How much LSD should you give an elephant?

How would an elephant react to LSD? While this question may be interesting in and of itself, a more basic question to ask is how much LSD should an elephant be given to answer this question. In How Animals Work, Knut Schmidt-Nielsen shows how some faulty logic lead to an elephant’s LSD overdose. A scientific study gave an elephant 297 mg of LSD. The elephant subsequently collapsed, went into convulsions and died. These dose was too high. But what was the right dose? Schmidt-Nielsen has some conjectures.

If this dosage is done by extrapolation from a 2.6 kg cat and its dose of 0.1 mg LSD per kg, we arrive at the now obviously lethal dose of 297 mg of lSD for the elephant. If instead…we calculate on the basis of metabolic rate, we find that a much smaller dose of 80 mg is needed. This makes some sense, for we can expect that the detoxification of a drug or its excretion may be related to metabolic rate….We could also use as a basis for th ecalculation an aminmal which is not as notoriously tolerant to LSD as cats, for example, we could use man. The weight of a man is 70 kg, and a dose of only 0.2 mg LSD gives him severe psychotic symptoms. On a weight basis that suggests the elephant should receive 8 instead of nearly 300 mg LSD. Bsaed on [man’s] metabolic rate…we get a 3 mg dose for the elephant. If we consider the brain size, which in man is 1400 g and in the elephant about 30000 g, we arrive at only 0.4 mg.

The book How Animals Work, while published back in 1972, is interested throughout and was well worth a read on my holiday vacation.

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