Alexander Shulgin in 2011
|Born||Alexander Theodore Shulgin
June 17, 1925
|Residence||Russia, United Kingdom, United States|
|Fields||Chemistry, Psychology, Philosophy, Biology|
D.E.A. Awards (numerous)
|Spouse||Ann Shulgin (1981–present)|
Alexander "Sasha" Theodore Shulgin (born June 17, 1925) is an American medicinal chemist, biochemist, pharmacologist, psychopharmacologist, and author. Shulgin is credited with introducing MDMA ("ecstasy") to psychologists in the late 1970s for psychopharmaceutical use. He discovered, synthesized, and personally bioassayed over 230 psychoactive compounds, and evaluated them for their psychedelic and/or entactogenic potential.
In 1991 and 1997, he and his wife Ann Shulgin authored the books PiHKAL and TiHKAL (standing for Phenethylamines and Tryptamines I Have Known And Loved), which extensively described their work and personal experiences with these two classes of psychoactive drugs. Shulgin performed seminal work into the descriptive synthesis of many of these compounds. Some of Shulgin's noteworthy discoveries include compounds of the 2C* family (such as 2C-B) and compounds of the DOx family (such as DOM).
Life and career
Shulgin was born in Berkeley, California to Theodore Stevens Shulgin (1893–1978) and Henrietta D. (née Aten) Shulgin (1888–1960). His father was born in Russia, while his mother was born in Illinois. Both Theodore and Henrietta were public school teachers in Alameda County.
Shulgin began studying organic chemistry as a Harvard University scholarship student at the age of 16. In 1943, he dropped out of school to join the U.S. Navy, where he would eventually become interested in psychopharmacology.
In the Navy, Shulgin was given a glass of orange juice by a military nurse prior to surgery. Shulgin drank it under the assumption it contained a narcotic, then fell asleep rapidly. He discovered upon waking that no psychoactive drugs had been present in the juice, which exposed him to the influence of a placebo over the human mind. He was astounded that “a fraction of a gram of sugar had rendered [him] unconscious.”  After serving in the Navy (a veteran of World War II), he returned to Berkeley, California, and in 1954 earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. Through the late 1950s, Shulgin completed post-doctoral work in the fields of psychiatry and pharmacology at University of California, San Francisco. After working at Bio-Rad Laboratories as a research director for a brief period, he began work at Dow Chemical Company as a senior research chemist.
I first explored mescaline in the late '50s, Three-hundred-fifty to 400 milligrams. I learned there was a great deal inside me.
Shulgin later reported personal revelations that "had been brought about by a fraction of a gram of a white solid, but that in no way whatsoever could it be argued that these memories had been contained within the white solid ... I understood that our entire universe is contained in the mind and the spirit. We may choose not to find access to it, we may even deny its existence, but it is indeed there inside us, and there are chemicals that can catalyze its availability."
Shulgin's professional activities continued to lean in the direction of psychopharmacology, furthered by his personal experiences with psychedelics. But during this period he was unable to do much independent research. His opportunity for further research came following his development of Zectran, the first biodegradable pesticide, a highly profitable product. Showing unusual humility in his famous book PIHKAL, Shulgin limits his pesticide days at Dow Chemical to one sentence in 978 pages. In PIHKAL, Shulgin also admits to being a member of the Bohemian club, or as he refers to it "the Owl Club". However, Dow Chemical Company, in return for Zectran's valuable patent, gave Shulgin great freedom. During this time, he created and patented drugs when Dow asked, and published findings on other drugs in journals such as Nature and the Journal of Organic Chemistry. Eventually, Dow Chemical requested that he no longer use their name on his publications.
In late 1966, Shulgin left Dow to pursue his own interests. He first spent two years studying neurology at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, leaving to work on a consulting project. He set up a home-based lab on his property, known as "the Farm", and became a private consultant. He also taught classes in the local universities and at the San Francisco General Hospital. Through his friend Bob Sager, head of the U.S. DEA's Western Laboratories, Shulgin formed a relationship with the DEA and began holding pharmacology seminars for the agents, supplying the DEA with samples of various compounds, and occasionally serving as an expert witness in court. In 1988, he authored a then-definitive law enforcement reference book on controlled substances, and received several awards from the DEA.
