Little-known Czechoslovak LSD tests subject of new research
LSD is usually associated with the hippy "flower power" era in the West in the late 1960s. But few people know that thousands of tests involving the psychedelic drug were carried out in Czechoslovakia, from the mid 1950s until the mid 70s. Canadian journalist R.M. Crockford is currently in Prague researching this country's LSD testing programme, which he says was perhaps the biggest conducted anywhere in the world.
"LSD was discovered in 1943, in Switzerland. After the war was over there was this widespread belief that chemistry was a...miracle that would save the planet - food production, everything would be revolutionized by chemistry. Psychiatry was one more aspect of that."
"In Czechoslovakia there were scientists who were regularly experimenting with new substances that had come on the market. And Sandoz laboratories in Switzerland, which had patented LSD at the time, sent some here."
"One of the doctors, a man named Jiri Rubicek, was interested in the possible effects it could have. But no-one really knew - not even Sandoz knew at the time - what it was really good for. They knew it was really powerful, but they didn't really know how it would be useful. They asked doctors, if you can find some use for this - great."
"So there were many different projects, there were some where they created so-called model psychosis, to try to understand schizophrenia. There was this belief at the time that schizophrenic patients were undergoing a kind of permanent acid trip. They thought if psychologists, psychiatrists, medical students could experience the same thing then they would understand schizophrenia better."
"The communists certainly were aware of it, because it was manufactured by the state pharmaceutical company Spofa from about 1963 to 1974. Also the Czech army used it in some experiments in the late 1960s, because they were afraid that it was actually going to be used as a chemical weapon by the United States. So they performed some experiments on soldiers, and there are films of that."
"They didn't have any problem with this research, because the doctors were very careful to frame it in very mechanistic terms - you had a problem, you applied a chemical to it and then the problem was solved."
"As long as it was phrased that way it was fine. The drug never leaked out onto the street, so there was no social problem they had to deal with like they did in the West."
I know you're still doing your research and still looking for people who took LSD in these tests. But from what you know so far, what kind of impact did the drug have on these guinea pigs?
"For everybody who took it, it was an overwhelming experience. The big question is whether it was overwhelming positive or overwhelmingly negative."
"For the people for whom it was overwhelmingly positive, they are generally willing to talk about it. But the people who were really traumatised by it, who had a bad circumstances, because of what their own frame of mind was or the kind of circumstances that they had it in, it's still a sort of sensitive, private matter."
"This is why trying to find such people and being able to talk to them is a complicated and long-term process."
If you took part in these tests or know anybody who participated, Mr Crockford can be contacted via www.ceskelsd.com