psychotropic drugs

Shootings in Germany, Alabama Underscore Violent Side Effects of Psychiatric Medications

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Mike Adams addresses the question many of us immediately asked as soon as we heard about these two shootings. Although there’s no proof, yet, that these guys were big pharma drugged, I certainly wouldn’t bet against it. We’ll see if the media covers this angle as more information becomes available.

by: Mike Adams

(NaturalNews) A 17-year-old former student opened fire near Stuttgart, Germany, killing at least 16 people. The teenager was a former student at a Winnenden school, where he initiated the shooting spree. Three teachers and at least 10 students were killed by his actions.

The media is reporting that Tim Kretschmer, “walked calmly into three classrooms and opened fire, without saying a word.” Following the shooting at his school, Tim ran to a psychiatric clinic school and killed an employee there. (Did he have a link to the psychiatric staff members there?)

A day earlier, a man in his mid-30’s opened fire in Alabama, killing ten people before he was shot and killed by law enforcement.

It’s the medication, not the firearms

In seeing the news reports on these events, the ignorant masses quite predictably leaped to the conclusion that “guns are the problem.” Apparently in their minds, these shootings were carried out solely by guns and have nothing whatsoever to do with the people pulling the triggers. But the truth is far more insidious: It is the psychiatric medications that are causing violent shooting sprees in America, Germany and elsewhere.

These dangerous psychiatric medications drastically imbalance brain chemistry, causing teens (and adults) to feel distanced from reality, as if they are walking through a video game. In fact, this was exactly how the Columbine school shooters described their experience of carrying out the infamous shootings in Colorado.

The report that Germany’s shooter, Tim Kretschmer, “walked calmly into three classrooms and opened fire, without saying a word” is a strong indication that he was almost certainly suffering the brain-altering side effects of psychiatric medication.

The pharmaceutical companies, of course, incessantly attempt to deny the reality that their drugs cause school shootings. In fact, their psychiatric drugs actually cause the very same things they often claim to treat! Antidepressants, for example, can cause depression, suicidal thoughts and violent behavior. They also directly promote weight gain, obesity and diabetes, and those health conditions can then lead to more depression, requiring more “treatment” with medication.

It’s all a gigantic scam. These drug companies are just selling patented chemicals for profit while destroying the lives of human beings in the process. In my view, Big Pharma is responsible for the deaths of all those killed by drug-induced shooting sprees. Read the jaw-dropping collection of quotes (below) from authors on this issue to learn even more.

Not surprisingly, the mainstream media remains virtually silent on this issue, not even mentioning any link between psychiatric drugs and school shootings. The media, you see, is largely funded by drug company advertisements.

A film you must see

A truly remarkable documentary film on the history of psychiatric medication is now available through CCHR (the Citizens’ Commission on Human Rights). Watch it here:…

Source: Natural News


Film Review: GenerationRx

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Documents Chemical Abuse of Children by Pharmaceutical Industry, Modern Psychiatry
Wednesday, November 26, 2008 by: Mike Adams, NaturalNews Editor

(NaturalNews) Filmmaker Kevin Miller has just launched a shocking new documentary that exposes the crimes and deceptions of modern psychiatry and the drug companies that now control the industry. His film, entitled GenerationRx sheds light on the shadowy practices of psychiatric doctors who are increasingly drugging children with mind-altering drugs. Trailers and DVDs are available at

The film features an impressive collection of interviews with skeptical physicians, industry critics and even the former deputy director of the FDA. Together, their testimony paints a disturbing picture of the deceitful — even predatory — behavior of the psychiatry industry, calling into question the very existence of so-called “disorders” that have been used to put tens of millions of children on dangerous mind-altering drugs that have earned billions of dollars in profits for Big Pharma.

The teen who recently committed “live” suicide on his web cam was taking psychiatric drugs. So was Heath Ledger, the Columbine school shooters and even the wife of famed comedian Phil Hartman, who shot and killed Mr. Hartman in a murder-suicide. In fact, if you want to know who’s taking psychiatric drugs in America today, just follow the trail of blood. Wherever there’s violence, you find Big Pharma’s brain-altering chemicals behind it.

Kevin Miller’s movie, GenerationRx, explains how this massive chemical conspiracy manages to keep operating today. It’s all based on a system of under-the-table payments to hospitals (…), journalists (…), med schools, medical journals, politicians and physicians. It’s a network of bribery and corruption so large that it has now even invaded the media!

The conspiracy will fall, of course, and in time the criminal masterminds who ran it will be indicted for their crimes against humanity. When that happens, stunned people will look back on documentaries like GenerationRx and see 2007 – 2009 as the turning point that exposed the truth about the industry and woke people up to the chemical atrocities being committed against their own children in the name of medicine.

Part of that turning point, of course, also involves the film Making A Killing, created by CCHR. You can view much of the film online by going here:…

Other films, too, are working to expose the criminal psychiatry industry, and NaturalNews will be bringing you news and exclusive video clips from those films as they become available.

In the mean time, don’t let your children be chemically abused by doctors or psychiatrists. Keep them away from vaccines, psych drugs and all medications. Feed them healthy foods, lots of omega-3s, superfoods, supplements and home-prepared meals. Your children will be happier and healthier, and in a generation when half the American population has been reduced to babbling, brain-numbed zombies (from all the medication), your children will retain powerful cognitive function that will make them the future leaders of human civilization.

To buy the full film of GenerationRx on DVD, use coupon code VETLGT to get $5 off. That’s a special NaturalNews discount not available anywhere else.

Buy a few copies of this film and give them to friends. You’ll open their eyes and you just might save the life of one of their children.


CIA Mind Control: Winona Ryder & MKULTRA’s Timothy Leary

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Leary supervised mind control experimentation at a CIA front in Berkeley, CA for 15 years prior to his massive media promotion in the latter ’60s. Leary’s role was to drug, distract and discredit the American anti-war movement. At the same time, the Agency – after an Army study proposed using potent hallucinogens for chemical warfare purposes – planted directions for the manufacture of LSD and STP in academic journals accessible to the public. Lysergic acid was in large part responsible for the decimation of the left in the ’70s, just as heroin would be used to destroy the Haitian Rastafarian movement – it took no more than one year – a decade later. Hippies who defend Leary are wrong-headed and have an unconscionable view of Vietnam-era progressive history, IMhO. The drug’s influence was destructive, and any “revelations” that came from it were personal and subjective, like reading Proust, self-indulgent, politically useless. – AC

” … her godfather was the late L.S.D. guru, Dr. Timothy Leary (Winona’s father, Michael, formerly served as Leary’s archivist and ran a bookstore called Flashback Books) … “

Winona Ryder Detailed Biography

THE daughter of free-lovin’, counterculture types who named her after the Minnesota town in which she was born (and she’s the lucky one – her siblings are named Yuri, Sunyata, and Jubal), Winona Horowitz enjoyed what you’d call an unorthodox childhood – the Horowitz clan’s idea of family bonding was a good-and-rowdy protest against Agent Orange. It will come as no surprise then, that her godfather was the late L.S.D. guru, Dr. Timothy Leary (Winona’s father, Michael, formerly served as Leary’s archivist and ran a bookstore called Flashback Books – need we say more?), or that Beat poet Allen Ginsberg rounded out her parents’ circle of friends. Winona hastens to explain when asked about her rather nontraditional upbringing that her parents are politically active intellectuals, and not acid-dropping, Grateful Dead-dogging clichés.

