1951: Ultra-Secret LSD Experiments Begin at Edgewood Arsenal

In early summer of 1951, officials within the CIA’s Security Office — working in tandem with cleared scientists from Camp Detrick’s Special Operations Division and worked closely with a select group of scientists from a number of other Army installations, including Edgewood Arsenal — began a series of ultra-secret experiments with LSD, mescaline, peyote, and a synthesized substance, sometimes nicknamed “Smasher,” which combined an “LSD-like drug with pharmaceutical amphetamines and other enhancers.” (Kaye and Albarelli. Cries from the Past, 2010) The GAO report indicates that field tests were conducted at 11 locations nationwide.

The intelligence community — the CIA and the military — saw LSD as a potential chemical weapon. From 1952 to 1975 more than 7,000 Army and Air Force soldiers at Edgewood Arsenal and Fort Detrick were subjected to secret experiments testing “a witches’ brew” of incapacitating psychochemicals. US researchers who were experimenting with LSD noted that LSD “is capable of rendering whole groups of people, including military forces, indifferent to their surroundings and situations, interfering with planning and judgment, and even creating apprehension, uncontrollable confusion and terror.” (Foundation for a Drug-Free World)

Declassified Edgewood document AD351962 — LSD tests on “volunteers” states: “When this document has served its purpose, DESTROY it in accordance with AR 380-5. DO NOT return the document to U. S. Army Edgewood Arsenal Chemical Research and Development Laboratories” (David Martin. Secret Drug Experiments, CNN, 2012; includes declassified videos).