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Louis Jolyon West
Born 1924
Brooklyn, New York
Died Template:Death date
Los Angeles, California
Occupation Psychiatrist

Louis Jolyon ("Jolly") West (1924 in Brooklyn, New York - January 2, 1999 in Los Angeles) was an American psychiatrist, human rights activist and expert on brainwashing, mind control, torture, substance abuse, post traumatic stress disorder and violence[citation needed].

Early life

Louis "Jolly" West was born in Brooklyn to immigrant Russian Jewish parents and grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. His family was poor, but he was determined to get a good education. Shortly after he had entered University of Wisconsin–Madison, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. In the Army Specialized Training Program he studied at the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, from which he graduated in 1948.


While West was on his internship at the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic, he discussed with J.A. Winter the recently published book Dianetics and concluded that the "auditing" described in Hubbard's book used hypnosis. Winter made him known to L. Ron Hubbard once, but West's comment was: "Winter introduced West to Hubbard on one occasion but West said: "I guess I didn't find the man very memorable. I was more interested in the book which described the auditing technique in which they had preclears—or prereleases if just beginners—count backwards from seven to zero repeatedly until they went into a trance, although Hubbard denied it was hypnosis." West followed the activities of Scientology from that time on and has openly said and written that he thought the organization dangerous.

He transferred to the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps, and five years later he was appointed Chief of Psychiatry Service at the Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. In this position he studied U.S. pilots and veterans after they had experienced torture and brainwashing and been forced to give false confessions as prisoners in the Korean War. He was ever since interested in the subject of brainwashing. He served as an expert witness in the case of Patricia Hearst.

One of the more unusual incidents of West's career came in August 1962, when he and two co-workers attempted to investigate the phenomenon of musth by dosing Tusko, a bull elephant at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Oklahoma City, with LSD. They expected that the drug would trigger a state similar to musth; instead, the animal began to have seizures 5 minutes after LSD administration. Beginning twenty minutes after the LSD, West and his colleagues decided to administer the antipsychotic promazine hydrochloride and a total of 2800 mg was injected over 11 minutes. This large promazine dose was not effective and may even have contributed to the animal's death, which occurred an hour and 40 minutes after the LSD was given.[1]. Later, many had theories about why Tusko had died. One prominent theory was that West and his colleagues had made the mistake of scaling up the dose in proportion to the animal's body weight, rather than its brain weight, and without considering other factors, such as its metabolic rate.[2][3]. Another theory was that while the LSD had caused Tusko distress, it was the drugs administered in an attempt to revive him that actually caused death. Attempting to prove that the LSD alone had not been the cause of death, Ronald K. Siegel of UCLA repeated a variant of West's experiment on two elephants; he administered to two elephants equivalent doses (in milligrams per kilogram) to that which had been given to Tusko, mixing the LSD in their drinking water rather than directly injecting it as had been done with Tusko. Neither elephant expired or exhibited any great distress, although both behaved strangely for a number of hours.[4]

At the age of 29 he was appointed professor and Head of the Department of Psychiatry, Neurology and Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine, the youngest man to have held a chairmanship in psychiatry in the United States so far.

1969 he was appointed as head of department and director of the Neuropsychiatry Institute at UCLA. His research covered many fields: alcoholism, hallucinary drugs, sleep deprivation, violent behavior, the hippie culture and cults.

Social Control

In Hallucinations: Behavior, Experience, and Theory, West and Ronald K. Siegel explain how drug prohibition can be used for selective social control:

The role of drugs in the exercise of political control is also coming under increasing discussion. Control can be through prohibition or supply. The total or even partial prohibition of drugs gives the government considerable leverage for other types of control. An example would be the selective application of drug laws… against selected components of the population such as members of certain minority groups or political organizations[5]

Conflict with Scientologists

According to West, the problems started after he published a textbook in 1980, in which he called Scientology a cult.[6]

On one American Psychiatric Association panel on cults, where every speaker had received a long letter threatening a lawsuit if Scientology were mentioned, no one mentioned Scientology except West, who was the last speaker: "I read parts of the letter to the 1,000-plus psychiatrists and then told any Scientologists in the crowd to pay attention. I said I would like to advise my colleagues that I consider Scientology a cult and L. Ron Hubbard a quack and a fake. I wasn't about to let them intimidate me." (Psychiatric Times, 1991)

Scientology's Freedom Magazine interpreted anti-apartheid trips to South Africa as pro-apartheid (Psychiatric Times, 1991).[citation needed]

Civil rights activist

West was also a civil rights activist. He was the first white psychiatrist who testified for black prisoners in South Africa during the attempt to end apartheid. He was a member of the White House Conference on Civil Rights in 1966.


Aged 74, Dr. West died at his home in West Los Angeles. Dr. West was suffering from an incurable tumor, and his son, John West, helped him to commit suicide using prescription medication. John later wrote a book on the experience, "The Last Goodnights: Assisting My Parents With Their Suicides."[7]




  1. West, L.J., Pierce, C.M., & Thomas, W.D. (1962)Lysergic acid diethylamide: Its effects on a male Asiatic elephant. Science 138: 1100-1103
  2. Harwood, P.D. (1963) Therapeutic dosage in small and large mammals. Science 139: 684-685
  3. Schmidt-Nielsen, K. (1972) How Animals Work. pp.86-89. Cambridge University Press
  4. Siegel RK. "LSD-induced effects in elephants: Comparisons with musth behavior." Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society. 1984;22(1):53-56.
  5. Ronald K. Siegel; Louis Jolyon West (1975). Hallucinations: Behavior, Experience, and Theory. ISBN 9781135167264.
  6. Welkos, Robert W.; Sappell, Joel (1990-06-29). "On the Offensive Against an Array of Suspected Foes". Los Angeles Times.,0,5646473.story. Retrieved 2007-11-05.
  7. West, John (2009-02-04). "Excerpt: 'The Last Goodnights'". Good Morning America. ABC News. Retrieved 2010-03-18.

Additional sources

  • Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain, Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, The Sixties, and Beyond. New York: Grove Press, 1992.
  • Siegel, R. K. (1984). LSD-induced effects in elephants: Comparisons with musth behavior. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 22(1), 53-56.

See also


fr:Louis Jolyon West

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