A British study in which soldiers were dosed with LSD during wartime seems to think so.
These days, no one's debating whether psychedelics like LSD have a positive effect on the person who takes them. But what about how the people who take them affect society? One (admittedly very vintage) study concluded that a large body of hallucinogen-enlighted individuals might actually reduce the incidence of war and change culture notions of international conflict.
We'll be the first to admit that's some hippie-flavored shit. It's a very meta, "I've been smoking weed at the Rainbow Gathering for days" result coming from the usually-frigid scientific arena. But even our hardened hearts can't admit that psychedelics might be part of a peace solution.
The study originally aimed to test and develop chemical warfare meant render their enemies incapacitated. At the time, LSD was a great candidate for the job due to its capacity to make trees melt. But in its ability incapacitate, researchers also found that it dismantled animosity and increased feelings of peace and well-being.
“That is really what we’re aiming for, and we’re doing it carefully,” said Rick Doblin, the executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies about the British study. “After all this cultural turmoil, the split between the military and the psychedelic community, it would really be something if we could come together and use some of these drugs to help people.”
In 1963, this crew of British soldiers were given LSD as part of a morning drink while in the field. As you can see in the video, LSD and war don't exactly fly mano a mano, and the soldiers, who were trained in ground combat, became docile and giddy, unable to to carry out their orders.
“Fifty minutes after taking the drug, radio communication had become difficult, if not impossible. But the men are still capable of sustained physical effort; however, constructive action was still attempted by those retaining a sense of responsibility despite their physical symptoms. But one hour and ten minutes after taking the drug, with one man climbing a tree to feed the birds, the troop commander gave up, admitting that he could no longer control himself or his men. He himself then relapsed into laughter," reported researchers.
Yeah … duh. It's not surprising in itself to see soldiers, or anyone for that matter, react that way to LSD. But it brings up an interesting question about human nature: are we meant to go to war? Or do we do it out of brainwash or necessity? Based on the results of the experiment, it would seem like a drug like LSD would bring out one's primal instincts, but those happened to be bird feedng and giggling, not murdering and marching.
Often, the influence of LSD makes us question they things are on a broad level. Not only does it help us explore our own feelings and motivations, it often makes us reconsider how we interact with other nations, realize how similar different groups of people are at the core, brings on feelings of peace, and helps innovate creative solutions to conflict.
Through media propaganda and fear mongering we’ve been convinced that war is normal. And it is, historically speaking. Throughout time, people have always been convinced on a mass scale that people in other areas of the world want to kill mass amounts of other people in other areas of the world, and this creates fear and hate. People see enemies everywhere; including the people most proximal to them — just look at the racial wars happening in the US right now. Of course, the people who propagate war and conflict have an interest in perpetuating mass violence, be it a thirst for power, resources or revenge. They don't want to deprogram themselves into peace.
But if they did, would acid not be a pretty damn good way to do it? The British study seems to think so. In the proper setting, with the right intention and guidance, LSD and other psychedelics could have an immense impact on both peace and the emotional and interpersonal causalities of war.
To be clear, we're not saying that a neon trip on LSD or other hallucinogens would fix that. War and its effects are deeply complicated matters that can never be simplified by the mere administration of blotter paper on the tongues of soldiers. In fact, for some people, the use of hallucinogens might worsen their own conditions. Bad trips aren't uncommon, and can have profoundly negative lasting effects. But then again, so can legal prescription drugs. SSRIs like Prozac and Zoloft are legal, yet have been proven over and over to increase suicidal thoughts in people who take them, sometimes leading to actual completion of the act. Any outside substance brought into the body is bound to have varying beneficial and costly effects.
For some of us, we already feel peaceful and uninterested in slaughtering people in the name of a directive given from a high-level government operative. But other people need a chemical push to see that the conflicts that drive war are needless and reconcilable.
There's even therapeutic potential for soldiers suffering from PTSD and other combat-based anxieties. A wide body of research has shown that psychedelics like psilocybin, LSD and MDMA can combat anxiety and depression. LSD in particular has been shown to alter people's perspectives on traumatic events and thoughts of death. And with 22 American veterans a day committing suicide, it seems like some help, even if it's from a scheduled substance, might be better than none.
Long story short, why kill people and spread hate when you could feed birds and have imaginary orgies with forest fairies? That's something we ask ourselves every day in the shower.