Leary himself summed them up as ”hippie intellectuals and psychedelic scholars,” a judgment bolstered by the fact that the couple collaborated on a book detailing Aldous Huxley’s psychedelic experiences, and then co-authored a book alleging that Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women while dosed up on opium. Growing up in a house where a high value was placed on reading, Winona’s bible became J.D. Salinger’s coming-of-age novel, The Catcher in the Rye. With a world view shaped by such iconoclastic parents and an idol the likes of Holden Caulfield, it’s little wonder that Winona would one day prove so deft at portraying offbeat characters.

When she was 7 years old, Winona’s family repaired to an upscale commune located on a 300-acre plot of land in the northern California town of Elk, where they coexisted with seven other families and a bunch of horses. The kids obviously didn’t have televisions (after all, they had no electricity in their homes), but Winona’s mother operated a movie theatre in an old barn, where she screened the classic films that provided her enthralled daughter with the key to her future.

After a year of living in the sticks, the family moved back to the relative civilization of Petaluma, California. During her first week at her new school, Winona, a fresh-off-the-commune tomboy, was jumped by a gang of pubescent thugs who proceeded to trounce her good for being such an obvious wuss. (”They thought I was a gay boy,” she has offered by way of explanation.) The unfortunate thrashing yielded fortunate results: Ryder earned a stint of home study, but more importantly, her parents let her enroll in acting classes at the prestigious American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, where bullies were few and far between.

Talent scouts spotted her on the A.C.T. stage and had her test for the role of Jon Voight’s daughter in Desert Bloom. She didn’t get the part, but her audition was impressive enough to gain her representation by Triad Artists, which set her up with a role as a poetry-loving teen in Lucas (1986). When the credits rolled, Winona Horowitz officially became Winona Ryder; her new surname was inspired by a Mitch Ryder album belonging to her father. …

Also see: “MK-ULTRA’s Louis “Jolly” West & the First Elephant Ever Given LSD”

AmeriKan Kids Zonked Out on Zoloft

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Rock the Truth – MSM Lie Monitor

I don’t think our children should be on ANY psychotropic drugs, folks.

How ’bout you?

“Zoloft, therapy help anxious children

CHICAGO – A popular antidepressant plus three months of psychotherapy dramatically helped children with anxiety disorders, the most common psychiatric illnesses in the young, the biggest study of its kind found.

Them and their fucking “anxiety” disorders! Makes you wonder how humanity has survived so long, huh?

The research also offers comfort to parents worried about putting their children on powerful drugs – therapy alone did a lot of good, too. Combining the drug sertraline, available as a generic and under the brand name Zoloft, with therapy worked best.

Sertraline is among antidepressants that have been linked with suicidal thoughts and behavior in children with depression. In this study, only a handful of the more than 200 children using it had suicide-related thoughts and there were no suicide attempts, said Dr. John Walkup, lead author of the government-funded research.”

They just lost me right there!! I think ONE THOUGHT of suicide from a kid is one TOO MANY!!

This isn’t about the health of our kids; this is about DRUG INDUSTRY PROFITS!!!

See: The Poor Purveyors of Poison

U.S. Army Personnel Largely Medicated with Psych Drugs

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October 24, 2008 by: David Gutierrez

U.S. Army(NaturalNews) The U.S. Army is attempting to avoid hiring and training new soldiers by instead medicating increasingly stressed and traumatized deployed soldiers with antidepressants and sleeping pills, according to an article published in TIME magazine.

According to Army statistics, 12 percent of combat troops in Iraq and 17 percent of combat troops in Afghanistan are taking authorized psychiatric prescription drugs. Approximately half of these are taking sleeping medication, while the other half are taking antidepressants – mostly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac or Zoloft.

If usage rates in other armed service branches are similar, this translates into 20,000 combat soldiers taking psychiatric drugs.

The Army has used psychotropic drugs on its troops before, but has traditionally refrained from allowing drugged soldiers to go into combat. But as of November 2006, the Pentagon has allowed the use of SSRIs in combat troops. Some analysts trace this to a desire on the part of the military to make each individual soldier fight longer before burning out. The use of drugs hypothetically allows soldiers to cope better with longer and more frequent deployments, and saves the military from having to train and pay a larger fighting force. Yet health professionals warn that there is no substitute to time away from combat; the longer a soldier goes without a break, the more likely he or she is to suffer long-term psychological illness.

According to the Pentagon, 20 percent of combat soldiers suffer from “temporary stress injuries,” while 10 percent suffer from “stress illness.” Symptoms include anxiety, apathy, irritability, insomnia, pessimism and, in severe cases, panic, rage, uncontrolled shaking and temporary paralysis.

Some health professionals have also questioned whether the increased use of SSRIs has contributed to rising suicide rates among combat troops. The FDA warns that SSRIs can increase the risk of suicide in people between the ages of 18 and 24, which is the primary age range of combat soldiers.

“The high percentage of U.S. soldiers attempting suicide after taking SSRIs should raise serious concerns,” said Joseph Glenmullen of Harvard Medical School. “And there’s no question they’re using them to prop people up in difficult circumstances.”

Original story:…


Towards a Culture of Responsible Psychoactive Drug Use

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by Earth and Fire Erowid

September 8th, 2008

Psychoactive drugs are everywhere. Any discussion of drug use needs to take this into account. The broad category of “psychoactive drugs” consists of natural and synthetic substances that alter a person’s thoughts or feelings. There exist hundreds of plants, which, if eaten, smoked, snorted, or injected, will affect the mind—whether acting as a stimulant, depressant, or psychedelic. Thousands of known chemicals will do the same. Used recreationally, medicinally, or for work, some are illegal and others not: They include coffee, wine, and tobacco; prescription pain medications, sleep aids, and antidepressants; as well as cannabis, LSD, and heroin. Psychoactives are in the kitchen, in the hardware store, in the greenhouse, in home medicine cabinets, and in fuel tanks across the country.

