A Dose of Madness: Tusko Takes a Trip Tusko was "the prize of Oklahoma City Zoo", who lead a somewhat idyllic life, being cared for by his keepers and starred at by visitors to the zoo. That was until a fateful day in 1962, when researchers from the University of Oklahoma came to see Tusko, in order to inject him with a massive dose of LSD. In what has become renowned as one of the weirdest experiments ever carried out by a bunch of mad scientists in history. And let's be fair, there have been some freaky and bizarre experiments over the years. But the "elephant on acid" experiment, as sad and deplorable as it is, has attained a comic cult status for strangeness.A team lead by Dr Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West and two colleagues, arrived at the zoo on Friday, August 3rd 1962, under the pretext of testing the psychological effects of LSD, and in particular whether it induced the effect called "musth". A heightened state of testosterone production and sexual aggression that is common to bull elephants.LSD was still an experimental drug, it hadn't hit the streets as a recreational drug at the time. They injected Tusko (who was 3000kg) with 297mg of LSD, some 3000 times the amount it would take for a human to have a trip. In fact as one of the most potent drugs in pharmacology, it takes very little for a human to hallucinate on LSD. As little as tens of micrograms would be enough to cause a "trip" in an average human. So they gave Tusko an unbelievably massive dose even for an elephant. Apparently their rational being they didn't want to give him too little!After being injected in the rear, Tusko unsurprisingly trumpeted loudly. He ran around his enclosure for a a few minutes, started to lose control of his limbs, trumpted one last time, fell over, deficated, and started to twitching. His limbs stiffened, his pupils dilated and rolled in the back of his head. It looked like he was having seizures, as his tongue turned blue (which he then bit), and his breathing became laboured. The researchers realised that something may well be wrong.They decided to attempt to counteract the effects of the LSD by administering an anti-psychotic drug, promazine hydrochloride, a drug similar to Thorazine. Again at a high dose of 2800mg. It relieved the seizures, but after over an hour Tusko was still not responding. The researchers took further action by injecting Tusko with an specified amount of the barbiturate, pentobarbital sodium, with no effect. Within minutes, and an hour and forty minutes after the LSD had first been administered, Tusko was dead.The researchers immediately realised they were in big trouble, as they had killed the beloved elephant of Oklahoma City Zoo, and soon the press would be aware of it. It's hard to hide the fact that you have just killed an elephant with an injection of LSD. The papers had a field day with it, printing headlines like "Fatal Research: Drug Kills Elephant Guinea Pig!", "Elephant Dies From New Drug" and "Shot Of Drug Kills Tusko". The latter headline was from the local newspaper the Daily Oklahoman, and featured (as can be seen above) a photo of Dr. West bending over the body of Tusko. The press made all kinds of unsubstantiated claims about the experiment, the dose that Tusko was given, even that West himself was on acid at the time.While the experiment was quoted as evidence of LSD's toxicity, it seems likely that the mixture of the other drugs that Tusko was given killed him, not the acid alone. If the researchers had genuinely used a human model to determine the dose of LSD for the elephant, the dose would be around 0.2 mg (200 micrograms), which is enough to cause a "trip". Based on this, the calculated dose for an elephant of Tusko's size (3000 kg) would be about 9mg of LSD, not the more than 30 times 297mg the researchers shot in him. If the dosage had been chosen by metabolic rate, the amount would have been around 3.9mg and if based on brain size (elephants have brains about 3 times the size of human brains) only 0.64mg. Lending credence to the madness of the original experiment, in 1984 psychologist Dr. Ronald K. Siegel repeated the experiment with two elephants, using a measured dose of LSD only and not the cocktail of drugs Tusko was given. Both the elephants survived, and came away enlightened about the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Dr. Siegel as fed an elephant alcohol, the elephant became belligerent, wanted to fight random strangers and woke-up in a strange lady elephants bed and had gone a got itself a tattoo. The conclusion being that LSD is a safer drug and more socially constructive than alcohol for elephants!