Psychochemical weaponry

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Psychochemical weaponry involves the use of psychopharmacological agents (mind-altering drugs or chemicals) with the intention of incapacitating an adversary through the temporary induction of hallucinations or delirium.[1][2] Although never developed into an effective weapons system, psychochemical warfare theory and research -- along with overlapping mind control drug research -- was secretly pursued in the mid-20th century by the US military and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the context of the Cold War. These research programs were ended when they came to light and generated controversy in the 1970s.


Ancient psycho-chemical use[edit]

The use of chemicals to induce altered states of mind dates to antiquity and includes the use of plants such as thornapple (Datura stramonium) that contain combinations of anticholinergic alkaloids. In 184 B.C., Hannibal's army used belladonna plants to induce disorientation.[citation needed]

Use by indigenous peoples[edit]

In 1881, members of a railway surveying expedition crossing Tuareg territory in North Africa ate dried dates that tribesmen had apparently deliberately contaminated with Hyoscyamus falezlez.[3]

Modern military research[edit]

In the 1950s, the CIA investigated LSD as part of its project MK Ultra and some in the US Military speculated about its possible use to disable sentries or incapacitate concentrated masses of troops or enemy populations. [4] In the same period, the secret Edgewood Arsenal human experiments grew out of the U.S. chemical warfare program and involved studies of several hundred volunteer test subjects. Britain was also investigating the possible use of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and BZ (3-quinuclidinyl benzilate) as nonlethal battlefield drug-weapons.[1] The United States eventually weaponized the chemical BZ for delivery in the M43 BZ cluster bomb until stocks were destroyed in 1989. Both the US and Britain concluded that the desired effects of drug weapons were unpredictable under battlefield conditions and gave up experimentation.

Reports of drug weapons associated with the Soviet bloc were considered unreliable given the apparent absence of documentation in state archives.[5] Hungarian researcher Lajos Rosza wrote that records of Hungary's State Defense Council meetings from 1962 to 1978 suggest that the Warsaw Pact forum had considered a psychochemical agent such as methylamphetamine as a possible weapon.[2][6]

See also[edit]

Video links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Dando M, Furmanski M 2006. Mid-spectrum incapacitant programs. In: Wheelis M et al. (eds). Deadly cultures: biological weapons since 1945. Cambridge, US: Harvard University Press.
  2. ^ a b Lee, Martin (May 1982). Mad, Mad War. Mother Jones. pp. 18–. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  3. ^ James S Ketchum M D; James S. Ketchum (October 2012). Chemical Warfare Secrets Almost Forgotten. WestBow Press. pp. 14–. ISBN 978-1-4772-7589-4. 
  4. ^ Roberts, Andy (May 2010). "Reservoir Drugs". Fortean Times. Retrieved 2013-03-17. 
  5. ^ Douglass JD 1999 Red cocaine – the drugging of America and the west. London and New York: Edward Harle Limited.
  6. ^ Rózsa L 2009 A psychochemical weapon considered by the Warsaw Pact: a research note. Substance Use & Misuse, 44, 172-178. accessed: 30-03-2009.