Everyone uses them. Would you believe that nearly 90% of 45-year-olds in the United States have tried an illegal drug in their lifetime?[1] As of 2006, more than 35 million Americans had taken an illicit drug in the previous year.[2] Monitoring the Future (MTF), the best current survey about illegal drug use in the United States,[3] reports that one in five college students used an illicit drug in the past month. Nearly all adults in the U.S. have tried alcohol, while over 80% use caffeine daily.[4] Last year there were over 180 million prescriptions written for opiates alone,[5] and a diverse assortment of psychoactives are increasingly used by older Americans from coast to coast.[6]

They are not going away. Humans have used psychoactive substances for as long as we have records[7] and some of the largest corporations in the world are actively developing new ones for the future. There is no magic bullet that will suddenly make these compounds disappear from our society. If there were, the past century of ever-increasing penalties for possession and sale of recreationally used drugs, along with massive anti-drug “education” campaigns, would have reduced use. But they have not.

The United States has implemented random drug testing of junior high and high school students who participate in chess club. No-knock warrants allow police to invade private homes with guns drawn in case a suspect might try to flush illegal drugs down the toilet. Taxpayers spend 8 billion dollars each year to incarcerate drug law offenders,[8,9] and pay for ideologically driven, abstinence-only education programs that are so factually misleading that they often fail to acknowledge the pleasurable or useful effects of the substances they teach about.

Despite these extreme measures, a majority of the population age 18-65 has chosen to try an illegal drug.[10] The mainstream reaction is to continue the calls for “getting tougher.” Instead of working towards unrealistic, naïve goals such as a “drug free century,” our response has been to step back and reassess, asking: How can society adapt to the realities of the communication age and develop more sophistication and balance regarding the use of psychoactive drugs?

Modern humans must learn how to relate to psychoactives responsibly, treating them with respect and awareness, working to minimize harms and maximize benefits, and integrating use into a healthy, enjoyable, and productive life. But above all else, in a world filled with materials and technologies that affect the mind, adults must have the robust education and accurate, pragmatic information necessary to help them take charge of their relationships with psychoactives and teach their children how to do so from an early age.


Many people would agree that drug culture reform is needed, but we must recognize that “the drug culture” now includes everyone. Modern life involves daily decisions about psychoactives. The option of caffeine use is encountered multiple times a day. It is rare to watch an hour-long television show without seeing an advertisement for a mind altering pharmaceutical or a legal recreational drug. Late night coverage of the 2008 Summer Olympics was sponsored by Ambien, a popular sleep aid with memory-scrambling side effects whose commercials enticed audiences nationwide with comforting images of dreamy, refreshing, sedative-assisted sleep. A large portion of the population is exposed to the possibility of taking LSD, even if only 10-20% ever try it.[11,12] In today’s world, everyone must choose how they relate to innumerable psychoactive drugs. Whether or not one decides to use a specific drug, that decision should be made with skill, knowledge, and self-awareness, supported by accurate information.

Struck by the quantity and complexity of choices being made about psychoactives, and dismayed by the poor quality of accessible information, in 1995 we began a project called Erowid. Dedicated to providing an online library of information about psychoactives to the public through its website, the project has grown to serve over 60,000 visitors per day.[13] In 2008, Erowid became an educational 501(c)(3) non-profit under the name Erowid Center.

In thirteen years of learning about both legal and illegal psychoactives, we have collected over 30,000 documents and 75,000 self-reports that catalog the choices people make and provide insight into the results of those choices. These reports include everything from pedestrian recreational use to life-changing spiritual experiences and personal tragedies. We have also learned that there are many subcultural niches in which responsible use of psychoactive drugs is taken very seriously. These communities disapprove of recklessness, and consider care a top virtue, regardless of whether use is for recreational, medicinal, self-improvement, work-productivity, or spiritual purposes.


“Know your body. Know your mind. Know your substance. Know your source.” One of Erowid’s earliest slogans, this directive encourages people to pay close attention to multiple aspects of their psychoactive substance use. These include understanding the individuality of response; avoiding drugs contraindicated because of health issues; learning enough about each substance to avoid unexpected effects and overdoses; and choosing both substance and information sources carefully in order to reduce risks. While these principles may seem obvious, they are seldom taught in contemporary drug education.

Alcohol is a good case to study, as its use is accepted in our culture and is not illegal for those over 21. Yet healthy and pragmatic drinking practices are seldom taught by parents, schools, or the government. By the time young adults reach the legal drinking age in the United States the vast majority of them have already consumed alcohol. In 2006, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the average age at which Americans first tried alcohol was 16.5, with only one in ten waiting until they were legally of age to drink.[14] And they haven’t just had a sip; nearly 40% of 20-year-olds have gotten drunk in the last month.[15] The opportunity to teach responsible use of alcohol—the most commonly consumed and arguably one of the most dangerous strong psychoactives[16]—is missed. The situation is much worse for controlled substances.

Teaching responsible, intentional use to young people does not require giving detailed instructions on how to use illegal psychoactives. The general principles can be taught through education about prescribed medications, alcohol, or other legal drugs. There are many practical lessons about how to safely and responsibly use psychoactives, whether learned from personal subjective experience, research, or the hard-won wisdom of others.

Fundamentals of Responsible Psychoactive Use

  • Investigate the health risks and dangers of the specific psychoactive and of the class of drugs to which it belongs.
  • Learn about interactions with other recreational drugs, medications, supplements, and activities.
  • Review individual health concerns, predispositions, and family health history.
  • Choose a source or product carefully to help ensure correct identification and purity
    (avoid materials with an unknown source or of unknown quality).
  • Know whether the drug is likely to reduce the ability to drive, operate equipment, or pay attention to necessary tasks.
  • Take oneself “off duty” from responsibilities that might be interfered with (job, child care, etc.), and arrange for someone else to be “on duty” for such responsibilities.
  • Anticipate reasonably foreseeable risks to oneself and others and employ safeguards to minimize those risks.
  • Choose an appropriate occasion and location for use.
  • Select and measure dosages carefully.
  • Begin with a low dose until individual reactions are known and thereafter use the minimum dose necessary to achieve the desired effects: lower doses are safer doses.
  • Reflect on and adjust use to minimize physical and mental health problems.
  • Note changes in health over time that may be related to use.
  • Modify use if it interferes with work or personal goals.
  • Check in with peers and family and accept feedback about one’s use.
  • Track reactions to specific drugs and dosages in order to avoid repeating mistakes.
  • Seek treatment if needed.
  • Decide not to use when the time isn’t right, the material is suspect, or the situation is otherwise problematic.

