Film on Czech Television looks into Cold War experiments with hallucinogenic drug
A documentary shown by public broadcaster Czech Television claims decades ago, during the communist regime, a young Miloš Zeman as well as pop star Karel Gott took part in a state-run experiment on the effects of LSD.
The film, called LSD made in ČSSR, states that starting in 1952, the Czech state began looking into whether the hallucinogenic drug lysergic acid diethylamide could be used as a weapon in the Cold War. The tests lasted until the 1970s.
“I read somewhere that our former regime wanted to export LSD to destabilize Western countries; counterintelligence played a role in it. … The [secret police] StB anyway systematically monitored events around the psychiatrists who used LSD in therapy,” documentary maker Pavel Křemen told the magazine Reflex.
He could not determine if the Czech secret police ever contacted any of the proponents of LSD in the West such as Timothy Leary in an effort to spread the drug.
In order to see how effective it could be as a weapon, the state gave the drug, made by Czech pharmaceutical firm Spofa starting in 1963, to psychiatrists, sociologists and in particular to artists.
Among the artistic community, the biggest name was pop star Karel Gott. Other names included actors Boris Hybner and Peter Oliva, painter Jiří Anderle, sociologist Jiřina Šiklová, and Japan expert Martin Vačkář.
From politics, the biggest name by far to be mentioned is Miloš Zeman, the current president of the Czech Republic.
A witness to the event said that the future president did not show too much reaction and probably had a very small dose.
Director Křemen said he thought it was sympathetic that a young Zeman tried the drug probably just once, and he did not intend for the claim in the film to be a smear on the president’s character.
Information about the experiments is not new. Canadian journalist R.M. Crockford has been researching the topic and said in 2006 that the Czechoslovak project was perhaps the largest in the world.
He pointed out that there were military experiments as well. “The communists certainly were aware of it. … The Czech army used it in some experiments in the late 1960s, because they were afraid that it was actually going to be used as a chemical weapon by the United States. So they performed some experiments on soldiers, and there are films of that,” he told server Network Europe.
Czechoslovakia wasn’t alone in testing the drug. The United States ran a project called MKUltra from 1953 to 1973 that in part tested the effects of the drug on often uninformed subjects including mental patients, prisoners, drug addicts and prostitutes.
The drug was also given CIA employees, military personnel, doctors, other government agents, and members of the general public in order to study their reactions.
Due to the lack of informed consent, these experiments were a violation of international conventions.