On April 8, 2008, at the age of 82, he underwent surgery to replace a defective aortic valve. On November 16, 2010, Shulgin suffered a stroke, from which he has largely recovered. Also at the close of 2010, a skin-grafting surgery saved his left foot from being amputated. Unfortunately, around this time, Shulgin began showing the early signs of dementia, mostly severe loss of short-term memory. Due to Alexander and Ann's serious financial trouble for some years, a page at CaringBridge has been created to receive donations to help cover medical expenses. With progression of the dementia since 2010, his wife Ann Shulgin is now trying to sell part of their property to raise more money to cover care costs.
He lives in Lafayette, California.
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 1976, Shulgin was introduced to MDMA by 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 1912 as an intermediate of another synthesis in order to block competitors, but was never explored in its own right. 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 and lay therapists 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, mescaline, and the 2C* family), and tryptamines (family containing DMT, psilocin, and LSD). There are a seemingly infinite number of slight chemical variations, which can produce variations in effect — some pleasant and some unpleasant, depending on the person, substance, and situation — 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. 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."
- with Manning, Tania &; Daley, Paul (2011). The Shulgin Index Vol 1: Psychedelic Phenethylamines and Related Compounds. Berkeley: Transform Press. ISBN 978-0-9630096-3-0.
- with Perry, Wendy (2002). The Simple Plant Isoquinolines. Berkeley: Transform Press. ISBN 0-9630096-2-1.
- with Shulgin, Ann (1997). "A New Vocabulary". In Forte, Robert. Entheogens and the Future of Religion. Berkeley: Council on Spiritual Practices. ISBN 1-889725-01-3.
- with Shulgin, Ann (1997). TiHKAL: The Continuation. Berkeley: Transform Press. ISBN 0-9630096-9-9.
- with Shulgin, Ann (1991). PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story. Berkeley: Transform Press. ISBN 0-9630096-0-5.
- Controlled Substances: Chemical & Legal Guide to Federal Drug Laws. Berkeley: Ronin Publishing. 1988. ISBN 0-914171-50-X.
Other notable publications
- 1960-1979 lab notebooks of Dr. Shulgin
- 1963. "Psychotomimetic agents related to mescaline". Experientia 19: 127. 19
- 1963. "Composition of the myristicin fraction from oil of nutmeg". Nature 197: 379. 20
- 1963. "Concerning the pharmacology of nutmeg". Mind 1: 299-302. 23
- 1964. "3-methoxy-4,5-methylenedioxy amphetamine, a new psychotomimetic agent". Nature 201: 1120-1121. 29
- 1964. "Psychotomimetic amphetamines: methoxy 3,4-dialkoxyamphetamines". Experientia 20: 366. 30
- 1964. with H. O. Kerlinger. "Isolation of methoxyeugenol and trans-isoelemicin from oil of nutmeg". Naturwissenschaften 15: 360-361. 31
- 1965. "Synthesis of the trimethoxyphenylpropenes". Can. J. Chem. 43: 3437-3440. 43
- 1966. "Possible implication of myristicin as a psychotropic substance". Nature 210: 380-384. 45
- 1966. "The six trimethoxyphenylisopropylamines (trimethoxyamphetamines)". J. Med. Chem. 9: 445-446. 46
- 1966. with T. Sargent, and C. Naranjo. "Role of 3,4-Dimethoxyphenethylamine in schizophrenia". Nature 212: 1606-1607. 48 
- 1967. with T. Sargent, and C. Naranjo. "The chemistry and psychopharmacology of nutmeg and of several related phenylisopropylamines". In D. H. Efron [ed.]: Ethnopharmacologic search for psychoactive drugs. U. S. Dept. of H. E. W., Public Health Service Publication No. 1645. Pp. 202–214. Discussion: ibid. pp. 223–229. 49
- 1967. with T. Sargent. "Psychotropic phenylisopropylamines derived from apiole and dillapiole". Nature 215: 1494-1495. 50
