Ever sense my freshman year in high school, I have always expressed extreme interest in biochemistry and pharmacology. I believe this is because in the past, I have been prescribed many different antidepressant and ADHD medications. I was always very curious as to how these psychoactive medications worked. I would look them up and read all about the different types of antidepressants and how they worked. From selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRl's) to Norepinephrine- dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRl's).
My fascination with different medications and ow they worked brought me to many different famous biochemists and chemical engineers, but there was one man who always stood out to me. A "rogue chemist," named Alexander Shulgin. Sasha, as his friends call him, is widely famous for his discovery of over 230 different psychedelic drugs varying from the 2C family, DOX family, and various other phenethylamines & tryptamines. Even with such a gargantuan amount of accomplishments, Shulgin is most famous for rediscovering and resynthesizing methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or as it is most commonly recognized as, MDMA.
MDMA is a semi-synthetic drug first discovered some time before 1912. A german pharmaceutical company called Merck first discovered and patented this compound while searching for a medication that would stop bleeding. They never tested it orally, and therefore never found a real purpose for it. Decades later, on September 8, 1976, Sasha synthesized MDMA. Two years later, the first human study was published by Sasha and another chemist by the name of Dave Nichols. They described the effects as "an easily controlled altered state of consciousness with emotional and sensual overtones. When Sasha discovered its effects after ingestion, he introduced this compound to many psychiatrists, in order for them to allow patients to ingest a small dosage in order to help them speak more freely. The psychiatrists were so impressed by the effects of using MDMA in psychotherapy that they would speak to other colleagues. Word spread very quickly, and many people were astounded by how well it worked. Many patients were reported to have said that one session with an administered dosage of MDMA felt like years of therapy.
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As word got out about a drug that gave you empathy and self-acceptance, use of MDMA slowly became more public. Companies were mass producing this substance and selling it legally due to the fact that if users took a higher dosage, they would feel vast amounts of euphoria. As more reports of MDMA abuse were put in media, the DEA decided to schedule MDMA in the schedule one category. This means they had to prove that MDMA had a high potential for abuse while having no medicinal benefits.
Many therapists challenged this idea, and after years of debate, MDMA was scheduled. I can only imagine how upset Shulgin could have been. He had found what was called "penicillin for the soul. " He had Just discovered a miracle drug capable of llowing a different outlook on life. It allowed patients to open up not only to others, but to themselves. He had heard so many reports from patients exclaiming how this therapy nad changed their lives and allowed them to diagnose their issues and even solve them.
It is commonly said that MDMA could still be legal to this day if it had not been for the rave movement and ignorance of others. Sasha has not been shy about letting others know that he is very upset with the outcome of such a powerful medication, and for good reason. He has worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration many times and has eceived many awards for his work. In fact, 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 illicit drug.
Sasha set up a chemical synthesis laboratory in a small building behind his house, which he uses to synthesize and test the effects of psychoactive drugs to this day. His laboratory is littered with Jars and Jars of various compounds with their chemical structure drawn on them, which he calls his dirty pictures. Over the course of this time, he has written nd recorded the synthesis of these various compounds in two different books titled PIHKAL (Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved) and TIHKAL (Tryptamines I Have Known and Loved). He is working on his last book now.
Even with his many accomplishments, Shulgin is in no way rich. His only source of income continues to be from the books he has published. He has never sold any of his substances or withheld information on how to synthesize certain compounds. His creations have only made their way to the streets through chemists in China who read through his books and notes and create these compounds in their laboratories o then export to the United States in a completely legal manner, as these drugs are almost completely unheard of and unclassified.
As Sasha gets older, he suffers from many different ailments, and has no way to pay for them except through donations, which he has only recently started to accept. He lives a quiet, modest life with his wife and he refuses to conduct any more interviews. I understand why many people consider drugs a taboo subject. I am sure some people may even consider it inappropriate to discuss in a high school classroom, but l, Just like Alexander Shulgin and many others, find extreme interest in psychoactive ompounds and how they can affect our world.
Without the study of the more extreme side effects of compounds, how we can expect to progress in our world of modern medicine? Just because a chemical can be abused, does not mean that we should probihibit not Just the possession of said compound, but also the study of it. We live in a world of fear and ignorance, and if we do not fght it, we will never progress. If Sasha has taught me anything, it is to fight for what I believe is morally correct, and I advise you all to do the same. Long live Alexander Shulgin and his dirty pictures.
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