Like the Nazi doctors who experimented upon concentration camp inmates during
World War II, the CIA victimized certain kinds of people who were unable to resist:
prisoners, mental patients, the terminally ill, sexual deviants, ethnic minorities.
Extensive CIA drug studies were conducted at the Addiction Research Center of the US
Public Health Service Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. Lexington was ostensibly a place
where heroin addicts could go to shake a habit. Although it was officially a penitentiary,
all the prisoners were referred to as "patients." The patients had their own way of
referring to the doctors--"hacks" or "croakers"--who patrolled the premises in military
uniforms. The patients at Lexington had no way of knowing that it was one of fifteen
penal and mental institutions utilized by the CIA in its super-secret drug development
program during the 1950s. To conceal its role the Agency enlisted the aid of the navy
and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which served as conduits for
channeling money to Dr. Harris Isbell, a
gung-ho research scientist who remained on the CIA payroll for over a decade.
According to CIA documents the directors of NIMH and the National Institutes of
Health were fully cognizant of the Agency's "interest" in Isbell's work and offered "full
support and protection."
When the CIA came across a new drug (usually supplied by American pharmaceutical firms) that needed testing, they frequently sent it over to their chief doctor at Lexington, where an ample supply of captive guinea pigs was readily available. Over eight hundred compounds were farmed out to Isbell, including LSD and a variety of hallucinogens. It became an open secret among street junkies that if the supply got tight, you could always commit yourself to Lexington, where heroin and morphine were doled out as payment if you volunteered for Isbell's wacky drug experiments. (Small wonder that Lexington had a return rate of 90%.) Dr. Isbell, a longtime member of the Food and Drug Administration's Advisory Committee on the Abuse of Depressant and Stimulant Drugs, defended the volunteer system on the grounds that there was no precedent at the time for offering inmates cash for their services.
CIA documents describe experiments conducted by Isbell in which certain patients--nearly all black inmates--were given LSD for more than seventy-five consecutive days. In order to overcome tolerance to the hallucinogen, Isbell administered "double, triple and quadruple doses." A report dated May 5, 1959, comments on an experiment involving psilocybin (a semi-synthetic version of the magic mushroom). Subjects who ingested the drug became extremely anxious, although sometimes there were periods of intense elation marked by "continuous gales of laughter." A few patients felt that they "had become very large, or had shrunk to the size of children. Their hands or feet did not seem to be their own and sometimes took on the appearance of animal paws...They reported many fantasies or dreamlike states in which they seemed to be elsewhere. Fantastic experiences, such as trips to the moon or living in gorgeous castles, were occasionally reported."
Isbell concluded, "Despite these striking subjective experiences, the patients remained oriented in time, place and person. In most instances, the patients did not lose their insight but realized that the effects were due to the drug. Two of the nine patients, however, did lose insight and felt that their experiences were caused by the experimenters controlling their minds."
An excerpt from Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of
LSD: The CIA, the Sixties and Beyond, by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain
Copyright 1985 by Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain
The Acid Dreams web site: http://www.levity.com/aciddreams/