cover image Tripped: Nazi Germany, the CIA, and the Dawn of the Psychedelic Age

Tripped: Nazi Germany, the CIA, and the Dawn of the Psychedelic Age

Norman Ohler. Mariner, $29.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-358-64650-1

Bestseller Ohler follows up Blitzed, his exploration of Nazi drug use, with a fleet-footed and propulsive account of how the U.S. government picked up where the Nazis left off when it came to drugs. Concisely recapping the mid-century birth of psychedelics, he shows that the Nazis’ approach to drugs—punitive regulation coupled with extensive utilization for military purposes—was adopted by the U.S. after WWII. (Juicing up the troops was the Nazi goal, achieved via amphetamines; interrogation and mind control became the American military aims for LSD.) So too the Nazi penchant for unethical drug testing was taken up by the U.S.—the sordid history of MKULTRA is elegantly laid out, including a Greenwich Village CIA safe house where beatniks unwittingly dosed with LSD were recorded and observed. Ohler laments this history while tracking it (mainly through scientists and officials who over time had a foot in both the Nazi and U.S. government orbit), pointing to the promising medicinal uses of LSD (especially for Alzheimer’s, from which his mother suffers) that were quashed by American officials, who imagined the drug to be a powerful weapon. (LSD was powerful, but in a different way, according to Ohler, who argues the 1960s’ cultural upheaval stemmed from widespread psychedelics use; he even insinuates that JFK’s 1963 speech calling for world peace resulted from an acid trip.) Brilliantly sifting a massive history for its ideological through lines, this is a must-read. (Apr.)