Can you pass the Acid Test?
Over a period of 90 days in NoCal, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters conducted the Acid Tests, which were the first non-governemental experiments with LSD. Yes, in the 1950s and early 60s, the U.S. Army and CIA (two different factions... MK-Ultra and Operation Artichoke) were conducting experiments on their own employees, prisoners, and random citizens. And by experiments I mean "dosed."
I learned about the government's interest in LSD-25 in a book by Martin A. Lee titled Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond.
LSD-25 was manufactured by Sandoz labs in Switzerland. As the legend goes... one of their chemists, Dr. Albert Hofmann was seeking out migraine medicine and he accidentally created LSD-25 when one of his cats knocked over a beaker. Some of the chemical got on Hoffmann's skin and he started "tripping" on a bicycle ride from the lab to his home. That was the first-ever acid trip, although shamans and medicine men in different cultures had previously ingested psychedelics for centuries. Peyote, mescaline, magic mushrooms induced visions and were integral parts to various ceremonies. The beatniks were well aware of those types of drugs, especially after Aldous Huxley published Doors of Perception. The problem was obtaining those mind-altering drugs.
Timothy Leary became the first-ever professor to be fired from Harvard. The reason? He supposedly gave LSD to students. In actuality, Leary turned on students and colleagues to Psilocybin pills (mushrooms). He also shared Psilocybin with poet Allen Ginsberg. He was so touched by the experience that he vowed to inform every person in his address book the wonders of this new-found drug. Ginsberg took pills back to NYC with him and dispatched them to all of his friends, including jazz musician Thelonious Monk. The eccentric Monk ate the pills and emerged several days later asking Ginsberg if he had more and if he could find "anything stronger." Ginsberg also turned on Dizzy Gillespe. The beatniks were thrilled that jazz musicians turned them onto reefer. The beatniks returned the favor by introducing psychedelics into the jazz community.
Acid Dreams shared numerous stories like the Ginsberg/Monk exchange. It also gave a solid historical account of the government's involvement in drug research. As early as 1942, the U.S. Army and OSS (precursor to the CIA) were desperately seeking a truth serum or truth drug (TD) to use on enemy combatants (then it was the Nazis and Japanese, but during the ensuing Cold War it was the Russians and Chinese). They tried "liquid marijuana" but it never really worked. After testing everything possible (mescaline, cocaine, booze, speed, and psychedelics) they had hoped Sandoz's LSD-25 would be their answer. Alas, numerous reports concluded that all it do was cause hyper-anxiety, temporary madness and insanity. The CIA sent Sandoz labs a request for 100 million doses, which cost $240,000 or 100 hits for 25 cents. The CIA had made a mistake and really just wanted 100 million mikes (100 micrograms is a mild trip, while Owsley's top-shelf acid was pressed into pills containing 250 mikes), or 1 million doses. Hey, that's still a shit-ton of acid.
Big Pharma got involved. The CIA tapped Eli Lilly to manufacture LSD, and Dow Chemical worked with the military to produce a super- psychedelic called BZ, similar to STP, but it knocked you the fuck out for three days. Tripping for more than 10 hours is a harrowing experience. I can only imagine that mind-warping roar of a 72-hour trip. The key to avoiding acid freakouts is to remember that "time is on your side" and that the temporary insanity will subside in 8-12 hours. But if you keep tripping past day two, then you really going insane because you shoulda returned to Earth's orbit hours ago.
The psychiatric community conducted their own experiments with LSD-25 and hoped to use as a means of behavior modification. A Canadian doctor found LSD was helpful in treating alcoholics. The elites and mega-rich in NYC and Hollywood doled out $100/hour to shrinks (like $1K in today's dollars) in an attempt to treat depression or couples counseling with small doses of LSD. I briefly wrote about one of those shrink trips -- Roger in the Sky with Diamonds -- when it became a storyline on Mad Men.
Anyway, I read the Acid Dreams book and took a bunch of notes to prep for Dope Stories Episode 14 - The Acid Test. I rambled on about the highlights and tried to answer some of Shane's questions. We really wanted to devote 10 minutes to my notes but the discussion ballooned to 30+ minutes, and I wasn't even close to finish. We actually cut it down to 20+ minutes for this episode and we decided to continue/finish the discussion for next week's Episode 16.
This week's Dope Media segment included the new HBO show Silicon Valley, Magic Trip documentary about Ken Kesey and Merry Prankster's first bus trip on Furthur, El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The infamous episode of The Simpsons when Homer trips balls on Guatemalan insanity pepper), Bates Motel, Broad City, and of course... Acid Dreams book.
Here's the setlist...
Listen to Ep. 14 - The Acid Test...
Download link for Episode 14.
Subscribe to Dope Stories on iTunes.
Sound Cloud: soundcloud.com/DopeStories
RSS feed: http://dopestories.libsyn.com/
Listen to previous shows... Episode 1 , Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6, Episode 7, Episode 8, Episode 9, Episode 10, Episode 11, Episode 12, Episode 13, plus Broke Stories Ep. 1.
Also, here's my other Inside Dope posts, which give you a behind the scenes look at the creation of the first few episodes:
Inside Dope - Ep 2: Philip Seymour Hoffman and 90s Heroin ChicThanks for listening. Don't forget to subscribe to Dope Stories on iTunes.
Inside Dope - Ep 3: Start Up Dot Weed and L.A. Cannabis Cup
Inside Dope - Ep 4: Crack 101
Inside Dope - Ep 5: The Oxy Years
Inside Dope - Ep 6: Tripping in the House I Live In
Inside Dope - Ep 7: Greg Merson (WSOP Champion)
Inside Dope - Ep 8: Dr. Carl Hart
Inside Dope - Ep 9: Media Dope
Inside Dope - Ep 10: Ridin' Dirty
Inside Dope - Ep 11: Sean Azzariti
Inside Dope - Ep 12: International Dope
Inside Dope - Ep 13: The 4/20 Show