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1950s Mind Control Experiments Prompt Warning About Psychedelic Research Today

Mental health industry watchdog, CCHR, says renewed exposure of the CIA’s past MK-Ultra mind control experiments prompts concern about current psychedelic drug clinical trials

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) International, a 54-year mental health industry watchdog, is urging American government and health officials to be alert to the burgeoning psychedelic drug research landscape in the U.S. Drawing on the lessons of the past, particularly the illicit and harmful intelligence agency experiments of the 1950s and 60s under the code name MK-Ultra, CCHR emphasizes the importance of learning from history. The MK-Ultra experiments delved into behavior modification through techniques such as electroshock therapy, hypnosis, and the administration of psychedelic substances like LSD. Today, nearly 40 companies are actively engaged in psychedelic drug clinical trials, as reported by a Psychedelics Drug Development Tracker. This year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even issued its first draft guidance on clinical trials with psychedelic drugs.[1]

In 1953, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) launched MK-Ultra to assess the potential use of LSD and other drugs for mind control, information gathering and psychological torture.[2] Psychiatrists working for the CIA were interested in whether LSD could be potentially useful in “[gaining] control of bodies whether they were willing or not.”[3]

In December 1984, Ed Bradley, reporting for 60 Minutes on CBS, pointed out that “MK-Ultra is not the name of a new James Bond movie.” It was a secret CIA project, in which “unsuspecting people were used in mind-control experiments that left them emotionally crippled for life.”[4] Journalist Stephen Kinzer, who spent several years investigating the program, said that it is impossible to measure the human cost of the experiments. “We don’t know how many people died, but a number did, and many lives were permanently destroyed.”[5]

Between 1975 and 1977, CCHR monitored the three government hearings held into the secret CIA activities. In 1977, Senators Edward Kennedy and Daniel Inouye’s joint Senate Select Committee specifically investigated MK-Ultra.[6]

In 2019, Tom O’Neill, an award-winning investigative journalist, with Dan Piepenbring, co-wrote about the mind control experiments in their book Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties. “The agency hoped to produce couriers who could embed hidden messages in their brains, to implant false memories and remove true ones in people without their awareness, to convert groups to opposing ideologies, and more. The loftiest objective was the creation of hypno-programmed assassins.”[7]

CCHR’s museum, Psychiatry: An Industry of Death at its headquarters in Los Angeles displays a copy of a CIA memo from the 1950s, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, that confirms the drug and hypnosis-induced assassination program it conducted.[8]

In 1973, CIA Director Richard Helms ordered all MK-Ultra records destroyed.[9] As such, O’Neill and Piepenbring wrote, “When records were available, they were redacted; when witnesses were summoned to testify before Congress, they were forgetful.” Furthermore. “Its experiments violated international laws, not to mention the agency’s charter, which forbids domestic activity.”[10]

Today, the U.S. Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) operates a dedicated program called Focused Pharma that researches psychedelics to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or depression in military healthcare settings[11]—coming full circle from the LSD mind control studies the military was involved in with the CIA in the 1950s.

The CIA experiments were not limited to psychedelics and electroshock. They encompassed everything from electronic brain stimulation to sensory deprivation to “induced pain” and “psychosis.” Doctors sought ways to cause heart attacks, severe twitching, and intense cluster headaches, stressed O’Neill.[12]

Dr. Colin Ross, psychiatrist, internationally renowned researcher and author of The CIA Doctors, expressed: “The purpose of mind control experiments is controlling human behavior: making enemy combatants open up during interrogation; protecting secret information by erasing memories…. It has nothing to do with medical treatment, easing suffering or curing disease. The mind control experiments and operational programs violate basic human rights and all codes of medical ethics.”[13]

Today, CCHR warns that the frightening resurgence of psychedelic research may mask psychosis-inducing effects such as that induced by psychedelic experiments 70 years ago.

In a recent case analysis of long-term responses to psychedelics, published in the journal Nature, researchers note, “Unpleasant acute psychological experiences under psychedelics are not rare—even in research environments. For example, one notable study reported an approximately 40% prevalence of moderate to severe anxiety, panic or distress with high dose psilocybin [magic mushrooms] in healthy volunteers.”[14]

In September, a study in the Journal of Psychedelic Studies noted, “The psychedelics industry is engaging in the same profit-oriented approaches that contributed to poor clinical outcomes with SSRIs [antidepressants] and other earlier pharmaceuticals.”[15]

The psychedelics industry, valued at $4.87 billion in 2022 and projected to surge to $11.82 billion by 2029, poses significant financial allure. However, this lucrative market becomes susceptible to abuse, warns CCHR. The organization emphasizes that the intent to substitute ineffective psychiatric drugs with psychedelics represents not a solution, but rather the exchange of one problematic approach for another equally harmful one. In light of this, CCHR urges the government to exercise vigilance and ethical scrutiny when it comes to psychedelic research.


[2] “MK-Ultra,” The History Channel, July 2016, Updated, 21 Aug. 2028,; Truth Justice on X: "THE CIA EXPOSED…”

[3] Brianna Nofil, “The CIA’s Appalling Human Experiments With Mind Control,” History Channel,; Tom O’Neill, Dan Piepenbring, “Inside the Archive of an LSD Researcher With Ties to the CIA’s MK-Ultra Mind Control Project,” The Intercept, 24 Nov.2019,

[4] Ed Bradley, “MK-Ultra/Mind Control Experiments,” 60 Minutes, CBS, 23 Dec. 1984

[5] “The CIA’s Secret Quest For Mind Control: Torture, LSD And A ‘Poisoner In Chief’” NPR, 9 Sept. 2019,



[8] “CIA Psychiatrist Louis “Jolly” West’s 1960s LSD Mind-Control Experiments Come Back to Haunt America,”

[9] “MK-Ultra: The CIA and Radiation,” Interim Report of the Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments, Appendix, pp. E-1.1 to 1.6,


[11] Rich Haridy, “DARPA attempting to remove hallucinatory ‘side effects’ from psychedelic medicines,” New Atlas, 12 Sept. 2019,





Contact Info:
Name: Amber Rauscher
Email: Send Email
Organization: Citizens Commission on Human Rights International
Address: 6616 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90028, United States
Phone: +1-323-467-4242

Source: PressCable

Release ID: 89115975

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