The government tested the effects of LSD on unwitting US and Canadian citizens.
Under the code name "MKUltra," the US government ran a human-research operation within the CIA's Scientific Research Division. Researchers tested the effects of hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, torture, and, most memorably, LSD, on US and Canadian citizens. Most had no idea.
To conduct these experiments, the CIA paid prisons, hospitals, and other institutions to keep quiet. The department even enticed heroin addicts to participate by offering them heroin, according to documents from a joint hearing to subcommittees of Congress, where then-Sen. Ted Kennedy, chairman of Health and Scientific Research subcommittee, spoke.
That day, he regaled Congress with "chilling testimony." Over 30 universities became involved in various studies. Notably, many lacked oversight by medical or scientific professionals. At least one participant, Frank Olsen, died, reportedly from suicide after unknowingly ingesting LSD.
In January 1973, the CIA's then director, Richard Helms, ordered the destruction of all documents pertaining to MKUltra. When Congress looked into the matter, no one, not even Helms, could "remember" details. Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, more documents were located, but the full timeline remains incomplete. Business Insider
More than 100 million Americans received a polio vaccine contaminated with a potentially cancer-causing virus.
From 1954 to 1961, simian virus 40 (SV40) somehow showed up in polio vaccines, according to the American Journal of Cancer. Researchers estimate 98 million people in the US, and even more worldwide, received contaminated inoculations.
Jonas Salk, creator of the inactivated-polio vaccine, used cells from rhesus monkeys infected with SV40, according to president of the National Vaccine Information Center Barbara Fisher, who testified before the Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness in the US House of Representatives on this matter in 2003, after researching the situation for 10 years. MORE
The US Public Health Service lied about treating black men with syphilis for more than 40 years.
In 1932, the Public Health Service collaborated with the Tuskegee Institute to record the history of syphilis in the black male community, hoping to justify a treatment program.
Called the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, the study initially included 600 black men — 399 with the disease and 201 without. While the men were told they would receive treatment, however, the researchers never provided adequate treatment for the disease. Even when penicillin became the preferred and available treatment for syphilis, researchers kept their subjects in the dark. MORE
The US Department of the Treasury poisoned alcohol during Prohibition — and people died.
The 18th Amendment, which took effect in January 1920, banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol — but not consumption. Despite the government's efforts, alcoholism actually skyrocketed during the era.
To keep up with America's thirst, bootleggers not only created their own alcohol but also stole industrial versions, rendered undrinkable by the inclusion of certain chemicals (namely methyl alcohol). Liquor syndicates then employed chemists to "re-nature" the alcohol once again, making it safe for consumption, according to Deborah Blum, author of "The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York."