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Douglas Capraro Douglas Capraro

Video: A Window Into “Scientific” LSD Research in the 1950s


Watch a painter take 100 miligrams of LSD as a doctor interviews him, in what may have been part of a CIA-sponsored experiment on the psychiatric effects of psychedelics.

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The use of psychedelic drugs for scientific research was hugely popular in the ’50s and ’60s, before LSD became a Schedule 1 drug in 1971. Scientists at the time thought LSD could have many potential benefits, such as treating depression and alcoholism (even AA co-founder Bill Wilson reportedly took the drug under psychiatric supervision in the ’50s).

The CIA was also conducting thousands of experiments with LSD and other drugs on volunteers (and other not-so-willing participants) during the mid-20th century, as part of an undercover operation called “MKUltra.” They were thought to have been testing the effects of hallucinogenics for possible use as thought-control substances.

Though it’s unverifiable, this video from 1955 may have been a part of this operation (which didn’t enter the public’s attention until the ’70s). But either way, it offers a window into what psychiatric LSD research may have been like at the time. In the video, a 34-year-old LA painter named Bill Millarc is given a 100 milligram dose of LSD by Dr. Nicolas A. Bercel MD (who one YouTube commenter has dubbed ”Dr. Bummer” for his cold and meticulous method of interrogation).

It’s pretty strange to watch Dr. Bercel continue to interview Millarc and hear him narrate his trip as the drug takes its effect. He reports seeing the rug pulsating, a “pleasant” feeling of nausea and says he hears angels singing.

Half-a-century later, it’s likely that psychedelic drugs will once again enter mainstream psychiatric treatment. A study of “magic mushrooms” as potential treatment for clinical depression is currently underway at London’s Imperial College’s Neuropsychopharmacology Centre and may help to persuade governments to see psychedelics differently.