What Mind Control Experiments Did the CIA Conduct in the 1950s?

Psychologist and writer Timothy Leary famously urged the counterculture movement of the 1960s to "turn on, tune in, drop out." He believed that taking LSD would lead to a new society of peace and free thinking. What Leary probably didn't know was that a significant number of people had already been forced to learn exactly what LSD can do to you. In the 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, the CIA feared that the Soviet Union had developed a way to make American prisoners do their bidding (they hadn't), and the U.S. spy agency didn't want to be left behind. So chemist Sidney Gottlieb was put in charge of a secret program known as Project MK-ULTRA, which was tasked with finding a way to control people's minds. One of Gottlieb's first acts was to shell out $240,000 USD to buy as much LSD as he could, and bring it back to America. He then handed out the hallucinogenic drug to an assortment of research facilities and prisons, where human guinea pigs were dosed with varying amounts. Over the years that followed, some "volunteers" and prisoners died, while some others were so broken they couldn't live normal lives. What was gained? Only the realization that LSD doesn't lead to mind-control.

Learning about LSD:

  • Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann synthesized LSD in 1938 and became the first person to ingest it five years later.
  • The United States banned LSD in 1967, four years before Richard Nixon declared drug abuse to be America's No. 1 enemy.
  • To prepare for Richard Corman's 1967 movie The Trip, stars Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson took LSD together; Corman also tried it before filming.
More Info: NPR

Discussion Comments


Would love to here more about MK-ULTRA mind control. I hear it is used in the Hollywood film industry.

Roseanne Barr stated that in a YouTube video. I was not aware that LSD was initially part of MK-ULTRA.

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