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Mind States IV (2003) Ask the Shulgins
Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin (born June 17, 1925 in Berkeley, California) is a Russian-American pharmacologist, chemist and drug developer.
Shulgin is credited with the popularization of MDMA in the late 1970s and early 1980s, especially for psychopharmaceutical use and the treatment of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. In subsequent years, Shulgin discovered, synthesized, and bioassayed over 230 psychoactive compounds. In 1991 and 1997, he and his wife Ann Shulgin authored the books PiHKAL and TiHKAL on the topic of psychoactive drugs. Shulgin discovered many noteworthy phenethylamines including the 2C* family of which 2C-T-2, 2C-T-7, 2C-E, 2C-I, and 2C-B are most well known. Additionally, Shulgin performed seminal work into the descriptive synthesis of compounds based on the organic compound tryptamine.
He is currently continuing his work at home in Lafayette, California, and is writing a new comprehensive psychedelic drug index.
In order to carry out consulting work with the DEA, Shulgin obtained a DEA Schedule I license for an analytical laboratory, which allowed him to possess and synthesize any otherwise illicit drug. Shulgin set up a chemical synthesis laboratory in a small building behind his house, which gave him a great deal of career autonomy. Shulgin used this freedom to synthesize and test the effects of psychoactive drugs.
In 1967, Shulgin was introduced to MDMA (ecstasy) by Merrie Kleinman, a graduate student in the medicinal chemistry group he advised at San Francisco State University. MDMA had been synthesized in 1912 by Merck and patented in 1914 as a byproduct of another synthesis, but was considered useless, and was never explored. Shulgin went on to develop a new synthesis method, and in 1976, introduced the chemical to Leo Zeff, a psychologist from Oakland, California. Zeff used the substance in his practice in small doses as an aid to talk therapy. Zeff introduced the substance to hundreds of psychologists around the nation, including Ann Shulgin, whom Alexander Shulgin met in 1979, and married in 1981.
After judicious self-experiments, Shulgin enlisted a small group of friends with whom he regularly tested his creations, starting in 1960. They developed a systematic way of ranking the effects of the various drugs, known as the Shulgin Rating Scale, with a vocabulary to describe the visual, auditory and physical sensations. He personally tested hundreds of drugs, mainly analogues of various phenethylamines (family containing MDMA and mescaline), and tryptamines (family containing DMT and psilocybin). There are a seemingly infinite number of slight chemical variations, all of which produce variations in effectâ€”some pleasant and some unpleasant, depending on the person, substance, and situationâ€”all of which are meticulously recorded in Shulgin's lab notebooks. Shulgin published many of these objective and subjective reports in his books and papers.
In 1994, two years after the publication of PiHKAL, the DEA raided his lab; allegedly finding problems with his record keeping, the agency requested that Shulgin turn over his license for violating the license's terms, and he was fined $25,000 for possession of anonymous samples sent to him for quality testing. In the 15 years preceding the publication of PiHKAL, two announced and scheduled reviews failed to find any irregularities. Richard Meyer, spokesman for DEA's San Francisco Field Division, has stated that, "It is our opinion that those books are pretty much cookbooks on how to make illegal drugs. Agents tell me that in clandestine labs that they have raided, they have found copies of those books," suggesting to many that the publication of PiHKAL and the termination of Shulgin's license were related.