Sun Dec 16, 2012, 08:36 PM
n2doc (37,793 posts)
LSD in the Cold War
For decades, the U.S. Army conducted secret clinical experiments with psychochemicals at Edgewood Arsenal. In the nineteen-sixties, Army Intelligence expanded the arsenal’s work on LSD, testing the drug as an enhanced-interrogation technique in Europe and Asia. This companion piece to “Operation Delirium,” which ran in the December 17th issue of The New Yorker, documents the people who were involved and what they did.
Dr. Van Murray Sim, the founder of Edgewood Arsenal’s program of clinical research on psychochemicals, was a man of deep contradictions. He was a Navy veteran, but he worked at the Army post as a civilian. For the doctors who worked with him, he was like Dr. Strangelove; he was a leader; he was the “Mengele of Edgewood”; he was a good old soul. Sim could be manipulative and vengeful, ethically shortsighted, incoherently rambling, rashly slipshod in his methods, but he was also fearless and ambitious and devoted to chemical-warfare research. He was gargantuan—his body exuded forcefulness, like an oversized rook on a chessboard—but he was willing to allow himself to be rendered helpless. In 1959, he was the first person to be given VX, a highly lethal nerve agent. As the drug began to take effect, Sim became irrational and started to thrash around. “I was having difficulty with vision, seeing—a distortion of vision, sweating, tremors, nausea, vomiting,” he later recalled. His face grew pale. He eventually stopped talking and descended into a world of his own imaginings.
Not everything that Sim sampled was so deadly; he also kept unauthorized vials of Demerol, which he used habitually, in his travel case. He had taken LSD several times, and also Red Oil, a highly potent synthetic version of marijuana. The drugs were being tested at the arsenal for use in “psychochemical warfare”—a concept, developed at Edgewood in the nineteen-forties, that entailed a search for mentally incapacitating chemicals to replace guns and grenades on the battlefield. Sim once mixed a milligram of crystallized psilocybin—a drug found in hallucinogenic
mushrooms—with water and drank it as if it were lemonade. He saw people nearby turn sickly green. “I feel very light, almost weightless,” he pronounced. “And, for me, that’s quite a trick.”
These self-experiments—with their egocentricity and their daring—helped give Sim the status of a minor military legend. At the time, the clinical research at Edgewood was conducted on soldier volunteers, recruited from around the country. “He became a guinea pig,” a general testified before Congress in 1959. “He got pushed around by the other doctors just as any other volunteer would. And once he entered that chain of events he was no longer the head of the laboratory. He was just a little boy in a cage.”
Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/12/us-army-experiments-with-lsd-in-the-cold-war.html#ixzz2FGjeWNMO
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