- 1967. with Sargent, T. W., D. M. Israelstam, S. A. Landaw, and N. N. Finley. "A note concerning the fate of the 4-methoxyl group in 3,4-dimethoxyphenethylamine (DMPEA)". Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 29: 126-130. 52
- 1967. with Naranjo, C. and T. Sargent. "Evaluation of 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) as an adjunct to psychotherapy". Med. Pharmacol. Exp. 17: 359-364. 53
- 1968. "The ethyl homologs of 2,4,5-trimethoxyphenylisopropylamine". J. Med. Chem. 11: 186-187. 54
- 1969. with T. Sargent and C. Naranjo. "Structure activity relationships of one-ring psychotomimetics". Nature 221: 537-541. 57
- 1969. "Recent developments in cannabis chemistry". J. Psyched. Drugs 2: 15-29. 58
- 1969. "Psychotomimetic agents related to the catecholamines". J. Psyched. Drugs 2(2): 12-26. 59
- 1970. "Chemistry and structure-activity relationships of the psychotomimetics". In D. H. Efron [ed.]. "Psychotomimetic Drugs". Raven Press, New York. Pp. 21–41. 60
- 1970. "The mode of action of psychotomimetic drugs; some qualitative properties of the psychotomimetics". Neur. Res. Prog. Bull. 8: 72-78. 61
- 1970. "4-alkyl-dialkoxy-alpha-methyl-phenethylamines and their pharmacologically-acceptable salts". U. S. Patent 3,547,999, issued Dec. 15, 1970. 63
- 1971. with T. Sargent and C. Naranjo. "4-bromo-2,5-dimethoxyphenylisopropylamine, a new centrally active amphetamine analog". Pharmacology 5: 103-107. 64
- 1971. "Chemistry and sources". In S. S. Epstein [ed]. "Drugs of abuse: their genetic and other chronic nonpsychiatric hazards". The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. Pp 3–26. 65
- 1971. "Preliminary studies of the synthesis of nitrogen analogs of Delta1-THC". Acta Pharm. Suec. 8: 680-681. 66
- 1972. "Hallucinogens, CNS stimulants, and cannabis. In S. J. Mulé and H. Brill [eds.]: Chemical and biological aspects of drug dependence". CRC Press, Cleveland, Ohio. Pp. 163–175. 67
- 1973. "Stereospecific requirements for hallucinogenesis". J. Pharm. Pharmac. 25: 271-272. 68
- 1973. "Mescaline: the chemistry and pharmacology of its analogs". Lloydia 36: 46-58. 69
- 1973. "The narcotic pepper - the chemistry and pharmacology of Piper methysticum and related species". Bull. Narc. 25: 59-1974. "Le poivre stupéfiant - chemie et pharmacologie du Piper methysticum et des espéces apparentées". Bull. Stupéfiants 25: 61-77. 70
- 1973. with T. Sargent and C. Naranjo. "Animal pharmacology and human psychopharmacology of 3-methoxy-4,5-methylenedioxyphenylisopropylamine (MMDA)". Pharmacology 10: 12-18. 71
- 1974. with Kalbhen, D. A., T. Sargent, G. Braun, H. Stauffer, N. Kusubov, and M. L. Nohr. "Human pharmacodynamics of the psychodysleptic 4-bromo-2,5-dimethoxyphenylisopropylamine labelled with Br". IRCS (Int. Res. Comm. Sys.) 2: 1091. 73
- 1975. with Sargent, T., D. A. Kalbhen, H. Stauffer, and N. Kusubov. "A potential new brain-scanning agent: 4-Br-2,5-dimethoxyphenylisopropylamine (4-Br-DPIA)". J. Nucl. Med. 16: 243-245. 74
- 1975. with M. F. Carter. "Centrally active phenethylamines". Psychopharm. Commun. 1: 93-98. 75
- 1975. with Sargent, T., D. A. Kalbhen, G. Braun, H. Stauffer, and N. Kusubov. "In vivo human pharmacodynamics of the psychodysleptic 4-Br-2,5-dimethoxyphenylisopropylamine labelled with Br or Br". Neuropharmacology 14: 165-174. 76
- 1975. "The chemical catalysis of altered states of consciousness. Altered states of consciousness, current views and research problems". The drug abuse council, Washington, D. C. Pp. 123–134. 77
- 1975. "Drug use and anti-drug legislation". The PharmChem Newsletter 4 (#8). 79
- 1975. with D. C. Dyer. "Psychotomimetic phenylisopropylamines. 5. 4-alkyl-2,5-dimethoxyphenylisopropylamines". J. Med. Chem. 18: 1201-1204. 80
- 1975. with C. Helisten. "Differentiation of PCP, TCP, and a contaminating precursor PCC, by thin layer chromatography". Microgram 8: 171-172. 81
