Alexander Shulgin

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pages: 378 words: 94,468

Drugs 2.0: The Web Revolution That's Changing How the World Gets High by Mike Power

air freight, Alexander Shulgin, banking crisis, bitcoin, blockchain, Buckminster Fuller, Burning Man, cloud computing, credit crunch, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, Donald Davies, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, fiat currency, Firefox, Fractional reserve banking, frictionless, Haight Ashbury, John Bercow, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, Leonard Kleinrock, means of production, Menlo Park, moral panic, Mother of all demos, Network effects, nuclear paranoia, packet switching, pattern recognition, PIHKAL and TIHKAL, pre–internet, QR code, RAND corporation, Satoshi Nakamoto, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), sexual politics, Skype, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, trade route, Whole Earth Catalog, Zimmermann PGP

These laws were made five decades before the creation of an entirely new drug whose effect on users would be different from that of LSD, but equally profound. This drug would leak into the global water table on a scale that would have given even the most extreme LSD evangelist pause for thought. One individual, allied with technology, would be a central figure in this new race between chemists, users, the culture and the law: American Alexander Shulgin, the world’s most prolific and genius-tinged psychedelic chemist, the godfather of Ecstasy. Notes 1. C. F. Gorman, ‘Excavations at Spirit Cave, North Thailand: Some Interim Interpretations’, Asian Perspectives, Vol. 13, 1970, pp. 79–108 2. www.antiquecannabisbook.com/chap2B/China/Pen-Tsao.htm 3. www.shipman-inquiry.org.uk/4r_page.asp?id=3107 4. Quoted in J. C. Poggendorff, Annalen der Physik und Chemie (Wiley VCH, 1828), Vol. 88, pp. 253–256; www.chem.yale.edu/~chem125/125/history99/ 4RadicalsTypes/UreaPaper1828.html 5.

Its grounds are strewn with cacti and fringed with greenhouses; the front door is rickety, its hinges rusted now. This is the unlikely epicentre of a global drugs culture. The products that have emerged from it, the methodology that produced these new compounds and the career of its owner make it, indisputably, the world’s most storied and influential drug lab. For much of the last century Alexander Shulgin worked in relative obscurity. But in the mid-to-late 1980s, a new drug, MDMA, later known as Ecstasy, started appearing on the streets of the USA and Europe. This substance, a stimulant that prompted emotional openness, would change the world’s drug habits for ever, bringing the psychedelic experience to millions who, before its advent, would perhaps never have considered using drugs. Alexander, or ‘Sasha’, Shulgin is, depending on your viewpoint, one of the greatest and most under-celebrated scientists of the twentieth century, or an irresponsible folk devil who has corrupted millions and killed dozens with the drugs he has created.

Freudenmann, Florian Öxler and Sabine Bernschneider-Reif, ‘The Origin of MDMA (Ecstasy) Revisited: The True Story Reconstructed from the Original Documents’, Addiction, Vol. 101, Issue 9, pp. 1241–1245; http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ j.1360-0443.2006.01511.x/abstract 3. www.nytimes.com/2005/01/30/magazine/ 30ECSTASY. html?_r=1 4. Julian Palacios, Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd: Dark Globe (Plexus Publishing Ltd, 2010), p. 298 5. Dennis Romero, ‘Sasha Shulgin, Psychedelic Chemist’, Los Angeles Times, 5 September 1995 6. Alexander Shulgin, PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story (Transform Press, 1991), p. 860 7. Ibid., p. xvi 8. Ibid., p. xviii 9. www.erowid.org/library/books_online/tihkal/ shulgin_rating_scale.shtml 10. Shulgin, PIHKAL, pp. 876–877 11. Ibid., p. 733; see also www.erowid.org/library/books_online/ PIHKAL109.shtml 12. www.maps.org/media/kleiman040204.html 13. Hugh Milne, ‘Bhagwan, the God that Failed’, cited in Matthew Collin, Altered State (Serpent’s Tail, 1998), p. 33 14.


