In recent years, psychedelics have gained much positive traction across the globe. In 2021, the first psychedelic therapy clinic in Britain opened its doors with the aim of treating mental health disorders, such as OCD.  Since then, various research institutions have applied psychedelics to a range of indications, including alcohol-use disorder, anorexia and PTSD

In general, other than taking the correct dose, there are two key components to an interaction with any psychoactive substance, set (your mood, beliefs, values, etc.) and setting (anything external including people, music, weather, etc.). Get both of these right and you’re probably in for a great time!

However, it’s easy to forget the instances where psychedelics have been used in a less than favourable light, and often by people or agencies in positions of authority. These stories have often been used to stereotype and stigmatise people who use psychedelic drugs, and have overshadowed their great therapeutic potential. Despite this, what the following case studies do show is the powerful nature of these drugs – something that has been historically harnessed for both good and bad.

From conspiracies, to cults, to political extremism, Volteface presents a dive into the ‘dark side’ of psychedelics…


Of course, any article on this topic would be incomplete without mentioning MK-Ultra – perhaps the most infamous instance of psychedelics being used for bad, rather than good. The project was founded by the CIA in 1953, in the midst of the Cold War, in response to the fear that American prisoners of war (POWs) were being turned into ‘communist allies’. According to the CIA, this was enough evidence to prove that prisoners had been manipulated or hypnotised, and so the agency decided to allocate millions of dollars into studying the art of mind control in the hopes of weaponizing this against communist forces. 

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The ‘Dark Side’ of Psychedelics

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