- 1975. with Helisten, C. "The detection of 1-piperidinodydlohexanecarbonitrile contamination in illicit preparations of 1-(1-phenylcyclohexyl)piperidine and 1-(1-(2-thienyl)cyclohexyl)piperidine". J. Chrom. 117: 232-235. 82
- 1976. "Psychotomimetic agents". In M. Gordon [ed.] "Psychopharmacological agents", Vol. 4. Academic Press, New York. Pp. 59–146. 83
- 1976. "Abuse of the term 'amphetamines'". Clin. Tox. 9: 351-352. 84
- 1976. "Profiles of psychedelic drugs. 1. DMT". J. Psychedelic Drugs 8: 167-168. 85
- 1976. "Profiles of psychedelic drugs. 2. TMA-2". J. Psychedelic Drugs 8: 169. 86
- 1976. with D. E. MacLean. "Illicit synthesis of phencyclidine (PCP) and several of its analogs". Clin. Tox. 9: 553-560. 87
- 1976. with Nichols, D. E. "Sulfur analogs of psychotomimetic amines". J. Pharm. Sci. 65: 1554-1556. 89
- 1976. with Sargent, T. and N. Kusubov. "Quantitative measurement of demethylation of C-methoxyl labeled DMPEA and TMA-2 in rats". Psychopharm. Commun. 2: 199-206. 90
- 1976. with Standridge, R. T., H. G. Howell, J. A. Gylys, R. A. Partyka. "Phenylalkylamines with potential psychotherapeutic utility. 1. 2-amino-1-(2,5,-dimethoxy-4-methylphenyl)butane". J. Med. Chem. 19: 1400-1404. 91
- 1976. "Profiles of psychedelic drugs. 3. MMDA". J. Psychedelic Drugs 8: 331. 92
- 1977. "Profiles of psychedelic drugs. 4. Harmaline". J. Psychedelic Drugs 9: 79-80. 93
- 1977. "Profiles of psychedelic drugs. 5. STP". J. Psychedelic Drugs 9: 171-172. 94
- 1977. with Nichols, D. E., and D. C. Dyer. "Directional lipophilic character in a series of psychotomimetic phenethylamine derivatives". Life Sciences 21: 569-576. 95
- 1977. with Jacob, P. III, G. Anderson III, C. K. Meshul, and N. Castagnoli Jr. "Mononethylthio analogues of 1-(2,4,5-trimethoxyphenyl)2-aminopropane". J. Med. Chem. 20: 1235-1239. 96
- Ancestry.com. California Birth Index, 1905-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Original data: State of California. California Birth Index, 1905-1995. Sacramento, CA, USA: State of California Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FA8ddx_iC_g "DIRTY PICTURES" - Alexander Shulgin documentary movie trailer, SXSW 2010
- Ancestry.com. California Death Index, 1940-1997 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000. Original data: State of California. California Death Index, 1940–1997. Sacramento, CA, USA: State of California Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics.
- Ancestry.com. California Death Index, 1940–1997 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000. Original data: State of California. California Death Index, 1940–1997. Sacramento, CA, USA: State of California Department of Health Services, Center for Health Statistics.
- Authors Biographical Monthly Service by Alberta Chamberlain Lawrence published by Golden Syndicate Publishing Company, 1952
- Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2002. Year: 1930; Census Place: Berkeley, Alameda, California; Roll 111; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 320; File: 1029.0.
- Bennett, Drake (2005-01-30). "Dr. Ecstasy". New York Times Magazine (New York Times). Archived from the original on 14 July 2006. Retrieved 2006-07-08.
- Romero, Dennis (1995-09-05). "Sasha Shulgin, Psychedelic Chemist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2006-07-08.
- Shulgin, Alexander (1988). Controlled Substances: Chemical & Legal Guide to Federal Drug Laws. Ronin Publishing. ISBN 0-914171-50-X.
- "MAPS News 6/19/2008".
- "Psychedelic Research - Sasha Shulgin".
- "Donate to Alexander Shulgin to fight the foot ulcer".
- "DEA Raid of Shulgin's Laboratory". Erowid. 2004-01-08. Retrieved 2006-07-08.
- "Vice Magazine – The Last Interview With Alexander Shulgin".
- Erowid's Alexander Shulgin Vault
- Dr. Alexander Shulgin on Twitter
- Ask Dr. Shulgin (an inactive Q&A blog)