Friday, August 3, 1962: Elephant on LSD

In an effort to simulate the periodic aggressive behavior shown by male elephants, researchers inject LSD into Tusko, an elephant at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Oklahoma City. Five minutes after the injection, Tusko falls onto his side and goes into a seizure-like state. Despite (or possibly because of) subsequent injections of drugs to counteract the LSD reaction, Tusko dies, less than 2 hours after the initial dosage.

From an August 4 story by the Associated Press:
Medical research scientists gave Tusko, a 7,000-pound male elephant in the Oklahoma City zoo, an injection of an experimental drug used to induce temporary mental illness. Five minutes later, Tusko collapsed and died. Researchers were surprised, because the dosage given the 10-year-old animal Friday was less powerful than the contents of an aspirin tablet. Dr. L.J. West, professor of psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma, had taken a dose of the drug Thursday. West said in humans, the drug, lysergic acid diethylamide, produces an illness similar to schizophrenia. Psychiatrists seeking a cure for mental illness often take it for a self-study of the condition. West said the elephant's brain is similar to a human's but larger, making study easier. But West said Tusko's death may have been a valuable contribution to research. Because of his death, West said his department would send notices to research centers warning against giving overdoses to humans.

(Image from Medical Tribune weekly newspaper, September 3, 1962)

* "Lysergic acid diethylamide: Its effects on a male Asiatic elephant" (Science magazine, December 7, 1962): @
* Summary from www.erowid.org: @
* "A dose of madness" (Guardian newspaper, August 2002): @
* More about elephant musth: @ (www.theelephantcharter.info) and @ (www.upali.ch)
* Obituaries of Louis Jolyon West: @ (New York Times) and @ (Los Angeles Times)
* "To scale or not to scale: The principles of dose extrapolation" (British Journal of Pharmacology, 2009): @

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