Back in the 50s when LSD was confined to the lab, the CIA funded a ton of LSD medical trials and even tested it themselves. But why did they fund medical trials and feel the need to start testing LSD? Well, the reason is crazy. Literally.
The reason is also similar to what’s happening today with medical trials-but the ways it differs? Well, THAT is the fun part. Or the kind of horrible part, depending on your idea of fun. We’ll get to that though, after we talk about how the medical field is involved in this.
Psychedelics in the medical field back then
Similar to the 50s, we’re seeing psychedelic research popping up all over the place today. According to the medical field, psychedelic trials are growing in popularity lately because people are quitting addictions like alcoholism, decreasing end-of-life anxiety and pain, and completely overcoming a large number of mental disorders.
The results are super promising; it’s like psychedelics are a wonder drug.Or super food,since, you know, they come from plants like cacti, mushrooms, or shrubs. It’s actually pretty cool.
The same thing happened back in the 50s too. Alcoholics were quitting alcohol faster than they were in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and sobriety rates were through the roof with the administration of LSD therapy.
It was going so well that the founder of AA, Bill Wilson, tried to incorporate LSD therapy into AA. He might have been a teensy bit biased though. He actually became sober after a doctor gave him the psychedelic belladonna plant-and then started AA after that experience.
LSD is such a powerful, mind-changing drug that it caught everyone’s attention: including the CIA.
CIA comes up with crazy LSD ideas
It was clear that LSD truly changed people’s minds and helped them unstick with alcoholism. The CIA became extremely interested in it. It was doing something to people’s minds and causing actual change in them, like no other drug had ever done before-or has done since.
They started funding LSD medical trials everywhere and shelled free LSD to medical experts LIKE CRAZY. Imagine if the CIA started giving out free LSD to doctors everywhere today, that would definitely be a hoot.
But why did they do it? Well, its powerful, mind-altering capabilities sparked some of the craziest ideas.
First, they wondered if they could add LSD in the water of enemy countries. Maybe they could use it as some sort of secret weapon to make people temporarily insane. They wondered if they could use it for mind control or brainwashing.
Or if it could be some sort of truth serum for interrogations-which by the way, they tested! They even wondered they could put it in a bomb so that when it exploded, the troops on the ground would became crazy and ineffective. The CIA obviously thought it’d be super useful to test LSD, and had some wicked theories.
But, I think most people agree they ended up taking it a step too far with Project MKUltra.
CIA tested LSD themselves
The medical trials were going well in some places, but the doctors didn’t see any potential for mind control. This didn’t satisfy the CIA so they took matters into their own hands.
They created a super scary secret project called MKUltra which lasted from 1953 to 1964-and the United States FDA (Food and Drug Administration) actually helped fund this program. Oh yeah, this stuff goes so many levels deep.
What they did was basically dose UNKNOWING Americans when they were out and about. Unknowing, uncontrolled, and without any intervention-to completely innocent citizens. Yep-I told you it was super scary!
Members would then follow them around to the beach, restaurants, or wherever they went to see what they did all without their consent. They wanted to see how the drug affected the person and how they behaved.
It got so bad that in Psychedelic Revolutionaries by P.W. Barber, he talks about how agency members even started testing in-house. They would be joking about “turn[ing] your back in the morning and some wise acre would slip a few micrograms in your coffee.”
Not was it that the CIA tested LSD themselves, they tested it on each other unsuspectingly.
And you complain about your workplace? It’s looking pretty good compared to this now, right??
The only bad thing was when an unknown dosing happened to Frank Olson, a U.S. Army Chemical Corps, by a fellow chemist. He jumped out of a 13 story window to his death. I think that was the only death caused by CIA shenanigans though.
CIA testing LSD come to an end
Eventually (and thankfully) it was concluded that though the CIA tested LSD, they couldn’t use it for mind control or other chemical warfare. Once they figured that out, the organization lost interest in it (as far as we know).
So, since psychedelics aren’t used for chemical warfare, I hope people will use it for better things. They are powerful and different from other drugs after all. Luckily, we’re seeing successful medical trials pop up and will soon see it prescribed by doctors. And it really should only be prescribed by doctors, at least at first.
And hopefully, the CIA won’t get involved this time.
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