How The U.S. Government Used Forced Drug Addiction As A Mind Control Experiment

The experiment was the precursor to MK-Ultra.

mind control experiments BravissimoS, THEPALMER, SvetaZi, EzumeImages / Getty Images, Danny Smythe via Canva, r.classen / Shutterstock

Everywhere you turn, there is an entertaining and mysterious conspiracy theory to be found.

There are those that people find questionable like the secret society controlled by the Illuminati, the mysterious disappearance of a Mexican island, all the strange stories about the Denver International Airport, and the theory that because of artificial intelligence, humanity will be doomed by 2075.

Then there are conspiracies that turned out to be true or at least had some semblance of truth within them, such as the body-snatching Project Sunshine, the vile use of mosquitos in Operation Big Buzz, the cruel experiment to use cats as spies, the CIA's "heart attack gun," and "The Paper Trip" book being related to thousands of disappearances.


But there is one story you might easily dismiss as conspiracy... until you find out that it is 100% true: Project Artichoke.

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Project Artichoke, also known as Operation Artichoke, was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) project that researched interrogation methods.


It ran from the early 1950s to the middle of the 1970s, and sought to see how drug use and psychological manipulation impacted interrogations and attempts at mind control.

Project Artichoke was operated by the CIA’s Office of Scientific Intelligence and was birthed out of the preceding Project Bluebird on August 20, 1951.

Project Artichoke was succeeded by Project MK-Ultra in 1953, an experiment that used hypnosis and behavioral modification to keep agency employees from giving information to adversaries and also to extract intelligence from agents of enemies.

The main goal of Project Artichoke was to see if someone could be involuntarily ordered to try and assassinate someone. It studied hypnosis, forced morphine addiction and subsequent withdrawals, LSD and other chemicals produced amnesia, and other vulnerable states in subjects to see what the effects were.


The CIA collaborated with divisions of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and FBI to use the mind control program to gather information.

In a memo dated January 1952, the project scope was outlined and asked the question, “Can we get control of an individual to the point where he will do our bidding against his will and even against fundamental laws of nature, such as self-preservation?”

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How were the secret experiments carried out?

The experiments were done in-house and overseas using LSD, hypnosis, and complete isolation of individuals as a means of physiological harassment that mimicked special interrogations on subjects. It started with marijuana, heroin, cocaine, mescaline, and peyote, but progressed to LSD as it was thought to be the most effective.


Early on, LSD was frequently given to unknowing CIA agents to measure its impact on those who were unaware. This left them with memory loss and little recollection of the experience. One agent was even kept under the influence for 77 days.

Project Artichoke is controversial — not only because of how unethical and inhumane it was, but at least one suspicious death was tied to the project.

Frank Olson, a biological scientist working on the project for the CIA, fell from the window of a New York hotel in 1953. He was tasked with refining the methods for using the drugs, and his death is suspected to be suicide or murder due to how much he knew.

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What were the effects of Project Artichoke?

The effects of the project were very disturbing and even those involved with top-secret clearance like Olson were reportedly traumatized by the experiments. Many of the subjects who were never informed of their participation suffered from long-term psychological damage.

The project is considered an extremely dark time in the CIA’s history, as they wanted to control the people they perceived as "weak" or "less intelligent," including their own agents, traitors, prisoners of war, and refugees.

With hypnosis, they sought to create assassins like those seen in the movie, "The Manchurian Candidate."


Project Artichoke was publicly uncovered in the 1970s when the CIA was forced to disclose its existence due to scrutiny about the government surveilling citizens.

We will never know for certain whether or not the program was a success, but it illustrates the absolute need for transparency in government operations, especially when it comes to using humans as subjects.

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment and news, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.