People are usually willing to modify their behavior to reduce harms and increase benefits. Just as most of those who drink alcohol prefer to avoid hangovers and dangerous levels of consumption (so long as they can still enjoy alcohol’s intoxicating effects), most users of other psychoactive drugs would also happily take steps to minimize risks. In a pilot paper looking at the impact of web-based data about psychoactive substances, Boyer et al. found that:

“[…] all respondents in our cohort modified their drug use after reviewing online drug information. This observation suggests that the Internet has a profound ability to affect decisions related to psychoactive substance use in a cohort of innovative drug users. Interestingly, 8 of the 12 participants adopted behaviors intended to minimize the risks associated with drug use, a finding that suggests that attempts to reduce the harm associated with psychoactive substances are fostered by online information.”[17]

Some might argue the same point that professor Mark Kleiman makes in his book Against Excess: “The fact that some people can use a drug responsibly and even beneficially does not imply that it is safe. We all know people who drink and take no harm from it, and we all know people whose lives have been wrecked by alcohol.”[18] But as Kleiman also notes, just because some people do not work to minimize risks and use a drug dangerously or to their own detriment does not mean that is true of everyone who tries it.


Unfortunately, some actions that are part of a responsible relationship with psychoactives can also expose individuals to social and legal problems if applied to illicit drugs. Current policies and programs pose complex challenges for those wishing to use these substances as conscientiously and safely as possible.

Twentieth-century drug control policies were largely based on the idea that prohibition was the most effective way to reduce problems associated with psychoactive use. Disturbingly, prohibitionist policies have compromised individual responsibility as well as the integrity and objectivity of education, medicine, and science.

One of the fundamentals of responsible use is to know the identity and purity of psychoactives that are consumed. Yet current policies make it difficult to be sure that materials purchased on the black market are pure or even correctly identified. For example, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) prohibits most testing that would help identify street drugs. Erowid Center operates the only public ecstasy testing program in the United States ( However, the program is hamstrung by a 1974 DEA policy that prohibits laboratories from providing quantitative data about anonymously submitted samples of controlled substances—a policy that was enacted out of concern that such testing would provide “quality control” for the black market.[19] When forced by circumstances, most people will use illicit psychoactives without quality control. The DEA’s censorship policy is an ineffective control strategy, which stands in the way of responsible use and public health, and which gives the DEA exclusive access to information about the contents of black market drugs.

Clearly, the population should be educated about the potential harms associated with psychoactive use, but providing any other, more practical information is heretical and potentially criminal. Our government explicitly discourages nuanced education about psychoactives.[20] For example, for state-funded programs related to illicit drugs or alcohol, California legislates that “No aspect of the program may include a message on ‘responsible use.’”[21] Media campaigns and educational materials almost universally share a single target message, prioritizing a decrease in use over accuracy and balance. Further, many web filtering systems, including those employed by hospitals and schools across the country, explicitly censor sites such as because they provide useful information.

While physicians are the primary experts available to give medical opinions about drug-related health issues, current policies cause many psychoactive users not to seek treatment or advice. Those who do so may risk legal trouble, insurance problems, and disclosure of their use to employers and family. Teens, faced with a friend who has overdosed, often hesitate to call an ambulance for fear of serious repercussions; they are well aware that physicians and the health care system can not be trusted as confidants or allies when it comes to psychoactive drugs. It is important for the public to have access to the sort of personalized medical advice that is only available when they can talk to their physicians without fearing the consequences.

Current policies also skew the science. With over a billion dollars per year in public financing, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) funds 85% of the world’s research on recreational drugs.[22] However, it is narrowly dedicated to studying “the addictive and adverse health consequences of drugs of abuse.”[23] NIDA’s mandate artificially stacks the deck with findings that show negative effects. Policy makers, judges, and even experts in the field can draw mistaken conclusions from this imbalanced collection of research, leading many to dismiss responsible use as an unreasonable objective.


Developing and promoting more sophisticated language, thereby learning to better discriminate between different types and classes of drugs, is the first step towards a culture of responsible use. Unfortunately, it is common for those on the national stage to use the unqualified term “drugs” when discussing psychoactive substances, as if everyone knows exactly what is meant. But cannabis is not oxycodone, nor do stimulants behave like depressants.

This “drugs” meme has done long-term damage to the public’s critical thinking skills due to the unspoken assumption that everyone knows which drugs are the bad ones. Certainly they’re not talking about ibuprofen, and probably not coffee—but how about Viagra, Prozac, or dextromethorphan (a common ingredient in cough medicines, also used recreationally)? One often hears that people should not drive while on “drugs,” but this is much truer of depressants and psychedelics and less true of stimulants. The right dose of caffeine or amphetamine has been shown to improve driving, especially among tired individuals[24,25]—a fact well known to long-distance drivers and the U.S. military.[26] Specificity in language is necessary for making good personal decisions, teaching others, and drafting appropriate laws. Not everyone has to be an expert on all psychoactive drugs, but we do need to be critical thinkers.


Responsible psychoactive use requires access to accurate, detailed, and practical information. Education is more important than changes to control policies or social reform. Those who choose to use caffeine, cannabis, LSD, amphetamine, Ritalin, or heroin need to know how much is too much, which drugs might interact dangerously, and how to minimize risks and optimize benefits. People need to be trained to seek this information and to put it to use.

As Boyer et al. found, people are willing to modify their behavior in order to reduce risks, but this is only possible if they know what the actual risks are. Unfortunately, there are severe problems with partisan, policy-driven information sources. While the quality of government-sponsored sources has improved over the last decade, sites such as, a youth-oriented website funded by the federal government, still include laughable exaggerations like “heart and lung failure“[27] as a general effect of hallucinogens—a deceptive claim they have made for more than eight years. Scientific literature reviews on the most common hallucinogens do not support their claims; most recently, Johns Hopkins researchers found that, “hallucinogens generally possess relatively low physiological toxicity and have not been shown to result in organ damage.”[28] Once people realize that a source is deceptive, as is the case for those teens visiting Freevibe who know someone who has tried LSD or psilocybin-containing (”magic”) mushrooms, they will be inclined to distrust all information from that source.

Public information sources should prioritize accuracy and completeness over maintaining a single, politically driven message. It is inconsistent with the democratic ideals of American culture to corrupt information in order to support public policies. The issues are complex and sources should reflect that.

