Elvis and Priscilla Presley Did LSD — Here’s What Happened

Elvis Presley was provocative in the 1950s, however, by the time the 1960s counterculture emerged he was passe. Interestingly, he actually did LSD with Priscilla Presley. Here’s why he decided to try the drug — and how he and Priscilla reacted to it.

Elvis Presley with a guitar
Elvis Presley | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The celebrities who inspired Elvis Presley to try LSD

Firstly, a little background. To understand the Presley’s experimentation with drugs, one must understand another Baby Boomer icon: Timothy Leary. Leary was a psychedelic drug advocate who wrote a book called The Psychedelic Experience. He significantly influenced the American counterculture of the 1960s — and had some influence on Elvis.

“It was Timothy Leary everything at the time,” Priscilla told The Guardian. “Elvis had read about LSD in the paper and how our teenagers were on it and he had this curiosity: what’s happening? What are the youth on? So we made an agreement that we would take one tablet, cut it in four, with [music industry associate] Jerry Schilling and I believe [hairdresser] Larry Geller.”

“Can’t Help Falling In Love”

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According to The Atlantic, Elvis’ decision to use the drug was also inspired by the work of another famous author: Aldous Huxley. Although Huxley is primarily remembered for his dystopian novel Brave New World, he also wrote a book about mescalin called The Doors of Perception. The book advocates drugs as a means by which to contact one’s “Inner Light.” Elvis read the book and hoped to find his “Inner Light.”

Why the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll didn’t want people to know about his drug use

Oddly enough, the Presleys’ use of LSD might not have seemed very edgy at the time. In 1960, Good Housekeeping advocated the use of LSD and the Presleys used the drug in 1965, when it was still legal. However, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll still felt he shouldn’t make his use of the drug known, as he had impressionable young fans.

“Jailhouse Rock”

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What happened when Elvis and Priscilla Presley did LSD with others

In an interview with The Guardian, Priscilla described their experience taking LSD. “We had our security around us because we had no idea what to expect. And it was pretty powerful, it scared all of us. We were thinking: ‘Oh my god, this is not good!’ A total loss of control.”

Schilling and Elvis started laughing at each other. Schilling hallucinated Elvis was a child instead of a grown man. Afterward, he continued to stare at the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll until he had transformed into a smiling baby. 

“Burning Love”

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The impact the trip had on pop culture

According to LA Weekly, this was the only time the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll tried LSD. The incident had an impact on pop culture as it was adapted into the play The Elvis Test. Elvis was a prominent celebrity in the 1960s, however, he didn’t really get involved with the 1960s LSD craze.