HAPSAT Graduate Workshops - Third Winter Session

When and Where

Wednesday, March 13, 2024 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Victoria College
91 Charles Street West, Toronto, ON M5S 1K7


Andrew Jones


                                                                                HAPSAT GRADUATE  WORKSHOPS

Andrew Jones will present:  The Dangers of LSD or the Dangers of Science? The Unfortunate Case of Tusko the Elephant, A Victim of 1960s Psychiatry

                                                           Wednesday March 13, 2024  In person event  12:00 p.m. to 1:00  PM

                                                                                         Room VC211

In 1962, the American psychiatrist Louis Jolyon West injected Tusko, a male bull elephant from the Oklahoma Zoo, with 297 milligrams of LSD. Given his view that the drug induced artificial psychosis in humans, West wanted to see if it could reproduce the phenomenon of “going on musth” that male bull elephants displayed. The term ‘musth,’ which translates to ‘intoxication,’ refers to the fact that about once a year following puberty, these elephants become uncharacteristically destructive and aggressive, and began to secrete a thick brown substance from glands on the side of their heads. Of particular interest was discovering the role of the secretion. Did it cause musth, or merely result from it? West reasoned that artificially inducing this syndrome in Tusko with LSD might address these questions.

To ensure that the drug took effect, West gave Tusko an extremely large dose. While 2microgramskilogram of body weight reliably impacted humans, West calculated that elephant needed 100 micrograms per kilogram. Within five minutes of receiving this dose, Tusko fell over and began convulsing. An hour later he passed away.

Drawing on West’s archives, this presentation explores how Tusko became entwined with the politics of drug safety. Histories of psychedelic drugs usually focus on humans and neglect the role that non-human played in constructing the meanings that surrounded these substances Many researchers considered LSD physiologically safe. No humans had died from the drug itself, a fact often emphasized by pro-LSD psychiatrists. West’s study publicly challenged this understanding, and added to the growing concern that LSD was dangerous. In response, pro-LSD therapists argued that West used Tusko “as a platform to trumpet his prejudices” against LSD. After tracing this controversy, I situate West’s study within the framework of “experimental violence” towards animals that occurred, and continues to occur, in scientific research.

Wednesday March 13, 2024, 12:00 p.m. to 1:00  PM, VC 211


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