In the 1950s, the CIA researched LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) as a potential substance for use in psychochemical warfare. Psychochemical warfare involves the use of mind-altering drugs or other agents to debilitate enemy forces by inducing delirium or hallucinations. It is considered chemical warfare.
The CIA’s project was code named Project MKUltra. At the same time, the US Army tested LSD, as well, at a secret facility on the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. Britain was also researching both LSD and a chemical known as BZ (3-quinuclidinyl) for the same purposes. Although the U.S. did weaponize BZ eventually, both the Americans and the British determined that the effects of the chemical were too unpredictable for the battlefield.
The British recorded video footage of a field test on British marines with LSD-25. The video shows troops, who were unaware they were test subjects, displaying the effects of the drug within minutes of ingestion.
Laughter breaks and sluggishness, an inability to perform tasks were some of the most notable effects. Their field commander reported a complete inability to utilize his troops.
LSD affects each person differently and depends greatly on the setting in which the person is taking the drug. Hostile settings, like combat, are more likely to induce an unpleasant experience. Conversely, a mentally-prepared person in a pleasant setting is more likely to experience pleasure on an LSD “trip”.
Long-term psychological or emotional effects, even changes in personality, can be caused by LSD. Timothy Leary, a well-known advocate and long-time user of LSD, termed what he called “set and setting” about the impact of LSD. As noted above, the mindset of the LSD user and the circumstances of his location are important factors in the experience. LSD has been used for spiritual and religious reasons because it can dissolve the boundaries that alienate a person from his neighbor. Perceptual alteration and a loss of the sense of identity are also known effects.
The human experiments at Edgewood involved hundreds of volunteers. But the MKUltra project, as well as the British marines test, did not.
MKUltra involved many U.S. and Canadian citizens who were unwitting test subjects in an experiment for developing drugs for interrogation and torture. MKUltra was determined to be illegal and halted in 1973.
Writer: Francey Jesson