pages: 334 words: 93,162

This Is Your Country on Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America by Ryan Grim

airport security, Alexander Shulgin, anti-communist, back-to-the-land, Burning Man, crack epidemic, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, East Village, failed state, global supply chain, Haight Ashbury, illegal immigration, John Markoff, Kickstarter, longitudinal study, mandatory minimum, new economy, New Urbanism, PIHKAL and TIHKAL, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, Steve Jobs, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, union organizing, Upton Sinclair, upwardly mobile, urban decay, women in the workforce

The reality is that LSD producers have historically had a much looser syndication, one known as the Family—or, more accurately, the Families. Pickard has always been a controversial figure in the acid underground, but widely respected by his peers and adversaries alike as a talented chemist. “He’s one of the few we know of who has ever synthesized mescaline,” Nichols told me, referring to a process that’s far too difficult and expensive to be profitable. One of the few others known to have accomplished the feat is Alexander Shulgin. “Pickard is a charlatan,” blotter artist, blotter-art collector, and unofficial Family spokesperson Mark McCloud told me. He and many others warned me not to take anything that Pickard said at face value. Within the several Families, Pickard is known as someone who can’t be trusted, and for good reason: facing decades in prison following a 1988 conviction for running an LSD lab, he cooperated and had his sentence drastically reduced, according to news reports from the time.

“I haven’t been a teenager for a number of years,” said Kent, by way of explaining that Erowid is most useful when somebody comes into the ER under the influence of a drug she hasn’t heard of. The Erowids were even invited to speak at a national toxicology conference in 2006. According to Kent, they “were very well received.” Schedule I—drugs that the DEA considers to be the most dangerous and have the least medical value—is something of a tribute to Alexander Shulgin. A former Dow Chemical Company chemist, Shulgin, now in his eighties, is a legend in the psychedelic world, having synthesized MDMA in the fifties after stumbling across a discarded recipe. He went on to invent the overwhelming majority of Schedule I drugs, making him the godfather of all research chemicals. At Erowid.org, he and his wife and collaborator, Ann Shulgin, each have a “vault,” a collection of resources that includes a brief biography, interviews, and audio transcriptions.

Nadelman, Ethan NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) NarcoNews.com Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act Nation National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse National Drug Threat Assessment (DOJ) National Geographic National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) National Institutes of Health National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) National Survey on Drug Use and Health Nature’s Medicinal Nebraska neurotransmitters Neville, Richard Newcomb, Michael New Yorker New York Times on Alexander Shulgin on codependency movement on heroin trade on Luciano on medical marijuana on Miami cocaine trade on opium on Prohibition on speed Webb and New York Times-CBS News Nicaragua. See Contras Nichols, Carl Nixon, Richard M. Norodin North Dakota Northwestern University No Speed Limit: The Highs and Lows of Meth (Owen) novocaine Oakland, California. See also California Obama, Barack O’Connor, Sandra Day O’Malley, Patrick O’Neale.


pages: 407 words: 90,238

Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work by Steven Kotler, Jamie Wheal

3D printing, Alexander Shulgin, augmented reality, Berlin Wall, Bernie Sanders, bitcoin, blockchain, Burning Man, Colonization of Mars, crowdsourcing, David Brooks, delayed gratification, disruptive innovation, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, high batting average, hive mind, Hyperloop, impulse control, informal economy, Jaron Lanier, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, lateral thinking, Mason jar, Maui Hawaii, McMansion, means of production, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, music of the spheres, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, PIHKAL and TIHKAL, Ray Kurzweil, ride hailing / ride sharing, risk tolerance, science of happiness, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley startup, Skype, Steve Jobs, Tony Hsieh, urban planning

