This really shouldn’t surprise anyone…CIA doing unethical experiments on unsuspecting people? Shameful. Especially when it comes to psychedelics. One knows how important setting and state of mind is before tripping, so it was no wonder the reactions to LSD came out negatively in these “experiments”. Read on for more info
The LSD experiments were apparently carried out because the U.S. believed that communist Russia, North Korea and China were using the drug to brainwash captured Americans. Consequently, the CIA didn’t want to fall behind in developing and responding to this potentially useful technology.
So, they decided to slip acid secretly to Americans — at the beach, in city bars, at restaurants. For a decade, the CIA conducted completely uncontrolled tests in which they drugged people unknowingly, then followed and watched them without intervening. In some cases, the agency used the drug to perform interrogations, but these procedures were conducted so inconsistently that they proved equally useless in providing useful data.
Here is a description from one of the last survivors of the MK-ULTRA operation:
It’s been over 50 years, but Wayne Ritchie says he can still remember how it felt to be dosed with acid. He was drinking bourbon and soda with other federal officers at a holiday party in 1957 at the U.S. Post Office Building on Seventh and Mission streets. They were cracking jokes and swapping stories when, suddenly, the room began to spin. The red and green lights on the Christmas tree in the corner spiraled wildly. Ritchie’s body temperature rose. His gaze fixed on the dizzying colors around him. The deputy U.S. marshal excused himself and went upstairs to his office, where he sat down and drank a glass of water. He needed to compose himself. But instead he came unglued. Ritchie became so paranoid and distressed that he decided the only way to keep them from getting him was to strike first: out of his skull on a hallucinogen and alcohol, Ritchie rolled into the Shady Grove in the Fillmore District, and ordered one final bourbon and soda. After swallowing down the final drops, he pointed his revolver at the bartender and demanded money.
Fortunately, a waitress and a patron were able to subdue him and Ritchie was arrested before anyone got hurt. Even more fortunately, because he was a law enforcement officer who had served in the military and had no prior record, he was sentenced only to probation and a $500 fine. But he was forced to resign from the Marshals Service.
It would be decades later, in 1999, when Ritchie came across the obituary of an American chemist, Sidney Gottlieb, who was involved in the CIA’s acid experiments, that he put two and two together. The article mentioned a narcotics officer he once knew and noted the officer’s involvement in the LSD experiments; then it hit Ritchie that he might have been secretly dosed on the day he went crazy.
By the time the agency finally put a stop to the program in 1964, hundreds of people had unknowingly gone on acid trips on both coasts. The following year, Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters started holding the first “acid test” revels, accompanied by the Grateful Dead.
The official rhetoric on LSD from the government’s anti-drug agencies was that it was extremely dangerous. LSD was quickly made illegal and research into its potential as a treatment for alcoholism and other disorders was shut down. Wild claims about it damaging chromosomes and causing birth defects were promulgated.
Of course, the CIA had thought the drug was safe enough to randomly distribute to unwitting Americans without even debriefing them about their experiences or providing any measure to keep them safe — something researchers now know is essential to avoid incidents like Ritchie’s bar robbery.
Source: Times Magazine