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Article: Trippin’ Grunts

Trippin’ Grunts

Trippin’ Grunts


Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are author’s alone and do not represent the opinions of the DOD or USAF.


Apparently, Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children have a new problem. Grunts tripping. Not on an obstacle course or on a ruck, but on Acid. That’s right. Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD). Albert Hoffman’s little tickets to paradise.  There is so much of a problem in the 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, (because of course that’s where this happened) that the USMC had to go out of its way to uncover the scope of the issue. There aren’t many effective ways to test for LSD use due to its short half-life, and tests must be specialized, targeted, and highly sensitive. That alone speaks to the scope of the issue as USMC leadership perceives it. What’s interesting is the degree to which this could be indicative of a greater mental health problem in the Corps and in the US military as a whole. The USMC currently leads all the other services in suicide rates. Semper Fi. It’s not for a lack of competition across the DoD, and in the American population in general suicide rates are higher than they have ever been. 2020 has been a fucked-up year. Maybe the problem isn’t that grunts are doing Acid, but rather that Acid use is up because those grunts don’t have any other means of addressing the mental health crises they are experiencing in the middle of a global pandemic. There is after all a proud tradition of self-medication in the US military, at least this time around some enterprising young chemist is providing these Marines with effective psychopharmacology.  


Imagine we had something as effective as penicillin is. But instead of keeping our bodies free from bacterial infection, it treated and sanitized our mental wounds? Would you take it? If you’ve ever taken any psychedelic drug recreationally, odds are you already have. Modern psychopharmacology typically treats symptoms. If you’re depressed here’s a pill that will reduce the amount of serotonin your brain can process, no matter why it’s making all of that extra serotonin in the first place. Can’t focus? Take this stimulant. Can’t sleep, we’ve got something for that too. But we aren’t going to treat the root cause of these issues, just the symptoms they present. Recently that trend is changing. There is a brave new world of scientists, psychiatrists, and of course venture capitalists, looking to bring psychedelic-based treatments into the hands of doctors treating patients suffering from mental health disorders. 


There is a really fascinating history between psychiatry, psychedelics, and the military. LSD used to be fully legal—there were experiments in the 50s and 60s. The military came on the scene in the 60s and working with the CIA came up with the MK-Ultra experiments. Just in case you’re wondering what these experiments were like, you can bet your last can of dip on a field-ex they involved Nazis and a breathtaking lack of concern for human agency. These experiments involved giving a whole lot of people a whole lot of acid. The programs were a direct response to the perceived threat of Soviet “psychoenergic experiments” and they were trying to test the feasibility of remote viewing and other strategically applicable esoteric mental powers that LSD was thought to increase. The goals were to expand the minds of soldiers in an operational way. The program certainly achieved half its goal, but not in the way the military-industrial complex had hoped. Experiments carried out by the U.S. Army found that the ingestion of LSD led to soldiers being unwilling to engage in combat, feeling a sense of connection  with their opponents and seeking peaceful solutions by working together with their supposed enemies.  One technician working at a CIA lab stole several pounds of pure LSD, and the cultural revolution known as the summer of love happened. The moral panic that ensued from people loving each other —and their lives (heaven forbid) led to the current status of LSD and psychedelics in general as substances with “no known medical use” according to the DEA. 


Since then, there have been stops and starts in trying to revitalize and legitimize the use of psychedelics for the treatment of mental health conditions. What’s fascinating is that scientists know that they work, oftentimes, leaps and bounds better than any synthetic compounds. In fact, most of the synthetic MAO-Is and SSRIs your psychiatrist is likely to prescribe are derived from experiments observing the effects of LSD on neurochemistry in the 50’s and 60’s. What modern science has come up with is close, but the side effects of these targeted psychopharmaceuticals aren’t great. If you have to choose between taking something that works for your mental health, 10 times out of 10 you’re going for the one that doesn’t stop your dick from working.


What a damn shame it is—that the people suffering from debilitating disease can’t get treatment, not because of any lack of efficacy or supply, and not because the conditions cannot be treated, but rather because there are laws governing an individual’s ability to ingest a substance voluntarily. A substance that has almost no lasting side effects other than increasing and changing one’s perception of their lives and the world around them. There is the small issue of taking way too much of anything and experiencing negative effects but then again, drinking too much water can kill you. The government is essentially legislating our rights to expand our minds. Which admittedly is a thing government throughout history has been known to do.


The military follows the law, both civilian and the UCMJ because “we are held to a higher standard.” And that’s fair enough to say, but that standard is killing us. We can sit around and say people who are under arms shouldn’t take hallucinogens, and that’s absolutely reasonable. But walk in to any PX on a Friday after formation and you are going to see a lot of people buying one of the several self-medicating substances on offer. We don’t have a problem with people drinking, which affects judgment and reason, so long as they don’t do some crazy shit, or we can at least keep it quiet. So why do we have a problem with them tripping? If anything, it might keep them from doing something crazy. Maybe I’m wrong, but we all know mental health care in the military is a joke. If there’s a solution to that, found by those suffering, that is actually effective maybe the DoD should look into that instead of NJPing a group of dudes struggling to cope in a global pandemic, and maybe anything is better than the hours of CBTs we’ll all inevitably have to do about both mental health and substance abuse.

By Greg Brook

January 4, 2021 



U.S. 2nd Armored Division soldiers look down into a fighting hole at a slain German soldier armed with two Panzerfaust rocket launchers. Germany, 1945. Photo colorized by Julius Jääskeläinen.

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