wild adventure. His compatriots rushed him to the hospital, and it was found out that his weight quickly dropped to a mere 94 pounds, with his heartbeat still at 200 beats per minute. All in all, he crossed 250 miles of territory. Koivunen survived the drug overdose and lived for the next several years until he peacefully died at the age of 71.