Elephant killed with LSD and Antipsychotics



The acid test: World’s weirdest experiments


From Tusko the elephant’s tragic LSD trip to the wine taste test that gets gourmets hot under the collar, Alex Boese puts the world’s most weird and wonderful experiments under the microscope

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

the first elephant ever to be given LSD  

Tusko: the first elephant ever to be given LSD 

The pachyderm on a high

Tusko the elephant led a peaceful life at the Oklahoma City Zoo. So, on the morning of Friday 3 August 1962, he could hardly have foreseen that he was about to become the first elephant ever to be given LSD.

The experiment was the brainchild of two doctors [shrinks] at the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine, Louis Jolyon West and Chester M Pierce, and Warren Thomas, director of the zoo, who wanted to learn more about LSD’s pharmacological properties.

LSD is one of the most potent drugs known to medical science. A mere 25 micrograms – less than the weight of a grain of sand – can send a person tripping for half a day. But the researchers figured that an elephant would need more than a person and they didn’t want to risk giving too little. They upped the dose to 297 milligrams, about 3,000 times the level of a human dose.

At 8am, Thomas fired a cartridge syringe into Tusko’s rump. Tusko trumpeted loudly and began running around his pen. Then he started to lose control of his movements, and toppled over. His eyeballs rolled upward. He started twitching. His tongue turned blue.

The researchers administered 2,800 milligrams of an antipsychotic, which relieved the violence of the seizures a little. Eighty minutes later, Tusko was still lying panting on the ground. Desperate, the researchers injected a barbiturate, but it didn’t help. A few minutes later, Tusko died.

What had happened? Had the LSD concentrated somewhere in Tusko’s body, increasing its toxicity? Were elephants allergic to LSD? The researchers had no clue. An autopsy determined that Tusko died from asphyxiation – his throat muscles had swollen, preventing him from breathing. But why his throat muscles had done this, the researchers didn’t know. In an article published a few months later in Science, they simply noted: “It appears that the elephant is highly sensitive to the effects of LSD.”

14 thoughts on “Elephant killed with LSD and Antipsychotics

  1. Don’t give the shrinks any new ideas. But then they are probably already planning something like that after Tusko died. Probably they want to find out why – by determining how many more elephants it takes to repeat the experiment before they can come up with a statistical data set proving LSD and antipsychotics at a thousand times the dose shows no increase over normal elephant seizures and death.

    If they can get all elephants on these drugs, then there will be no increase because it will be like comparing apples to apples.

  2. 25 micrograms is a very weak dose for a human. You wouldn’t trip for “half a day”. Even a 1000 microgram dose only lasts about 8 hours.

    Those doctors were idiots. You don’t jump out a window to test whether or not you can fly. You start from the ground first.

  3. Despite an African Elephant’s 2 foot across skull of spongy, porous bone, it’s actual Brain is the size of a loaf of pumperknickle bread.

    I don’t suppose these idiots bothered to investigate That, before they shot this creature with 297 milligrams of LSD!

    1. It’s true, animals have different sensitivies. I have done many animal experiments and I have found that rabbits and cats are highly sensitive to marijuana, of all things. They did show a lower sensitivity than this one guy did, but he’s from out of town. Needless to say, all of my potato chips are gone.

      I respect the shrinks for their science, but definitely not for their ethics. I can’t see why they would waste ~300mg on one elephant when, I’m sure, there were plenty of bored kids available for testing.

      It’s a crime, y’all.

  4. LSD affects the 5HT2a Receptors of the brain, any brain, regardless of what animal. Dosage is the same regardless, as only a minute portion of the LSD is actually “absorbed” to make you “trip”. Given it was 1962, what these scientist did was wrong. Giving any creature a powerful and mind-altering drug is cruel. At least with humans we are able to communicate to the user what to expect, and how to handle yourself. In a sense it is not fair to the animal because with LSD, one of the main goals of “responsible adult usage” is experiencing “ego-loss”, or the point at which the user is able to let go of his personality, trained thought patterns, or what makes the user “himself”. Unfortunately, the elephant has no ego, all it has is the “Id” (Animal Instinct), as Freud would describe it. So I suppose my whole point is that, psychologically speaking (and the way the LSD interacts with the brain), it might suffice to postulate that the elephant experienced the closest thing he has to ego-loss, “id-loss”.

    1. P.S.
      Elaborating on the postulated “Id-Loss” comment from above, I believe that the elephant started to lose control of it’s body because the LSD was not able to interact with any higher brain functions. So instead LSD unleashed it’s effects on lower brain functions, causing the elephant to convulse and likely have muscle spasm’s, resulting in the throat closing due to lack of control.

    2. LSD is not in any way specific to 5-HT2 receptors. It’s binding affinity for these receptors is very high, but LSD also binds to all four known dopamine receptors, histamine, several other serotonin receptors and beta and alpha adregenic.

      To say an elephant has no ego is ludicrous. As far as we know, “ego” has only been observed in humans. Same for the “id”. In addition, this freudian declaration of functioning is only a rudimentary understanding of human psychology, much less animal psychology.

      There is a great potential that receptors in an elephant are a product of different gene expressions for the subunits that comprise the receptors. Any excursion into neurobiology will teach you that, while we share many basic neurochemical systems, the proteins that form the receptors for an elephant are very likely different that our own. This means that LSD could have a Ki constant much lower for certain (even peripheral) receptor sites.

      Of course, I’ve seen a rabbit die from fear….

      1. Oh, and the fact that LSD works on cortical functioning indirectly is important to note. LSD inhibits serotonin release through the 5-HT2 autoreceptor in the midbrain. The actions of it are caused directly in the midbrain and by the projections of serotonergic neurons into the cortex.
        Last time I checked, there are no serotonin neurons in the cortex, aside from the projections from the thalamus and a few other assorted elements of the midbrain.

        The cortex (and about 70% of the brain) is dominated by the excitory transmitter glutamate. Inhibition in the cortex is actually caused by GABAergic neurons in the midbrain.

        This means that the “id” is center for LSD.

  5. This thread is fascinating.

    Considering that Freud’s id, ego & super ego remain Theoretical, and that Freud himself was a cocaine Imbalance, and that he Faked his records – after curing No One – to peddle his Theory, ….. which Freud – the Drug Addled Cocaine Pushing Killer (see Marxow) – Couldn’t make work with humans, ….. we are now applying it, to Elephants?

  6. Stipid is all I have to say to those shrinks. What will they do next . To kill a animal to test there theroy is beyond words that I want to say. How in humane are they ……Lest test LSD on them in that amount and see what they do !!!!

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