Psychiatrist’s 1960s LSD Mind-Control Experiments Come Back to Haunt America

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CCHR says new reports on Jack Ruby, who murdered President John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, raises questions about the psychiatrist who assessed Ruby as “insane” while conducting covert LSD experiments for the military and the federal government.

Last month’s U.S. National Archives release of thousands of previously classified documents, collected as part of a U.S. government review into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, has raised questions about a prominent CIA-funded psychiatrist who spent time with Jack Ruby (1911-1967), prior to his trial for the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald.[1] Reportedly, Ruby suffered an acute psychotic break following his time with West. The December 15, 2022 release of the secret documents has resurrected attention to the late Louis Jolyon (“Jolly”) West (1924-1999), a California psychiatrist who was funded by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to conduct LSD experiments in the 1950s-70s. CCHR International, a mental health industry watchdog, said it also raises concerns about the military psychedelic drug research being conducted today.

Ruby shot and killed Oswald on November 24, 1963.[2] In April of 1964, West visited Ruby in his isolation cell in a Dallas jail. According to West’s written assessment, Ruby was “technically insane” and in need of immediate psychiatric hospitalization. “Those are conclusions that puzzlingly no one who had spoken to Jack Ruby previously had reached. Ruby had seemed perfectly sane to the people who knew him. Louis Jolyon West pronounced him crazy,” according to a recent news report. But West was a prominent player in the now infamous MKUltra program in which CIA doctors gave powerful psychiatric drugs to Americans without their knowledge.

The text of Dr. West’s letter on Ruby’s sanity recommended confinement to a mental institution. Hypnosis and intravenous sodium pentothal, a barbiturate, were included among possible techniques to provide further information concerning Ruby’s state of mind.[3]

Author Tom O’Neill exposed West in his must-read illuminating 2019 book Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties, in which he pointed out West was with Ruby alone in his cell and emerged to report Ruby suffered an “acute psychotic break.” “He could never fully explain why he’d decided to kill Oswald,” O’Neill wrote.[4]

In Ruby’s trial, the judge, who had spent many hours in the court observing him “never witnessed anything resembling the behavior West described,” wrote O’Neill. Accusations arose that West had tampered with Ruby, including pharmacologically.[5]

From its inception in 1969, CCHR scrutinized West, largely because of his brainwashing and LSD experiments; a racist program called “the violence initiative;” his use of psychosurgery, and his links to well-known assassins, to evaluate their “mental states.”

A document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveals the CIA set West up in a clandestine laboratory to perform “mind-control” experiments with hypnosis and LSD. A portion of the experiments were exposed in the mid-1970s by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.[6]

Psychiatrist Colin A. Ross, writing in The CIA Doctors: Human Rights Violations by American Psychiatrists, said West was cleared as “Top Secret for his work on MKUltra. West’s numerous connections to the mind control network illustrate how the network is maintained, not through any central conspiracy, but by an interlocking network of academic relationships, grants, conferences, and military appointments.” Their work was of “direct relevance to mind control, non-lethal weapons development, creation of controlled dissociation and the building of Manchurian Candidates”—those who harm their own country because they are under the control or influence of another.[7]

From 1969 to 1989, West served as chair of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, and the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. But his history with the CIA started before this.[8]

As Tom O’Neill and Dan Piepenbring reported, in 1956 West had reported to the CIA that the experiments he’d begun in 1953 using LSD had, at last, come to fruition. West also claimed to be able to replace “true memories” with “false ones” in human beings without their knowledge by administering “new drugs” effective in “speeding the induction of the hypnotic state and in deepening the trance that can be produced in given subjects.”[9]

Other controversial cases West was assigned to included evaluating Sirhan Sirhan, who assassinated Robert F. Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968. West claimed Sirhan was the subject of psychic driving, a mind-altering technique involving hypnosis or paralytic drugs. Psychiatrists often used barbiturates for this.

In 1972, West claimed that inner city riots were tied to genetic and racial factors. He proposed a chemical castration drug and the use of remote monitoring techniques to record bioelectrical changes in the brains of human subjects, which required implanting tiny electrodes into the brains of Blacks and Hispanics suspected of violent behavior.[10] Public outrage stopped the project.

CCHR says the renaissance in LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs research today should raise an alarm. Psychedelics are on a fast track to becoming a commonly accepted “chemical treatment.” The Food and Drug Administration has officially given out three breakthrough therapy designations to three different companies studying either psilocybin or Ecstasy.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a branch of the Department of Defense has provided a $27 million grant to a North Carolina university to develop psychedelic-based drugs.

CCHR says that the mainstream use of LSD in psychiatric practice should not be allowed to proceed and that psychiatrists of West’s ilk should never again be permitted to conduct mind-control drug and psychedelic research on the country’s citizenry.

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[1] “Here’s what a source said about the CIA and JFK’s assassination,” Fox News, 15 Dec. 2022,


[3] Ibid.

[4] Tom O’Neill. Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties, (Little, Brown & Co. New York, June 2019), p. 343

[5] Ibid., pp. 380-381




[9] Tom O’Neill and Dan Piepenbring, “Inside the Archive of an LSD Researcher With Ties to the CIA’s MKUltra Mind Control Project,” The Intercept, 24 Nov.2019,

[10] Peter Schrag, Mind Control, (Pantheon Books, New York, 1978), pp. 1-7