And, since different chemical compounds unlock different states (and with them, unique and novel information streams), these restrictions have limited our access to the “repatterning” benefits of different types of cognition. But pharmacology—and specifically, the branch of pharmacology that deals with psychoactive compounds—changes the rules of the game. It gives us access to more substances than ever before, and this provides us with more diverse data to consider. And perhaps no one played a bigger role in rewriting those rules than renegade chemist Alexander Shulgin. The Johnny Appleseed of Psychedelics Alexander Shulgin was called many names over the course of his career. Wired dubbed him “Professor X,”11 while the New York Times preferred “Dr. Ecstasy.”12 As he was a tall man with a shock of white hair and a thick beard, “Gandalf” was not uncommon13 More formally, Shulgin has been described as “a genius biochemist,” a “pioneering psychopharmacologist,” and, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a “dangerous criminal.”

“Gandalf” was not uncommon: Brian Vastag, “Chemist Alexander Shulgin, Popularizer of the Drug Ecstasy, Dies at 88,” Washington Post, June 3, 2014. 14. Sasha Shulgin was born in Berkeley: For a great introduction to Shulgin’s life, see the recent documentary Dirty Pictures, by Etienne Sauret, 2010. 15. “I learned there were worlds inside of me”: James Oroc, “The Second Psychedelic Revolution Part Two: Alexander ‘Sasha’ Shulgin, The Psychedelic Godfather,” Reality Sandwich, 2014, http://realitysandwich.com/217250/second-psychedelic-revolution-part-two/. 16. Sasha’s interest,” explains Johns Hopkins: Ibid. 17. The Shulgin Rating Scale: See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shulgin_Rating_Scale. 18. At 22 milligrams: Alexander Shulgin and Ann Shulgin, PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story (Berkeley, CA: Transform Press, 1991), p. 560. 19.


pages: 294 words: 80,084

Tomorrowland: Our Journey From Science Fiction to Science Fact by Steven Kotler

Albert Einstein, Alexander Shulgin, autonomous vehicles, barriers to entry, Burning Man, carbon footprint, Colonization of Mars, crowdsourcing, Dean Kamen, epigenetics, gravity well, haute couture, interchangeable parts, Kevin Kelly, life extension, Louis Pasteur, low earth orbit, North Sea oil, Oculus Rift, oil shale / tar sands, peak oil, personalized medicine, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, private space industry, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, self-driving car, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Stewart Brand, theory of mind, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, Whole Earth Catalog, WikiLeaks

And this is why that second meeting between Allan and Marilyn was more difficult than the first — because that was the meeting they discussed risk. The drug Allan’s considering for the first session is MDMA, known on the street as Ecstasy, and a latecomer to the psychedelic tool kit. First discovered by Merck in 1912, MDMA didn’t hit the therapeutic world until the middle 1970s when pharmacologist Alexander Shulgin, then teaching at the University of California, San Francisco, heard from his students that it helped one of them get over a stutter. Shulgin dosed himself, reporting “altered states of consciousness with emotional and sexual overtones.” He also noticed the drug “opened people up, both to other people and to inner thoughts,” and decided its primary benefit was mental. Others agreed. Ecstasy was criminalized in 1984, but not before it had been introduced to thousands of therapists.


pages: 354 words: 93,882

How to Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson

Albert Einstein, Alexander Shulgin, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, call centre, David Attenborough, David Brooks, deskilling, financial independence, full employment, Gordon Gekko, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Lao Tzu, liberal capitalism, moral panic, New Urbanism, PIHKAL and TIHKAL, spinning jenny, Torches of Freedom, trade route, wage slave

This steadiness allows long periods of dancing and the experience of going into a trance; repetitive behaviour is encouraged, we are in the moment, there is no planning and no memory, just a simple joy of being. This is, or was, the attraction of ecstasy, and to someone like me, who had considered that at 22 it was time to ' get real ' , knuckle down, have a career, the exhilaration brought by ecstasy, music and dancing all night was deeply liberating. This is how the radical chemist Alexander Shulgin describes the feeling: I feel absolutely clean inside, and there is nothing but pure euphoria. I have never felt so great, or believed this to be possible. The cleanliness, clarity, and marvelous feeling of solid inner strength continued throughout the rest of the day, and evening, and through the next day. Mix this inner strength with music and you get hedonism, but for my generation the hedonism of those years was not mere escapism: it gave us an insight into how things could be, offering a glimpse of a more primitive state of being, free from hostility and desire and filled with the joy of living and of losing the ego in the collective.