In government-sponsored information, the benefits of disapproved drug use are absent, a void obvious to all but the least curious reader. Individuals try psychoactives largely based on the belief that they will be beneficial in some way: fun, enlightening, anti-depressive, anxiolytic, inhibition-reducing, etc. A recent study has confirmed what many users of “magic” mushrooms have described for decades: In the right context, the effects can be profound and can improve quality of life. According to the researchers, “67% of the volunteers rated the experience with psilocybin to be either the single most meaningful experience of his or her life or among the top five most meaningful experiences of his or her life.”[29]

While there is no question that the specialized, supportive circumstances of this research made positive reactions more likely and reduced the chance of negative outcomes, the findings are also consistent with a large survey conducted on in 2005 that asked about the life impact of LSD use. With nearly 50,000 valid responses, 53.4% of those who reported having taken LSD said that it had affected their life positively, compared to 3.4% who said it had a negative impact (21.9% reported “no effect,” 17.2% reported a “mix of positive and negative effects,” and 4.1% did not answer or didn’t know).[30] As of September 2008, none of the top government-funded public drug information websites had a single mention of any benefit associated with psilocybin.[31]

Misrepresentation and oversimplification in this complex field of study damage society’s ability to engage in accurate and honest dialog about issues that affect everyone’s daily lives. When private or government-sponsored prohibitionist organizations are found untrustworthy, people seek information elsewhere. Unfortunately, advice provided by peers about the risks and benefits of recreational drugs can also be of dubious value. Teenagers, especially, can not provide each other with the quality of information they need and deserve.

Public educational resources need to provide comprehensive, honest information in order to be worthy of trust. To climb out of the well of distrust our culture has dug, students, teachers, parents, law enforcement officers, medical professionals, marginalized subcultures, and the general public all need to look to the same libraries, rely on the same sources, and expect balance and neutrality in the reporting of scientific findings. Establishing a culture of responsible use—built on a foundation of unbiased, factual information—is essential to the practical long-term management of psychoactives in our society.

[Conflict of Interest Disclosure: This article was written partially under the influence of oolong tea, diet cherry Coke, and California chardonnay.]

Fire and Earth Erowid are the co-founders of Erowid Center, an IRS-approved 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization which runs, an online library of information about psychoactive plants and chemicals.


[1] Johnston LD, O’Malley PM, Bachman JG, et al. “Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975-2006. Vol II.” NIDA. 2007. 98.

[2] SAMHSA. “Results from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Appendix G.” 2007. Table G.3.

[3] Erowid E, Erowid F. “How Do They Measure Up? Part II: The Problems.” Erowid Extracts. Nov 2005;9:16-21.

[4] Griffiths RR, Mumford GK. Caffeine: A Drug of Abuse? in Psychopharmacology: The Fourth Generation of Progress. Edited by Bloom FE, Kupfer DJ. New York, Raven Press, 1995.

[5] Volkow ND. “Statement on Scientific Research on Prescription Drug Abuse before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs.” Mar 12, 2008.

[6] SAMHSA. “Older Adults: Substance Use and Mental Problems.” Accessed Sep 4, 2008.

[7] Erowid. “Alcohol Timeline.” Jul 9, 2006. Available from Accessed Sep 2, 2008.

[8] Drug War Facts. “Prisons, Jails and Probation – Overview.” Aug 1, 2008. Available from Accessed Sep 2, 2008.

[9] Federal Register. Jun 6, 2007;72(108):31343.

[10] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “Results from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables.” 2007. Tables 1.11A.

[11] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “Results from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables.” 2007. Tables 1.1+.

[12] Johnston LD, O’Malley PM, Bachman JG, et al. Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975-2006. Vol II.” NIDA. 2007. 108.

[13] Erowid. “The Distillation: Erowid Traffic Statistics.” Erowid Extracts. Jun 2008;14:25.

[14] SAMHSA. “Results from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings.” Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-32, DHHS Publication No. SMA 07-4293. 2007.

[15] SAMHSA, Office of Applied Studies, “National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. The statistic comes from the survey’s definition of binge drinking, namely consuming five or more drinks on a single occasion.

[16] BBC News. “Scientists Want New Drug Rankings.” Mar 23, 2007.

[17] Boyer EW, Shannon M, Hibberd PL. “The Internet and psychoactive substance use among innovative drug users.” Pediatrics. 2005;115(2):302-5.

[18] Kleiman MAR. Against Excess: Drug Policy For Results. Basic Books. 1992. 386.

[19] “Effectiveness of Drug Analysis Curbed.” The PharmChem Newsletter. 1974;3(4):1.

[20] Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Act. U.S. Code, Title 20, Ch. 70, Subch. IV, Pt A, Subpt 4, § 7162.

[21] California Health and Safety Code Sections 11999.2 and 11999.3.

[22] National Institute on Drug Abuse. “NIDA Research Identifies Factors Related to Inhalant Abuse, Addiction.” Sep 28, 2004. Accessed Sep 2, 2008.

[23] Volkow ND. “Statement by NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow. Jul 11, 2006. Accessed Sep 2, 2008.

[24] Silber BY, Croft RJ, Papafotiou K, et al. “The acute effects of d-amphetamine and methamphetamine on attention and psychomotor performance.” Psychopharm. Aug 2006;187(2):154-69.

[25] Michael N, Johns M, Owen C, et al. “Effects of caffeine on alertness as measured by infrared reflectance oculography.” Psychopharm. Jun 9, 2008.

[26] Borin E. “The U.S. Military Needs Its Speed. Wired. Feb 10, 2003.

[27] Freevibe. “Drug Information: Hallucinogens.” Accessed Sep 2, 2008.

[28] Johnson MW, Richards WA, Griffiths RR. “Human hallucinogen research: guidelines for safety.” J Psychopharm. Aug 2008;22(6):603-20.

[29] Griffiths RR, Richards WA, McCann U, Jesse R. “Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance.” Psychopharm. Aug 2006;187(3):268-83.

[30] Erowid F, Erowid E. “Erowid Visitors on LSD.” Erowid Extracts. Jun 2006;10:10-12.

[31] Sites searched on September 3, 2008 included,,,, and


Post by way of: Drug War Rant

Synthetic Pot as a Military Weapon? Meet the Man Who Ran the Secret Program

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By Martin A. Lee, AlterNet. Posted July 19, 2008.

synthetic marijuana

Dr. James Ketchum tested a potent form of synthetic marijuana on soldiers to develop a secret weapon in the ’60s. Now he’s telling the tale.

It was billed as a panel discussion on “the global shift in human consciousness.” A half-dozen speakers had assembled inside the Heebie Jeebie Healers tent at Burning Man, the annual post-hippie celebration in Black Rock, Nev., where 50,000 stalwarts braved intense dust storms and flash floods last August. Among the notables who spoke at the early evening forum was Dr. Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, the Bay Area-based psychochemical genius much beloved among the Burners, who synthesized Ecstasy and 200 other psychoactive drugs and tested each one on himself during his unique, offbeat career.

Sitting on the panel next to Shulgin was an unlikely expositor. Dr. James S. Ketchum, a retired U.S. Army colonel, told the audience, “When Sasha was trying to open minds with chemicals to achieve greater awareness, I was busy trying to subdue people.”

Ketchum was referring to his work at Edgewood Arsenal, headquarters of the U.S. Army Chemical Corps, in the 1960s, when America’s national security strategists were high on the prospect of developing a nonlethal incapacitating agent, a so-called humane weapon, that could knock people out without necessarily killing anyone. Top military officers hyped the notion of “war without death,” conjuring visions of aircraft swooping over enemy territory releasing clouds of “madness gas” that would disorient the bad guys and dissolve their will to resist, while U.S. soldiers moved in and took over.

