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The Edgewood experiments took place from approximately 1952-1974 at the Bio Medical Laboratory, which is now known as the U. S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense. The volunteer would spend the weekend on-site. They would perform tests and procedures (math, navigation, following orders, memory and interview) while sober. The volunteer would then be dosed by a scientist and perform the same tests. These tests occurred in the building/hospital under the care of doctors and nurses. At times the tests would be taken outside to study the effects while in the field. For example the volunteer would have to guard a check point while under the influence to see what effects certain drugs had on the patient.
A pamphlet produced by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Health Effects from Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Weapons (Oct. 2003), discusses the Edgewood Arsenal Experiments in some detail:
Renewed interest led to renewed human testing by the Department of Defense (DoD), although ultimately on a much smaller scale. Thus, between 1950 and 1975, about 6,720 soldiers took part in experiments involving exposures to 254 different chemicals, conducted at U.S. Army Laboratories at Edgewood Arsenal, MD (NRC 1982, NRC 1984, NAS 1993). Congressional hearings into these experiments in 1974 and 1975 resulted in disclosures, notification of subjects as to the nature of their chemical exposures, and ultimately to compensation for a few families of subjects who had died during the experiments (NAS 3).
These experiments were conducted primarily to learn how various agents would affect humans (NRC 1982). Other agencies including the CIA and the Special Operations Division of the Department of the Army were also reportedly involved in these studies (NAS 1993). Only a small number of all the experiments done during this period involved mustard agents or Lewisite. Records indicate that between 1955 and 1965, of the 6,720 soldiers tested, only 147 human subjects underwent exposure to mustard agent at Edgewood (NRC 1982).
According to the 1984 NRC review, human experiments at DoD’s Edgewood Arsenal involved about 1,500 subjects who were experimentally exposed to irritant and blister agents including:
- lachrymatory agents, e.g., CN;
- riot control agents, e.g., CS;
- chloropicrin (PS);
- Diphenylaminochlorarsine (DM, Adamsite);
- other ocular and respiratory irritants; and
For example, from 1958 to 1973 at least 1,366 human subjects underwent experimental exposure specifically with the riot control agent CS at Edgewood Arsenal (NRC 1984). Of those involved in the experiments:
- 1,073 Subjects were exposed to aerosolized CS;
- 180 Subjects were exposed dermally;
- 82 subjects had both skin applications and aerosol exposures;
- 31 subjects experienced ocular exposure via direct CS application to their eyes.
Most of these experiments involved tests of protective equipment and of subjects’ ability to perform military tasks during exposure.
The report cites three earlier studies for its data, namely;
- Veterans at Risk: Health Effects of Mustard Gas and Lewisite
- Possible Long-Term Health Effects of Short-Term Exposure to Chemical Agents, Volume 1, Anticholinesterases, and Anticholinergics. (1982). Commission on Life Sciences. The National Academies Press
- Possible Long-Term Health Effects of Short-Term Exposure To Chemical Agents, Volume 2: Cholinesterase Reactivators, Psychochemicals and Irritants and Vesicants (1984) Commission on Life Sciences. The National Academies Press.
The Veterans Affairs pamphlet, written to aid government clinicians in understanding the presence of various symptoms in presenting patients at their clinics and hospitals, also discusses the use of psychoactive drugs on human subjects:
About 260 subjects were experimentally exposed to various psychochemicals including phencyclidine (PCP), and 10 related synthetic analogs of the active ingredient of cannabis (NRC 1984). The NRC report also mentions human experiments involving exposure of 741 soldiers to LSD (NRC 1984).
The Vanderbilt University Television News Archive has two videos about the experiments, both from a "July 17, 1975 NBC Evening News segment". In one, NBC newsman John Chancellor reports on how Norman Augustine, then-acting Secretary of Army, ordered a probe of Army use of LSD in soldier and civilian experiments. In a separate piece, by reporter Tom Pettit, Major General Lloyd Fellenz, from Edgewood Arsenal, explains how the experiments there were about searching for humane weapons, adding that the use of LSD was unacceptable.
A Washington Post article, dated July 23, 1975, by Bill Richards ("6,940 Took Drugs") reported that a top civilian drug researcher for the Army said a total of 6,940 servicemen had been involved in Army chemical and drug experiments, and that, furthermore, the tests were proceeding at Edgewood Arsenal as of the date of the article. A Government Accounting Office May 2004 report, Chemical and Biological Defense (p. 24), states that there even more victims of the experimental program, a number that may never be completely known:
We also reported that the Army Chemical Corps conducted a classified medical research program for developing incapacitating agents. This program involved testing nerve agents, nerve agent antidotes, psycho chemicals, and irritants. The chemicals were given to volunteer service members at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland; Dugway Proving Ground, Utah; and Forts Benning, Bragg, and McClellan. In total, Army documents identified 7,120 Army and Air Force personnel who participated in these tests.15 Further, GAO concluded that precise information on the scope and the magnitude of tests involving human subjects was not available, and the exact number of human subjects might never be known.
GAO explains at the outset of their report the rationale for the study:
In the 1962-74 time period, the Department of Defense (DOD) conducted a classified chemical and biological warfare test program —- Project 112 —- that might have exposed service members and civilian personnel to chemical or biological agents. In 2000 the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began obtaining information from DOD about the program. Concerned that veterans and others might have health problems from exposure during Project 112 and similar DOD tests, Congress required DOD in the 2003 Defense Authorization Act to identify Project 112 tests and personnel potentially exposed—service members and the number of civilian personnel—and other chemical and biological tests that might have exposed service members.
Finally, it appears there were similar experiments conducted at the UK Ministry of Defence establishment at Porton Down, Wiltshire, into at least the 1970s. See the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives at King's College London.