2020 has been full of surprises. Add this to the list: the U.S. Navy reportedly has an LSD problem. In a since-deleted press release from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, officials reported an increase in sailors taking LSD. Investigations into LSD-related offenses were up 70% in the first third of 2020. In only the last two years, there have been nearly 200 criminal investigations involving over 350 service men made by NCIS into the distribution, use, and possession of LSD.
Bored at sea, Navy personnel stationed on aircraft carriers are some of the most likely to indulge in psychedelics. In 2018, the Wall Street Journal broke a story about a drug ring on the USS Ronald Reagan, a carrier based in Japan. 14 sailors responsible for the ship’s nuclear reactor faced administrative discipline or court-martialing for possession and distribution of acid.
When asked about LSD use in the Navy, a sailor deployed on the USS Reagan during the scandal wrote to High Times that “it’s everywhere.” The details released by the Navy tell only a fraction of the story. “If only you could see the ‘unreported cases,’” the former sailor wrote, suggesting that drug use persists further up the chain of command.
Working with nuclear technology doesn’t seem to keep military personnel from tripping. Back in 2016, fourteen airmen at the F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming were disciplined for their use and distribution of LSD. These airmen, part of the 90th Missile Wing, controlled hundreds of nuclear warheads. And while no one admitted to getting high on duty, their accounts are troubling nonetheless.
One of the people involved, Airman 1st Class Tommy Ashworth, admitted to experiencing “paranoia, panic” after dropping acid given to him by one of his fellow men. “I didn’t know if I was going to die that night or not,” he said under oath. Off-duty personnel went on drug-fueled benders during days off, posting their escapades on social media. The same group allegedly tripped while longboarding through the streets of Denver.
The professed leader of the hallucinogenic clique, Airman 1st Class Nickolos Harris, spoke bluntly about his prolific drug use. “I absolutely just loved altering my mind,” he said. In addition to acid, Harris pleaded guilty to using ecstasy, cocaine, and marijuana.
A Trippy Uptick
What’s responsible for the uptick in LSD related offenses? It’s hard to say for sure. Andrew Yockey, a doctoral candidate at the University of Cincinnati studying trends in psychedelic use, told High Times that he believes a lack of testing is likely contributing. In 2006, the Department of Defense stopped testing military personnel for LSD. From 2003 to 2006, “only four instances of positive urinalysis for LSD” occurred out of more than two million tests, said NCIS officials. Testing for acid seemed unnecessary. As the new data shows, just because people aren’t getting tested doesn’t mean they aren’t getting caught.
NCIS suggests another reason for the surge. The dark web gives anyone with an internet connection the ability to order drugs right to their doorstep. NCIS warns Navy personnel not to use TOR — a web browser that gives users access to the dark web — to purchase drugs. Since the FBI shut down the original Silk Road drug market in 2013, other sites have popped up to fill its place. In their press release, NCIS officials wrote that “while TOR offers anonymity by obscuring IP addresses, law enforcement use various investigative techniques to identify both purchasers and sellers” of narcotics. NCIS offers rewards to anyone willing to snitch on their colleagues for getting high.
They declined a request to further comment on the issue.
Members of the armed forces aren’t the only ones tripping more than ever. The accessibility of psychedelics through the internet, combined with increased free time since the start of the pandemic, has sparked a recent hallucinogenic binge in the U.S. LSD use rose 56% between 2015 and 2018. When High Times asked Yockey about how COVID has changed drug consumption, he said that the use of LSD has “probably tripled” since the start of quarantine.
As the bad trip that is 2020 threatens to continue into the new year, maybe we all need an eight-hour escape.