Did You Know the UK Tested LSD on Royal Marines Decades Ago?

August 6, 2020 09:09:13

If you have just picked interest in psychedelics and what they could treat, you might be surprised to learn that in the 1960s, the UK government tested LSD on teams of Royal Marines in order to find out whether the substance could work as a “humane” way to incapacitate enemy forces during combat.

Three such tests were conducted on marine commandos, and they were codenamed Moneybags, Recount and Small Change. These codenames for those drug trials were selected when one humorous member of staff observed that LSD could be colloquially referred to as Pounds, Shillings and Pence. In this case, the symbol for the British pound looks like the letter “L”, hence the name Moneybags for the first field test while the third one was called Small Change as a reference to pence (equivalent of pennies in U.S. currency).

The experiments were the result of the work being done by a secretive government agency, Porton Down, responsible for carrying out research on chemical weapons. The same research agency had previously carried out experiments on how LSD could be used as some form of “truth drug” during interrogations.

Once again, Royal Marines were the unwitting test subjects, and some of the young men selected for that experiment experienced what has now been described as a “bad trip” in which unpleasant effects result after taking the drug.

For example, three former Royal Marines servicemen who included Donald Webb (aged 19 at the time he was given the psychedelic in 1953), were compensated by the British government in 2006. However, the military establishment didn’t admit any guilt or liability for the “cushy number” (the nightmarish hallucinations suffered by the test subjects after the drug was administered to them).

So, how did “moneybags, recount and small change” end? The last of the LSD tests (Small Change) was done in 1968. The results of that experiment were described as making the well-drilled Royal Marines giggly, uncontrollable and engaging in irrational behavior. Even their commander reported that he couldn’t control himself or the men in his command since they were all laughing uncontrollably and one even climbed a tree to feed some birds nesting up there!

Porton Down therefore abandoned its pursuit of LSD as a way to incapacitate enemy troops at just the time when the hippies embraced LSD as a counterculture recreational drug of choice. That counterculture use of LSD was later to trigger the prohibition of LSD and other psychoactive substances, such as marijuana.

Experts say psychedelics companies like Psybio Therapeutics, Inc. could be happy now that the revival of psychedelics is hinged on studying how LSD and other psychedelics can be used therapeutically.

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