Ketchum was into weapons of mass elation, not weapons of mass destruction. He oversaw a secret research program that tested an array of mind-bending drugs on American GIs, including an exceptionally potent form of synthetic marijuana. (Most of these drugs had no medical names, just numbers supplied by the Army.) “Paradoxical as it may seem,” Ketchum asserted, “one can use chemical weapons to spare lives, rather than extinguish them.”

Some of the Burners were perplexed. Was this guy cool or creepy?

Shulgin, a critic of chemical mind-meddling by the military, was wary when he first met Ketchum at a 1993 event honoring the 50th anniversary of the discovery of LSD. But Ketchum is not your typical military bulldozer type. An intelligent, gracious man with a disarming sense of humor, in his own way he has always been a free spirit. He and his wife, Judy, who currently reside in Santa Rosa, became close friends with Sasha and his formidable partner, Ann. They stayed in frequent contact and occasionally socialized together. When the Shulgins invited them to Burning Man, the Ketchums joined the caravan of RVs driving to the desert.

“I’m kind of a Sasha worshipper,” Ketchum, who reads neuropharmacology textbooks during his leisure hours, confessed. Tall and lanky, the colonel, now 76, is one of the few people who can actually understand what Shulgin, six years his senior, is talking about when he lectures on the molecular subtleties of psychedelic drugs, waving his arms furiously like a mad scientist. Shulgin took Ketchum under his wing and welcomed him into the fold.

Shulgin wrote the foreword to Ketchum’s self-published memoir, Chemical Warfare: Secrets Almost Forgotten, which lifts the veil on the Army’s little-known drug experiments and illuminates a hidden chapter of marijuana history. A graduate of Cornell Medical College, Ketchum describes how he was assigned as a staff psychiatrist to Edgewood Arsenal, located 25 miles northeast of Baltimore, in 1961.

“There was no doubt in my mind that working in this strange atmosphere was just the sort of thing that would satisfy my appetite for novelty,” Ketchum wrote. Soon he became chief of clinical research at the Army’s hub for chemical warfare studies. Although the Geneva Convention had banned the use of chemical weapons, Washington never agreed to this provision, and the U.S. government poured money into the search for a nonlethal incapacitant.

Red Oil

The U.S. Army Chemical Corp’s marijuana research began several years before Ketchum joined the team at Edgewood. In 1952, the Shell Development Corporation was contracted by the Army to examine “synthetic cannabis derivatives” for their incapacitating properties. Additional studies into possible military uses of marijuana began two years later at the University of Michigan medical school, where a group of scientists led by Dr. Edward F. Domino, professor of pharmacology, tested a drug called “EA 1476” — otherwise known as “Red Oil” — on dogs and monkeys at the behest of the U.S. Army. Made through a process of chemical extraction and distillation, Red Oil, akin to hash oil, packed a mightier punch than the natural plant.

Army scientists found that this concentrated cannabis derivative produced effects unlike anything they had previously seen. “The dog gets a peculiar reaction. He crawls under the table, stays away from the dark, leaps out at imaginary objects and, as far as one can interpret, may be having hallucinations,” one report stated. “It would appear even to the untrained observer that this dog is not normal. He suddenly jumps out, even without any stimulus, and barks, and then crawls back under the table.”

With a larger dose of Red Oil, the reaction was even more pronounced. “These animals lie on their side; you could step on their feet without any response; it is an amazing effect and a reversible phenomenon. It has greatly increased our interest in this compound from the standpoint of future chemical possibilities.”

In the late 1950s, the Army started testing Red Oil on U.S. soldiers at Edgewood. Some GIs smirked for hours while they were under the influence of EA 1476. When asked to perform routine numbers and spatial reasoning tests, the stoned volunteers couldn’t stop laughing.

But Red Oil was not an ideal chemical-warfare candidate. For starters, it was a “crude” preparation that contained many components of cannabis besides psychoactive THC. Army scientists surmised that pure THC would weigh much less than Red Oil and would therefore be better suited as a chemical weapon. They were intrigued by the possibility of amplifying the active ingredient of marijuana, tweaking the mother molecule, as it were, to enhance its psychogenic effects. So the Chemical Corps set its sights on developing a synthetic variant of THC that could clobber people without killing them.

Enter Harry Pars, a scientist working with Arthur D. Little Inc., based in Cambridge, Mass., one of several pharmaceutical companies that conducted chemical warfare research for the Army. (Two Army contracts for marijuana-related research were awarded to this firm, covering a 10-year period beginning in 1963.) A frequent visitor to Edgewood, Pars synthesized a new cannabinoid compound, dubbed “EA 2233,” which was significantly stronger than Red Oil.

At the outset of this project, Pars had sought the advice of Shulgin, then a brilliant young chemist employed by Dow Chemical. Shulgin was a veritable fount of information regarding how to reshape psychoactive molecules to create novel mind-altering drugs. Eager to share his arcane expertise, Shulgin gave Pars the idea to tinker with nitrogen analogs of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Pars never told Shulgin that he was an Army contract employee. A declassified version of Pars’ research was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (August 1966), in which he thanked Shulgin for “drawing our attention to the synthesis of these nitrogen analogs.”

The U.S. Army Chemical Corps began clinical testing of EA 2233 on GI volunteers in 1961, the year Ketchum arrived at Edgewood Arsenal. When ingested at dosage levels ranging from 10 to 60 micrograms per kilogram of body weight, EA 2233 lasted up to 30 hours, far longer than the typical marijuana buzz.

“I Just Feel Like Laughing”

In an interview videotaped seven hours after he had been given EA 2233, one soldier described feeling numb in his arms and unable to raise them, precluding any possibility that he could defend himself if attacked. “Everything seems comical,” he told his interlocutor.

Q: How are you?

A: Pretty good, I guess. …

Q: You’ve got a big grin on your face.

A: Yeah. I don’t know what I’m grinning about, either.

Q: Do things seem funny, or is that just something you can’t help?

A: I don’t — I don’t know. I just — I just feel like laughing. …

Q: Does the time seem to pass slower or faster or any different than usual?

A: No different than usual. Just — just that I mostly lose track of it. I don’t know if it’s early or late.

Q: Do you find yourself doing any daydreaming?

A: Yeah. I’m daydreaming all kinds of things. …

Q: Suppose you have to get up and go to work now. How would you do?

A: I don’t think I’d even care.

Q: Well, suppose the place were on fire?

A: It would seem funny.

Q: It would seem funny? Do you think you’d have the sense to get up and run out, or do you think you’d just enjoy it?

