Louis Jolyon West

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Louis Jolyon West
Born (1924-10-06)October 6, 1924
Brooklyn, New York
Died January 2, 1999(1999-01-02)
Los Angeles, California
Occupation Psychiatrist

Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West (October 6, 1924, in Brooklyn, New York - January 2, 1999, in Los Angeles, California) was an American psychiatrist. He performed Jack Ruby's psychiatric evaluation, and was known for often testifying as a court-appointed expert psychiatrist in high-profile cases. For 20 years, he was in charge of UCLA's department of psychiatry and the Neuropsychiatric Institute. His main areas of focus were drug and alcohol abuse, cults and brainwashing. He was active in anti-death penalty activism.[1]

LSD Related Death of an Elephant[edit]

One of the more unusual incidents of West's career came in August 1962, when he and two co-workers attempted to investigate the phenomenon of musth by dosing Tusko, a bull elephant at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Oklahoma City, with LSD. They expected that the drug would trigger a state similar to musth; instead, the animal began to have seizures 5 minutes after LSD administration. Beginning twenty minutes after the LSD, West and his colleagues decided to administer the antipsychotic promazine hydrochloride and a total of 2800 mg was injected over 11 minutes. This large promazine dose was not effective and may even have contributed to the animal's death, which occurred an hour and 40 minutes after the LSD was given.[2] Later, many had theories about why Tusko had died. One prominent theory was that West and his colleagues had made the mistake of scaling up the dose in proportion to the animal's body weight, rather than its brain weight, and without considering other factors, such as its metabolic rate.[3][4] Another theory was that while the LSD had caused Tusko distress, it was the drugs administered in an attempt to revive him that actually caused death. Attempting to prove that the LSD alone had not been the cause of death, Ronald K. Siegel of UCLA repeated a variant of West's experiment on two elephants; he administered to two elephants equivalent doses (in milligrams per kilogram) to that which had been given to Tusko, mixing the LSD in their drinking water rather than directly injecting it as had been done with Tusko. Neither elephant expired or exhibited any great distress, although both behaved strangely for a number of hours.[5]


For more details on this topic, see MKULTRA.

West did his psychiatry residency at Cornell, an MKULTRA institution and site of the Human Ecology Foundation. He later became a subcontractor for MKULTRA subproject 43, a $20,800 grant by the CIA while he was chairman of the department of Psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma. The proposal submitted by West was titled "Psychophysiological Studies of Hypnosis and Suggestability” with an accompanying document titled “Studies of Dissociative States".[6]

Social Control[edit]

In Hallucinations: Behavior, Experience, and Theory, West and Ronald K. Siegel explain how drug prohibition can be used for selective social control:

Conflict with Scientologists[edit]

According to West, problems started after he published a textbook in 1980, in which he called Scientology a cult.[8]

On one American Psychiatric Association panel on cults, where every speaker had received a long letter threatening a lawsuit if Scientology were mentioned, no one mentioned Scientology except West, who was the last speaker: "I read parts of the letter to the 1,000-plus psychiatrists and then told any Scientologists in the crowd to pay attention. I said I would like to advise my colleagues that I consider Scientology a cult and L. Ron Hubbard a quack and a fake. I wasn't about to let them intimidate me." [9]


In 1999, West died at his home in Los Angeles at age 74. His family said the cause of death was metastatic cancer.[1] In 2009, West's son John wrote a book, "The Last Goodnights: Assisting My Parents With Their Suicides", in which he said he helped West commit suicide using prescription medication.[10]


  • Alcohol and Related Problems: Issues for the American Public, The American Assembly, Columbia University, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1984
  • "Cult Phenomenon - Mental Health, Legal and Religious Implications" Several lectures by Jolly West in audio
  • West, L.J. (July 1990). "Psychiatry and Scientology". The Southern California Psychiatrist. Retrieved 2007-10-18. 
  • West, L.J. (May 1991). "Scientology II: CCHR and Narconon". The Southern California Psychiatrist. Retrieved 2007-10-18. 
  • West, L.J. (October 1991). "Scientology III". The Southern California Psychiatrist. Retrieved 2007-10-18. 
  • Pseudo-Identity and the Treatment of Personality Change in Victims of Captivity and Cults at the Wayback Machine (archived June 10, 2004), From Dissociation: Clinical and Theoretical Perspectives. 1994
  • Drug Testing : Issues and Options, 1991
  • Farber I.E., Harlow H. F. & West L.J., Brainwashing, Conditioning and DDD (Debility, Dependency, and Dread), Sociometry, Vol. 20, No. 4 (December 1957).
  • West. L.J. & Singer. M.T. (1980). Cults, quacks and nonprofessional psychotherapies. In H.I. Kaphm A. M. Freedman, & B.J. Sadock (Eds.), Comprehensive textbook of psychiatry III. Baltimore: Williams & Willtens.
  • In Memory of Louis J. West, Presentation held in Bonn, 1981
  • West, L.J., Pierce, C.M., & Thomas, W.D. Lysergic acid diethylamide: Its effects on male Asiatic elephant. Science, 138, 1100–1103, 1962
  • Ronald K. Siegel; Louis Jolyon West (1975). Hallucinations: Behavior, Experience, and Theory. ISBN 978-1-135-16726-4. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hilts, Philip J. (9 January 1999). "Louis J. West, 74, Psychiatrist Who Studied Extremes, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  2. ^ West, L.J., Pierce, C.M., & Thomas, W.D. (1962)Lysergic acid diethylamide: Its effects on a male Asiatic elephant. Science 138: 1100-1103
  3. ^ Harwood, P.D. (1963) Therapeutic dosage in small and large mammals. Science 139: 684-685
  4. ^ Schmidt-Nielsen, K. (1972) How Animals Work. pp.86-89. Cambridge University Press
  5. ^ Siegel RK. "LSD-induced effects in elephants: Comparisons with musth behavior." Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society. 1984;22(1):53-56.
  6. ^ Ross, Colin A. (2006). The C.I.A. doctors : human rights violations by American psychiatrists. Richardson, TX: Manitou Communications. ISBN 978-0976550808. 
  7. ^ Ronald K. Siegel; Louis Jolyon West (1975). Hallucinations: Behavior, Experience, and Theory. ISBN 978-1-135-16726-4. 
  8. ^ Welkos, Robert W.; Sappell, Joel (1990-06-29). "On the Offensive Against an Array of Suspected Foes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2007-11-05. 
  9. ^ (Psychiatric Times, 1991)
  10. ^ West, John (2009-02-04). "Excerpt: 'The Last Goodnights'". Good Morning America. ABC News. Retrieved 2010-03-18.