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MDA, MDMA and other mescaline-like substances in the US military’s search for a truth drug (1940s to 1960s)

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This article describes the broader context in which 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and other mescaline-like compounds were explored as hallucinogens for military and intelligence purposes during the 1940s to the 1960s. Germans first tested mescaline as a “truth drug” in a military context. Since the 1940s, the United States military tested hallucinogenic drugs as “truth drugs” for the purpose of interrogation and behavior manipulation. After tests carried out using mescaline and other drugs in 1950, some derivatives of mescaline were synthesized by the Army for the exploration of possible „speech-inducing“ effects. After insufficient animal testing, the substances were given to patients at the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI). 3,4-Methylenedioxy-N-ethylamphetamine (MDE), a compound almost identical to MDMA, was among the mescaline derivatives delivered for testing at the NYSPI. During tests with other derivatives (3,4-dimethoxyphenethylamine (DMA), 3,4-methylenedioxyphenethylamine (MDPEA), MDA) in 1952-53, an unwitting patient died in these tests, which was kept secret from the public. Research was interrupted and toxicological animal testing procedures were initiated. The secret animal studies run in 1953/54 revealed that some of the “mescaline derivatives” tested (e.g. MDA, MDE, DMA, 3,4,5-trimethoxyamphetamine (TMA), MDMA) were considered for further testing in humans. Since 1955, the military changed focus to LSD, but some interest in mescaline-like compounds remained for their ability to change mood and habit without interefing with cognition and sensory perception. Based on the known documents, it remains unclear (but probable) wether any of the mescaline derivatives tested were being used operationally.
Passie, T., & Benzenhöfer, U. (2017). MDA, MDMA and other mescaline‐like substances in the US military’s search for a truth drug (1940s to 1960s). Drug testing and analysis. 10.1002/dta.2292
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