pages: 292 words: 97,911

Truths, Half Truths and Little White Lies by Nick Frost

Alexander Shulgin, call centre, David Attenborough, hive mind, impulse control, job-hopping, Norman Mailer, Rubik’s Cube

Sweet sweet Mary Jane, gone now but definitely not forgotten. Hard House I love you. Ravers I love you. Jimi Hendrix. Hunter S Thompson. Jim Jarmusch. Woody Allen. Mulder and Scully. Steven Spielberg. John Williams. The Simpsons. George Lucas. Roy Neary. Indiana Jones. The Young Ones. Bill Nighy. Martin Amis. The Smiths. The Bluetones. Shit pubs. Sunny Side Up! Aleksander Solzhenitsyn. Alexander Shulgin. Timothy Leary. Milan Kundera. West Ham Utd. Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Falafel. McDonalds. Meat Fruit. Good curries. Global knives. Non-stick pans and decent ovens. Onions. TV. AHL forever! Table of Contents About the Author Title Page Imprint Page Dedication Contents Introduction Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four You have been watching . . . Acknowledgements


pages: 305 words: 101,743

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino

4chan, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Airbnb, Alexander Shulgin, big-box store, cloud computing, crowdsourcing, Donald Trump, financial independence, game design, Jeff Bezos, Kickstarter, knowledge worker, late capitalism, Lyft, Mark Zuckerberg, Mason jar, Norman Mailer, obamacare, pattern recognition, Peter Thiel, Ponzi scheme, QR code, rent control, Saturday Night Live, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), Silicon Valley, Snapchat, Steve Jobs, uber lyft, upwardly mobile, wage slave, white picket fence

Ecstasy was developed in 1912, in Germany, by Merck, which was trying to find a treatment for abnormal bleeding. In the fifties, the Army Chemical Corps tested it on animals. In the sixties, a related substance called MDA gained popularity as “the love drug.” During the seventies, a number of scientists—including Leo Zeff, the one who named the drug Adam—tried the drug, and a network of practitioners of underground MDMA psychotherapy began to grow. In 1978, Alexander Shulgin and David Nichols published the first human study on ecstasy, noting the substance’s possible therapeutic effects. The attainment of chemical ecstasy—empathogenesis—occurs in stages. The drug first places the attention on the self, stripping away the user’s inhibitions. Second, it prompts the user to recognize and value the emotional states of others. Finally, it makes the user’s well-being feel inseparable from the well-being of the group.


pages: 669 words: 210,153

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Timothy Ferriss

Airbnb, Alexander Shulgin, artificial general intelligence, asset allocation, Atul Gawande, augmented reality, back-to-the-land, Ben Horowitz, Bernie Madoff, Bertrand Russell: In Praise of Idleness, Black Swan, blue-collar work, Boris Johnson, Buckminster Fuller, business process, Cal Newport, call centre, Charles Lindbergh, Checklist Manifesto, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, Colonization of Mars, Columbine, commoditize, correlation does not imply causation, David Brooks, David Graeber, diversification, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, effective altruism, Elon Musk, fault tolerance, fear of failure, Firefox, follow your passion, future of work, Google X / Alphabet X, Howard Zinn, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jeff Bezos, job satisfaction, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John Markoff, Kevin Kelly, Kickstarter, Lao Tzu, lateral thinking, life extension, lifelogging, Mahatma Gandhi, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, Mason jar, Menlo Park, Mikhail Gorbachev, MITM: man-in-the-middle, Nelson Mandela, Nicholas Carr, optical character recognition, PageRank, passive income, pattern recognition, Paul Graham, peer-to-peer, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Singer: altruism, Peter Thiel, phenotype, PIHKAL and TIHKAL, post scarcity, post-work, premature optimization, QWERTY keyboard, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ray Kurzweil, recommendation engine, rent-seeking, Richard Feynman, risk tolerance, Ronald Reagan, selection bias, sharing economy, side project, Silicon Valley, skunkworks, Skype, Snapchat, social graph, software as a service, software is eating the world, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, Stewart Brand, superintelligent machines, Tesla Model S, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas L Friedman, Wall-E, Washington Consensus, Whole Earth Catalog, Y Combinator, zero-sum game