A: I don’t know. Fire doesn’t seem to present any danger to me right now. … Everything just seems funny in the Army. Seems like everything somebody says, it sounds a little bit funny. …

Q: Is it like when you’re in a good mood and you can laugh at anything?

A: Right. … It’s like being out with a bunch of people and everybody’s laughing. They’re just —

Q: Having a ball?

A: Yeah. And everything just seems funny.

Q: Would you do this again? Take this test again?

A: Yeah. Yeah. It wouldn’t bother me at all.

EA 2233 was actually a mixture of eight stereoisomers of THC. (An isomer is a rearrangement of atoms within a given molecule; a stereoisomer entails different spatial configurations of these atoms.) Eventually, Edgewood scientists would separate the eight stereoisomers and investigate the relative potency of each of them individually in an effort to separate the wheat from the psychoactive chaff and reduce the amount of material needed to get the desired effect for chemical warfare.

Only two of the stereoisomers proved to be of interest (the others didn’t have much of a knockdown effect). When administered intravenously, low doses of these two synthetic cousins of tetrahydrocannabinol triggered a dramatic drop in blood pressure to the point where test subjects could barely move. Standing up without assistance was impossible. This was construed by cautious Army doctors as a warning sign — a sudden plunge in blood pressure could be dangerous — and human experiments with single THC stereoisomers were suspended.

Looking back on these studies, Ketchum wonders whether his colleagues made the right decision. “This hypotensive (blood-pressure-reducing) property, in an otherwise nonlethal compound, might be an ideal way to produce a temporary inability to fight, or do much else, without toxicological danger to life,” Ketchum says now. Given the high safety margin of THC — no one has ever died from an overdose — and the likelihood that the stereoisomers would display a similar safety profile, Ketchum believes the Army may have spurned a couple of worthy prospects that were capable of filling the knock-’em-out-but-don’t-kill-’em niche in America’s chemical warfare arsenal.

As for the two exemplary stereoisomers weaned from EA 2233, Ketchum speculates, “They probably would have been safe in terms of life-sparing activity. … But a person who received them would have to lie down. If he tried to stand up and get his weapon, he would feel faint and lightheaded and he’d keel over. Essentially he would be immobilized for any military purpose until the effects wore off.”

The colonel’s assessment: “A safe drug that knocks people down — what more could you ask for?”

Volunteers for America

With THC isomers on the back burner, the U.S. Army Chemical Corps focused on several other compounds — including LSD, PCP, methylphenidate (Ritalin) and a delirium-inducing ass-kicker known as “BZ” (a belladonna-like substance similar to atropine) — all of which were thought to have significant potential as nonlethal incapacitants.

By the time the clinical testing program had run its course, 6,700 volunteers had experienced some bizarre states of consciousness at Edgewood. Under the influence of powerful mind-altering drugs, some soldiers rode imaginary horses, ate invisible chickens and took showers in full uniform while smoking phantom cigars. One garrulous GI complained that an order of toast smelled “like a French whore.” Some of their antics were so over-the-top that Ketchum had to admonish the nurses and other medical personnel not to laugh at the volunteers, even though it was unlikely that the soldiers would remember such incidents once the drugs wore off.

Ketchum insists that the staff at Edgewood went to great lengths to ensure the safety of the volunteers. (There was one untoward incident involving a civilian volunteer who flipped out on PCP and required hospitalization, but this happened before Ketchum came on board.) During the 1960s, every soldier exposed to incapacitating agents was carefully screened and prepped beforehand, according to Ketchum, and well treated throughout the experiment. They stayed in special rooms with padded walls and were monitored by medical professionals 24/7. Antidotes were available if things got out of hand.

“The volunteers performed a patriotic service,” Ketchum says. “None, to my knowledge, returned home with a significant injury or illness attributable to chemical exposure,” though he admits that “a few former volunteers later claimed that the testing had caused them to suffer from some malady.” Such claims, however, are difficult to assess given that so many intervening variables may have contributed to a particular problem.

A follow-up study conducted by the Army Inspector General’s office and a review panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences found little evidence of serious harm resulting from the Edgewood experiments. But a 1975 Army IG report noted that improper inducements may have been used to recruit volunteers and that getting their “informed consent” was somewhat dubious given that scientists had a limited understanding of the short- and long-term impact of some of the compounds tested on the soldiers.

Ketchum draws a sharp distinction between clinical research with human subjects under controlled conditions at Edgewood Arsenal and the CIA’s reckless experiments on random, unwitting Americans who were given LSD surreptitiously by spooks and prostitutes. “Jim is very certain of his own integrity,” says Ken Goffman, aka R.U. Sirius, the former editor of the psychedelic tech magazine Mondo 2000. “There is little doubt in his mind that he was doing the right thing. He felt he was working for a noble cause that would reduce civilian and military casualties.” Goffman helped Ketchum edit and polish his book manuscript, which vigorously defends the Edgewood research program.

Strange bedfellows, the colonel and the counterculture scribe. Or so it would appear. But these days, Ketchum and Goffman see eye to eye on many issues. Both feel that the alleged dangers of marijuana and LSD have been way overblown. No doubt, LSD could wreak havoc on the toughest, best-trained troops, derailing their thought processes and disorganizing their behavior.

When used wisely, however, LSD can be uplifting. Ketchum notes that some soldiers had insightful and rewarding experiences on acid, lending credence to reports from civilian psychiatrists that LSD was a useful therapeutic tool. “I had an interest in psychedelic drugs long before my interest in chemical warfare,” Ketchum says. “I was intrigued by the positive aspects of LSD, as well as the incapacitating aspects.”

Mystery Stash

One morning, Ketchum arrived at his office in Edgewood and found “a large, black steel barrel, resembling an oil drum, parked in the corner of the room,” he recounts in his book. Overcome by curiosity, he opened the barrel and examined its contents. There were a dozen tightly sealed glass canisters that looked like cookie jars; the labels on the canisters indicated that each contained about three pounds of “EA 1729,” the Army’s code number for LSD. By the end of the week, the 40 pounds of government acid — enough to intoxicate several hundred million people — vanished as mysteriously as it had appeared. Ketchum still doesn’t know who put the LSD in his office or what became of it.

But this much is certain: Some officers at Edgewood were dipping into the Army’s stash for their own personal use. “They took LSD more often than was necessary to appreciate its clinical effects,” Ketchum admits. “They must have liked it.”

The colonel was personally a bit skittish about trying LSD. Eventually, he worked up the courage to experiment on himself. Under the watchful eye of a knowledgeable Edgewood physician, he swallowed a small dose and proceeded to take the same numerical aptitude tests that the regular volunteers were put through to measure their impairment. Constrained by the white-smock laboratory setting, his lone LSD experience was somewhat anticlimactic. “Colors were more vivid and music was more compelling,” Ketchum recalls, “but there were no breakthroughs in consciousness, no Timothy Leary stuff.”

