Chemophilia

"...Anything that the human is capable of doing through the mind is duplicable pharmacologically.."

with Alexander and Ann Shulgin

 

Alexander (Sasha) and Ann Shulgin stand on the frontier of designer neurochemistry, developing a plethora of miraculous pharmacological keys that unlock different aspects of the brain is hidden potential. They are known to many as the authors of the underground best-seller PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story, the title of which is an acronym for Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved. Alexander is a long-standing, well-respected research chemist and professor of pharmacology at the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned his doctorate in biochemistry in 1954. He is the author of 150 scientific research papers, twenty patents, and three books. Although Alexander has been quite outspoken regarding his Opposition to the so-called war on drugs, he has been a scientific consultant for such state-run organizations as the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NASA, Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

But in private, in his government-licensed research lab, he has spent the last thirty years discretely--yet legally-designing hundreds of new psychoactive compounds, particularly psychedelics. Along with his wife, Ann, and a small, brave, and dedicated research group, they sample each new drug as it is developed. Through the cautious escalation of dosage, they discover and map out the range of each new drug's effects, experimenting with the various aspects of their psychological and spiritual potential. Most of Alexander ‘s psychoactive designer molecules are unknown to the public, but a few, such as 2CB (an MDMA analogue) and DOM (better known as STP), have received widespread distribution. Their research continues to this day, and a new book, TIHKAL (Tryptamines I Have Known and Loved) is on the way. Their previous book, PIHKAL, details their truly remarkable adventures and, for those with a solid background in chemistry, provides the esoteric recipes for recreating hundreds of Alexander's finely crafted magic molecules.

Alexander and Ann make a very compatible research team: they complement on another; and their relationship reflects a deep commitment to inner exploration. They are extremely warm, and anxious to share what they've learned through their experimentation. We interviewed them at their home in Lafayette east of Berkeley in northern California on May 19, 1993. Ann is strong, solid and grounded very much connected to the earth. Before moving to northern California as a teenager she lived in four countries. She worked as a medical secretary at the UCSF Medical Center and has three children from a previous marriage, to Jungian analyst John Ferry. She is presently a psychotherapist.

A wild electrical current seems to buzz through Alexander’s nervous system, as evidenced by the white hair that seems to stand on end on his head and face, and the excited manner in which he explains everything. Alexander’s research laboratory, just a short walk from the main house, is filled by a complex of interlocking flasks, glass beakers, plastic tubes, heating coils, and countless bottles; it looks dramatic enough to be used as a Hollywood movie set. The only chemicals that we sample, however; are in the cheese sandwiches that we have for lunch before we begin the interview. Even so, we do feel ourselves to be in an altered state.

DJB

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