Last updated: December 4, 2023
LSD, a hallucinogenic drug, is fogging the minds of our military personnel. The news broke last November when Major General Ray Fox, the commanding general of the 2nd Marine Division ordered a urinalysis for nearly 53,000 active-duty Marines and sailors. Unfortunately, that isn’t the first time the problem had been brought to light.
The Department of Defense changed its drug testing policy to include random LSD testing last summer. Since then, approximately 4,000 random urinalysis tests have been conducted, and, thankfully, of those less than half a percent have popped positive for it. When we do the math, we realize that only equals 20 positive tests, but Major General Francis L. Donovan, commanding general for the 2nd Marine Division is not taking that lightly.
“We have a drug problem in the 2nd Marine Division,” Maj. Gen. Francis L. Donovan, commanding general for the division, said. “The vast majority of Marines within the 2nd Marine Division routinely uphold our core values, and they deserve to know that the Marines to their left and right are doing the same.”
In other words, one positive drug test is too many.
LSD in the military
Surprisingly though, in February 2019, Marine Major Emre Albayrak’s article published in the Marine Corps Gazette stated the case for “microdosing.” He reported that if administering LSD in very small doses has the potential to unlock a heightened sense of alertness, creativity, and problem solving, it could be a game-changer for today’s service members who are faced with an ever-growing tidal wave of incoming data.
He wrote, “Like most hallucinogens, LSD mimics the effects of serotonin (a mood regulator) and activates enhanced mental acuity in the areas of learning and memory.”
Maj. Albayrak feels microdoses of LSD would greatly benefit service members, especially those in the fields of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. He says that our adversaries are already “seeking an edge over us through use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).”
Even so, the odds that the military will approve the use of PEDs are pretty slim. They experimented with it extensively between 1955 and 1967. Ultimately, the project was abandoned. As a matter of fact, the National Library of Medicine states that in light of renewed interest in using hallucinogens for psychiatric treatment, the effects of LSD exposure on United States soldiers should be documented more accurately.
How LSD affects the user
In short, LSD affects the user intensely.
Hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD, produce mind-altering effects because once the drug enters the brain it affects the serotonin receptors. It also changes the blood flow and electrical activity within the brain. These two components working together change the way the user feels about the world and themselves.
Known side-effects include rapid changes in emotion, intense sensory experiences, and a distorted perception of time. LSD “trips” are overwhelmingly positive with users reporting that they have a sense of overall well-being and that they enjoy the accompanying hallucinations. However, negative “trips” can create horrifying experiences that include the user experiencing graphic hallucinations such as their skin peeling away or being covered with bugs.
Extreme adverse effects include feelings of losing control, insanity, and even death—resulting from delusional thinking and reacting to panic rather than overdosing on the drug. Users build up a tolerance to LSD meaning that they must increase the dosage to obtain the desired effect. It’s believed that this increases the chances of having a negative reaction to the drug.
The intensity of the LSD causes some to experience “cross over” sensations that include hearing colors or seeing sounds. Flashbacks can occur causing users to reexperience the effect of the drug days, weeks, even months after using. It’s also not uncommon for users to experience acute anxiety or depression when coming down.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Elevated body temperature
- Dry mouth
- Dilated pupils
- Loss of appetite
Identifying the drug
The Department of Defense (D0D) requires military personnel to submit to a urinalysis. The urine drug test is the most widely used method of employee drug testing. It’s cost-effective and continued advances in drug testing technology make it increasingly difficult for anyone to tamper with the specimen without being detected.
Urine tests identify LSD for up to four or five days after using the drug.
LSD panels can also be applied to the mouth swab drug test which identifies LSD for up to forty-eight hours after use. The hair follicle drug test is more costly than either the urine or mouth swab drug tests, however, it identifies any and all drug use for 90 days. Blood tests are rarely used for drug testing mainly due to their expense and the fact that they must be performed in a medical setting by qualified personnel. They identify LSD in the system for up to 12 hours.
As mentioned above, determining the effectiveness of treating psychiatric patients with hallucinogenics is back in the limelight. At the same time, illicit use of the drug is spreading through our military ranks and within our civilian communities as well. A study by the University of Cincinnati indicated a 56% increase in LSD use between the years of 2015 and 2018.
Using LSD as a performance-enhancing drug to create superhuman analytical capabilities would glorify its use. That’s not a wise idea no matter how you look at it.
Drug use has been an ever-growing problem in our society for decades. Moreover, the pandemic has only added to the problem—growing numbers of overdose deaths attest to that fact worldwide. Job loss, quarantine, illness… they all play a part in overwhelming some of us to the point of seeking an escape.
The problem is there’s not anywhere to go.
That’s leading to drug and alcohol abuse. Is LSD use is on the rise in your area? Consider following the military’s lead and add it to your employee drug test. If you don’t have a random testing policy in place perhaps it’s a good time to consider implementing one.
Remember to have your policy in writing before informing employees or starting the drug testing process.
Timothy Leary was a huge advocate for LSD in the sixties. His catchphrase “turn on, tune in, drop out” appealed to those looking for a way to get away from all their problems. There was a lot going on in the world then too. We have to do all we can to get out the counter-message by exposing the dangers of drug use.
We can’t give up the fight.