Ketchum also sampled cannabis shortly after he began working for the Chemical Corps. His younger brother turned him on to marijuana, but the first time Ketchum smoked a joint nothing happened. “Later, I read about reverse tolerance. Some people don’t get high on marijuana until they use it a few times,” Ketchum explains.

It wasn’t until he went on a paid, two-year leave of absence from Edgewood that he started smoking pot socially. Ketchum had convinced the surgeon general of the Army that it would be in everyone’s best interest if he studied neuroscience at Stanford University. How better to keep abreast of the latest advances in the field? In 1966, he joined a team of postdoctoral researchers mentored by Karl Pribram, a world-renowned expert on the brain and behavior.

Ketchum related well with his academic colleagues. “I got together with a few of my friends at Stanford and we had some cheap marijuana, which I smoked, and I got a real effect for the first time,” he says. “I liked it. It was very sensuous. But I didn’t use it very often. I didn’t have any of my own.”

Ketchum’s West Coast hiatus coincided with the emergence of the hippie movement in San Francisco. “I was fascinated with this spectacular development,” he gleams. “Luckily, I caught it at its peak.”

Occasionally, Ketchum took his home movie camera to Haight-Ashbury, the epicenter of hippiedom, and filmed the procession of exotically dressed flower children strutting through the neighborhood high on marijuana and LSD. “I was always interested in drugs, primarily because I’ve always been interested in how the mind works,” he says. “So when this wave of psychedelic users descended upon San Francisco, I thought maybe I’d learn more by going there.”

Ketchum attended the legendary Be-In in Golden Gate Park in January 1967, sitting cross-legged on the lawn with 20,000 pot-smoking enthusiasts, soaking up the rays and listening to rock music, poetry and anti-war speeches. A few months later, the colonel began working as a volunteer doctor at the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, where he treated troubled youth with substance abuse problems.

Life After Edgewood

Ketchum returned to Edgewood in 1968, but the mood back at headquarters was not the same as before. Growing opposition to the Vietnam War and public disapproval of the use of napalm and toxic defoliants cast a lengthening shadow over classified research into chemical weapons. When journalists briefly got wind of the Army’s ambitious psychochemical warfare program, they scoffed at the notion of making the enemy lay down their arms by turning them on.

The colonel saw the writing on the wall. Army brass consented when he asked to be transferred to another base in the early 1970s. By this time, the Chemical Corps had concluded that marijuana-related compounds would not be effective in a battlefield situation, but the testing of other incapacitating agents under field conditions would proceed. And drug companies continued to supply a steady stream of pharmaceutical samples for evaluation by the military.

In 1976, Ketchum retired from the Army and embarked upon a new career as a civilian psychiatrist in California. Commissioned by the California Department of Justice, he collaborated on a 1981 study comparing the effects of alcohol and smoked marijuana on driving performance. The results were somewhat surprising. “When combined with alcohol, cannabis produced little additional impairment,” he concluded.

“While alcohol had an adverse impact on steering, THC affected a driver’s ability to estimate time. But the combination of both drugs did not substantially increase the impairment produced by either one alone. … In fact, there was an antagonistic effect. Marijuana seemed to offset some of the problems caused by alcohol, and vice versa.”

Ketchum feels that drug prohibition is bad public policy. “It’s the refusal to look at the evidence that keeps pot illegal. They misrepresented marijuana as an evil weed. … I’ve always had a libertarian attitude toward drugs. I believe people should be able to do anything as long as it’s not harmful to somebody else.”

In the years ahead, Ketchum would reach out to medical marijuana trailblazers, prominent psychedelic advocates and drug-policy rebels working inside and outside the system to end prohibition. He joined the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and became a member of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

Founded by Rick Doblin, MAPS has spearheaded the revival of scientific investigations into the therapeutic potential of LSD, ecstasy, psilocybin and ibogaine, while also challenging bureaucratic roadblocks that prevent independent cannabis research in the United States. Ketchum attended fundraising events and wrote letters to potential donors, praising the work of MAPS.

During the 1960s, Ketchum supervised thousands of drug experiments, yet he barely scratched the surface of the awesome potential of cannabis and LSD. “Jim is not apologetic for what he did before,” Doblin says, “and I don’t think he sees it as incongruous with supporting research into the therapeutic aspect of psychedelics. These tools have tremendous power, but he only looked at a narrow slice of it while he was at Edgewood.”

Today, Ketchum steadfastly maintains that cannabis and LSD are safe drugs compared to many legal substances. This is what the Edgewood experiments and other studies have shown, he contends. Given his status as a retired army officer who had extensive, hands-on experience testing psychoactive compounds, he speaks with a certain authority that most medical and recreational drug users cannot claim.

Medical Marijuana

After Californians broke ranks from America’s drug-war orthodoxy in 1996 and legalized medical marijuana in the Golden State, Ketchum got a recommendation from his family doctor to use cannabis for insomnia. “I have personally found it helpful, especially for sleep,” he says. “I’ve had problems with sleep for a long time.”

It was at a picnic hosted by the Shulgins that Jim and Judy Ketchum first met Tod Mikuriya, the controversial Berkeley-based physician who has been described as “the father of the medical marijuana movement.” One of the prime movers of Proposition 215, the successful med-pot ballot measure, Mikuriya quickly took a liking to the Ketchums and taught them how to use a vaporizer for inhaling cannabis fumes without tar and smoke.

With Mikuriya tendering introductions, Ketchum befriended some of the leading lights of the ’60s counterculture, including Tim Scully, the prodigious underground chemist who manufactured millions of hits of black market LSD (remember Orange Sunshine?) while the colonel was administering hallucinogenic drugs to soldiers at Edgewood. “Jim and his wife visited me at my home in Mendocino County,” Scully says. “I enjoyed their company. We found that we shared idealistic beliefs about the potential for good in psychoactive drugs, as well as sharing some wry understanding of the pitfalls, too.”

As for their divergent paths in the past, Scully remarks, “I don’t really see his work as having been in conflict with mine. I believe Jim sincerely hoped to save lives by helping in the development of nonlethal weapons as an alternative to conventional weapons.”

An incurable iconoclast, the colonel has made common cause with counterculture veterans and anti-prohibition activists. His endorsement of the therapeutic use of marijuana and LSD confers additional credibility on views long championed by his newfound allies. Validation, in this case, goes both ways. Embraced as one of the elders, a peculiar elder to be sure, Ketchum somehow fits right in.

“I don’t have a problem with being difficult to categorize,” he says.

Martin A. Lee is the author of Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond. He is writing a social history of marijuana. A version of this article originally appeared in Cannabis Culture.