The 1968 comedy-drama “Wild in the Streets" is a cult classic in part because of a scene where young people influence a vote in the U.S. Congress by spiking the Washington, D.C. water supply with LSD. While such an act of terrorism and anarchy has been rumored and threatened by some groups, there’s no evidence it has ever happened … until now. Two retired atomic scientists claim they secretly gave the psychedelic drug MDMA (Ecstasy) to Soviet scientists and military personnel before they negotiated with US counterparts officials, and their drug-induced empathy and cross-cultural understanding helped in the nuclear peace process which ended the Cold War. Wait … what?
“In 1985, she was working as a consultant on space and missile defense issues in Washington D.C. but was also meeting with like-minded people at the Esalen Institute, the California-based nonprofit and coastal retreat that has been a countercultural hub for bringing together academics, scientists, policymakers, and advocates for the use of psychedelics.”
‘She’ is Carol Rosin, who in 1983 founded the Institute for Security and Cooperation in Outer Space, eventually worked for the aerospace manufacturing company Fairchild Industries, and was at Timothy Leary’s bedside when he died. According to a new article in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), met Rosin at the Esalen Institute in 1985. The 2018 book, “How to Change Your Mind” by Michael Pollan, briefly hints about Doblin and the possible MDMA/Soviet influence, so Robert K. Elder of the Bulletin recently contacted him for more information. Doblin instead put him in touch with Carol Rosin.
“When I heard from you and then Rick, I thought, ‘Now is the time to tell the truth about this,’ ” Rosin says. “I feel a sense of urgency about this now that we’re on the edge of extinction from a myriad of causes.”
MDMA was days away from being made illegal in the U.S. when Rosin claims she took a suitcase full of the drug to a friend in Moscow who helped bottle and distribute the tablets of Ecstasy to their friends, who were scientists and defense figures. She claims their goal was “peace, love and healing—and spreading that around the world.” Did MDMA really bring peace, love and healing to the Cold War negotiations?
David Kaiser, author of “How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival,” told The Bulletin he’s skeptical. So is Michael Pollan, although he thinks it’s a good idea for future negotiations.
“The potential of MDMA to mediate conflict seems to me something well worth researching. We know that the drug opens a space in which people can discuss difficult issues without being defensive, and that it promotes an almost instantaneous bond of trust between people. So I don’t think it’s crazy at all, though admittedly untested in the context of arms negotiations or Mideast peace talks. It’s interesting to think what sort of experiment could test these ideas.”
Did Carol Rosin and Rick Doblin really pull a “Wild in the Streets” in Moscow in 1985 – giving Ecstasy to nuclear negotiators who mellowed out and ended the Cold War? We may never know for certain. Could giving future negotiators and even world leaders psychedelic drugs bring the world peace they claim to be seeking? Good luck with that one. Are there any lessons to learn from “Wild in the Streets”? Well, it ends with young people in control of the U.S., computers in charge of business, grain being supplied for free to Third World nations, the end of the FBI and Secret Service, and the U.S. becoming "the most truly hedonistic society the world has ever known." Not bad, right?
There’s just one more thing. As the young people took over, the really young watched them and said, “We're gonna put everybody over 10 out of business."
Be careful what you wish for.