Heinlein), The Singularity Is Near (Ray Kurzweil), Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand), Stone Soup story DiNunzio, Tracy: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap . . . and Others Don’t (Jim Collins), The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (Brad Stone) Dubner, Stephen: For adults: Levels of the Game (John McPhee); for kids: The Empty Pot (Demi) Eisen, Jonathan: National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer) Engle, Dan: Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence (Esther Perel), The Cosmic Serpent (Jeremy Narby), Autobiography of a Yogi (Paramahansa Yogananda) Fadiman, James: Pihkal: A Chemical Love Story; Tihkal: The Continuation (Alexander Shulgin and Ann Shulgin) Favreau, Jon: The Writer’s Journey (Christopher Vogler and Michele Montez), It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here (Charles Grodin), The 4-Hour Body (Tim Ferriss), The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien), Kitchen Confidential (Anthony Bourdain) Foxx, Jamie: Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America (James Allen) Fussell, Chris: Gates of Fire (Steven Pressfield), Steve Jobs; The Innovators (Walter Isaacson) Fussman, Cal: One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel García Márquez), Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates), Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History’s Greatest Speakers (James C.


pages: 788 words: 223,004

Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts by Jill Abramson

23andMe, 4chan, Affordable Care Act / Obamacare, Alexander Shulgin, Apple's 1984 Super Bowl advert, barriers to entry, Bernie Madoff, Bernie Sanders, Charles Lindbergh, Chelsea Manning, citizen journalism, cloud computing, commoditize, corporate governance, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, death of newspapers, digital twin, diversified portfolio, Donald Trump, East Village, Edward Snowden, Ferguson, Missouri, Filter Bubble, future of journalism, glass ceiling, Google Glasses, haute couture, hive mind, income inequality, information asymmetry, invisible hand, Jeff Bezos, Joseph Schumpeter, Khyber Pass, late capitalism, Marc Andreessen, Mark Zuckerberg, move fast and break things, move fast and break things, Nate Silver, new economy, obamacare, Occupy movement, performance metric, Peter Thiel, phenotype, pre–internet, race to the bottom, recommendation engine, Robert Mercer, Ronald Reagan, Saturday Night Live, self-driving car, sentiment analysis, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley ideology, Silicon Valley startup, skunkworks, Snapchat, social intelligence, social web, Steve Jobs, Steven Levy, technoutopianism, telemarketer, the scientific method, The Wisdom of Crowds, Tim Cook: Apple, too big to fail, WikiLeaks

The son of the famous documentary filmmaker Errol Morris, Morton’s new roommate was more trustafarian than self-made man, but he was neat, and cool enough. He loved psychedelic drugs. The two built little clapboard rooms, Jack & Jill style, in their shared loft, and as the Times noted in a profile that ran in the Sunday Styles section, they displayed the spoils from their globe-trotting exploits with Vice; Morris had cacti he’d been given by the widow of his personal idol, Dr. Alexander Shulgin, the earliest promoter of the drug Ecstasy in the science world. Photographs of psilocybin mushrooms hung on the walls. On the nightstand in Morton’s bedroom he kept the skull of an Amazonian crocodile adorned with toucan feathers, the skull of a vole, and a rubber fetus. Morton was fighting the leptospirosis he’d picked up in Venezuela, but he happily regaled the Times reporter with stories about minding the Gross Jar.