"Enter LSD" from Acid Dreams

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It was with the hope of finding the long-sought miracle drug that CIA investigators first began to dabble with LSD-25 in the early 1950’s. At the time very little was known about the hallucinogen, even in scientific circles. Dr. Werner Stoll, the son of Sandoz president Arthur Stoll and a colleague of Albert Hofmann’s, was the first person to investigate the psychological properties of LSD. The results of his study were presented in the Swiss Archives of Neurology in 1947. Stoll reported that LSD produced disturbances in perception, hallucinations, and acceleration in thinking; moreover, the drug was found to blunt the usual suspiciousness of schizophrenic patients. No unfavorable aftereffects were described. Two years later in the same journal Stoll contributed a second report entitled “A New Hallucinatory Agent, Active in Very Small Amounts.”

The fact that LSD caused hallucinations should not have been a total surprise to the scientific community. Sandoz first became interested in ergot, the natural source of lysergic acid, because of numerous stories passed down through the ages. The rye fungus had a mysterious and contradictory reputation. In China and parts of the Mideast it was thought to possess medicinal qualities, and certain scholars believe that it may have been used in sacred rites in ancient Greece. In other parts of Europe, however, the same fungus was associated with the horrible malady known as St. Anthony’s Fire, which struck periodically like the plague. Medieval chronicles tell of villages and towns where nearly everyone went mad for a few days after ergot-diseased rye was unknowingly milled into flour and baked as bread. Men were afflicted with gangrenous limbs that looked like blackened stumps, and pregnant women miscarried. Even in modern times there have been reports of ergot-related epidemics.

The CIA inherited this ambiguous legacy when it embraced LSD as a mind control drug. An ARTICHOKE document dated October 21, 1951, indicates that acid was tested initially as part of a pilot study of the effects of various chemicals “on the conscious suppression of experimental or non-threat secrets.” In addition to lysergic acid this particular survey covered a wide range of substances, including morphine, ether, Benzedrine, ethl alcohol, and mescaline. “There is no question,” noted the author of this report, “that drugs already on hand (and new ones are being produced) that can destroy integrity and make indiscreet the dependable individual.” The report concluded by recommending that LSD be critically tested “under threat conditions beyond the scope of civilian experimentation.” POWs, federal prisoners, and Security officers were mentioned as possible candidates for these field experiments.

Excerpt from pages 12-14 of Acid Dreams: the complete social history of LSD: the CIA, the sixties, and beyond by Martin A. Lee & Bruce Shlain

Acid Dreams, ergot, CIA, the sixties, herb, plants
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