Louis Jolyon West

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Louis Jolyon West
Born (1924-10-06)October 6, 1924
Brooklyn, New York
Died January 2, 1999(1999-01-02)
Los Angeles, California
Occupation Psychiatrist

Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West (October 6, 1924, in Brooklyn, New York – January 2, 1999, in Los Angeles, California) was an American psychiatrist whose work focused particularly on cases where subjects were "taken to the limits of human experience". He performed Jack Ruby's psychiatric evaluation, and he was in charge of UCLA's department of psychiatry and the Neuropsychiatric Institute for 20 years. He was also active in anti-death penalty activism.[1]

LSD related death of an elephant

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.[2] 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.[3][4] 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.[5]

Project MKUltra

West did his psychiatry residency at Cornell, an MKUltra institution and site of the Human Ecology Foundation. He later became a subcontractor for MKUltra subproject 43, a $20,800 grant by the CIA while he was chairman of the department of Psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma. The proposal submitted by West was titled "Psychophysiological Studies of Hypnosis and Suggestability” with an accompanying document titled “Studies of Dissociative States".[6]

Conflict with Scientologists

According to West, problems started after he contributed to a textbook in 1980, in which he called Scientology a cult.[7]

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."[8]


In 1999, West died at his home in Los Angeles at age 74. His family said the cause of death was metastatic cancer.[1] In 2009, West's son John wrote a book, "The Last Goodnights: Assisting My Parents With Their Suicides", in which he said he helped West commit suicide using prescription medication.[9]


  • West, L. J. (August 1994). "Pseudo-Identity and the Treatment of Personality Change in Victims of Captivity and Cults". In Lynn, Steven Jay; Rhue, Judith W. (eds.). Dissociation : clinical and theoretical perspectives. New York: Guilford Press. ISBN 978-0898621860.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Coombs, Robert H.; West, Louis Jolyon, eds. (April 1991). Drug testing : issues and options. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195054149.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • West, Louis Jolyn (October 1984). Alcoholism and related problems : issues for the American public (American Assembly Series ed.). Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall Trade. ISBN 978-0130214867.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • West, L. J.; Singer, M. T. (1980). "Cults, Quacks and Non-professional Psychotherapies". In Kaplan, H.; Sadock, B. (eds.). Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins. pp. 3245–3258.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Siegel, R.K.; West, L.J., eds. (October 1975). Hallucinations : behavior, experience, and theory. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc. ISBN 978-0471790969.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • West, L. J.; Pierce, C. M.; Thomas, W. D. (1962). "Lysergic acid diethylamide: Its effect on a male asiatic elephant". Science. 138: 1100–1103. doi:10.1126/science.138.3545.1100.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Farber, I.E. (1957). "Brainwashing, Conditioning and DDD (debility, Dependency, and Dread)". Sociometry. Brainwashing, Conditioning and DDD. 6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hilts, Philip J. (9 January 1999). "Louis J. West, 74, Psychiatrist Who Studied Extremes, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. West, L.J., Pierce, C.M., & Thomas, W.D. (1962)Lysergic acid diethylamide: Its effects on a male Asiatic elephant. Science 138: 1100-1103
  3. Harwood, P.D. (1963) Therapeutic dosage in small and large mammals. Science 139: 684-685
  4. Schmidt-Nielsen, K. (1972) How Animals Work. pp.86-89. Cambridge University Press
  5. Siegel RK. "LSD-induced effects in elephants: Comparisons with musth behavior." Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society. 1984;22(1):53-56.
  6. Ross, Colin A. (2006). The C.I.A. doctors : human rights violations by American psychiatrists. Richardson, TX: Manitou Communications. ISBN 978-0976550808.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Welkos, Robert W.; Sappell, Joel (1990-06-29). "On the Offensive Against an Array of Suspected Foes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2007-11-05.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Prozac Frees Ex-Scientology Leader from Depression". The Psychiatric Times. CME, Inc. VIII (6): 28. June 1991. Retrieved April 28, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. West, John (2009-02-04). "Excerpt: 'The Last Goodnights'". Good Morning America. ABC News. Retrieved 2010-03-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>