Rare Military Footage Reveals LSD Tests on Soldiers

By Paul Fuhr 09/15/17

The footage shows soldiers being used as human guinea pigs to determine if LSD could be weaponized. 

footage of the soldiers high on LSD
Photo via YouTube

There’s no shortage of bizarre weapons experiments that the government has concocted throughout U.S. military history—crazy, if not endlessly creative approaches that almost always fall into the “WTF” category. Some of the stranger approaches like attempting to kill goats using mind control, telekinesis, 24/7 soldiers and ESP are as head-scratching as they are mind-blowing. (And these are just the ones that have been declassified.)

A recent Daily Mail story details yet another program that would seem incredibly far-fetched if there wasn’t proof that it was 100% real.

Footage from 1958 has recently emerged online, revealing the U.S. Army’s pursuit of something called “hallucinogenic warfare.” As the video shows, soldiers were dosed with LSD to see if the psychoactive drug could actually be weaponized. Scientists closely studied how the soldiers reacted to LSD to see if enemies could be subdued with the drug.

The footage features volunteer soldiers from Maryland’s Edgewood Arsenal Facility after they'd taken doses of LSD. The shocking, horrifying results? Giggle fits. “Unsurprisingly, after taking the drug the men lose all sense of discipline, giggling at their sergeant and wandering around in chaotic zigzags instead of marching in line,” the story observed.

Still, while the rare footage is from the Atomic Age, what’s more intriguing is the fact that the U.S. Army Chemical Corps ran the experiments from 1948 all the way to 1975. The goal of President Dwight Eisenhower’s program, the story said, was to explore what impacts that low-dose chemical warfare agents would have on soldiers. (Footage of British soldiers dosed with LSD has long lived on YouTube.) 

Upwards of 7,000 American soldiers were involved in the experiments at Edgewood, with more than 250 different chemical agents used. LSD, however, wasn’t destined to be dropped on an unsuspecting enemy city. “LSD proved to be problematic for the army to use it in warfare, as it was too expensive and unstable once airborne,” the story noted.

It also wasn’t all funny walks and giggles for the soldiers, though. The video narrator revealed that several soldiers had to drop out of the program, with one soldier citing major depression as a factor.

After all, LSD isn’t exactly harmless. Depending on the individual, while the early effects of LSD include euphoria, later phases are marked with intense paranoia and, in some cases, psychosis. Which, naturally, makes it a perfect drug to try and weaponize.

LSD was also key to the CIA’s MK-ULTRA program, which ran from 1953 to 1964. The difference between MK-ULTRA and the Edgewood experiments, however, is simple: the CIA didn’t tell anyone it was using LSD on them. “The LSD experiments were purportedly carried out because the U.S. believed that communist Russia, North Korea and China were using the drug to brainwash captured Americans,” a Time feature said. “Consequently, the CIA didn’t want to fall behind in developing and responding to this potentially useful technology.”

Regardless, the tests ended—and so did any future research involving the drug. (For a while, LSD had even been considered in alcohol use disorder treatment.) And while the recently released footage is both curious and compelling, it reveals just how far outside the box the military is willing to go when it comes to getting the upper hand over its enemies—no matter the cost or potential human damage in many cases.

LSD’s role in the military may have ended long ago, but the footage calls into question what experiments the government may be carrying out in hidden bunkers and behind closed doors.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at paulfuhr.com. You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.