living and loving through chemistry 

In the loving memory of Alexander Shulgin (1925-2014) and Ann Shulgin (1931-2022) thank you for everything you’ve done for the psychedelic community and for providing various tools to explore the mind. You will forever be in our hearts.


Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin was a Biochemistry major, the reason why he didn’t consider himself a chemist, Sasha was often mentioned by the title “Godfather of ecstasy”, for reviving the compound 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine, found by German company Merck in 1912, under the name “Methylsafrylamin” in Merck’s lab journals. Shulgin thought the substance could be active orally and decided to experiment with it himself in the mid-70s hence discovering the effects we know today. He then proceeded to give the compound to the psychologist Leo Zeff (1977) who used to compound as a tool for psychotherapy thus introducing the MDMA in the realm of the treatment of mental illness.

Despite being a title used widely among many headings Shulgin was not a fan of these mentions. 

“There is no reason I should be Dr.Ecstasy. Ecstasy is not the name I gave to anything, I called it MDMA.”  – Quote from Alexander Shulgin, Dirty Pictures (2010 Directed by Etienne Sauret)

In addition, by the time Ecstasy turned mainstream by the Media for being a party escape drug due to its euphoric effects Sasha firmly believed that the nomenclature change from MDMA to Ecstasy along with its popularization would make the compound lose its medical value. 


MDMA was only one grain of the many substances Shulgin had synthesized, after the discovery of Zectran, an insecticide that resulted in a high profit for Dow chemicals, he was given the freedom to pursue research of his own. Sasha decided to research Psychedelic drugs and his fascination with the human mind. In 1992, Alexander Shulgin together with his wife Ann Shulgin, who worked as a lay therapist using psychedelics like MDMA and 2C-B, seeing the potential of the compounds from a Jungian psychoanalytic stance and the use in combination with hypnotherapy, published the book PIHKAL- short for Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved and subsequently TIKHAL short for Tryptamines I Have Known and Loved. Within the books, 234 psychedelic substances (179 Phenethylamines and 55 Tryptamines) were studied, described, synthesized, and self-experimented.


Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin and his wife Ann Shulgin Credit to: Dale Gross/Shulgin Family Trust


In between them DOM (2,5-Dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine), a bridge to the Chemistry of Shulgin’s “classic ladies”. Alexander Shulgin figured to systematically replacing each of the ten unique hydrogens of the molecule, one at a time, with a methyl group and name the resulting materials with famous ladies in Alphabetical order.  ARIADNE, BEATRICE, CHARMIAN, DAPHNE, ELVIRA, FLORENCE, GANESHA, HECATE(DOET), IRIS and JUNO.






 Ariadne was the first result of this experimentation the replacement of the methyl for a hydrogen atom on the methyl group of the amphetamine chain, named after the daughter of King Minos, Ariadne was who gave the long piece of thread to Theseus to guide him thru the mazes so he could escape and kill the Minotaur.

While experimenting with ARIADNE, Shulgin felt no stimulation and certainly no psychedelic states, it wasn’t until he gave a sample to a friend to explore it as a psychotherapeutical ally, it was certain that it had an effect in underlying depression and in senile dementia under the name dimoxamine, that was it, Shulgin had synthetized what he decided to call an anti-depressant.

Unfortunately, some of these compounds were made illegal and never really got to see the light, the human consumption reports are nearly null, just like these compounds, there are plenty of other Shulgin’s creations who barely got any recognition and were made illegal, 2C-N, the ALEPH family, are another great example.


This leads us to the question:


“How exactly do compounds get illegal?”


The truthful explanation is that there is no reason, FDA and alike administrations can make a substance illegal without giving any reasoning. The list of substances is presented and as long as no one opposes against it the substance becomes illegal.

Such list keeps growing as DEA submitted its intentions to prohibit another 5 tryptamines on February 14, those being 4-OH-DiPT, 5-MeO-AMT, 5-MeO-MiP, 5-MeO-DET, and DiPT, in addition, in 2021 DEA placed 40 new substances to Schedule I. 

The main reason why the list has gone as far as it did is mainly lack of awareness of the existence of these substances that may have serious therapeutic potential and it may be a big mistake outlawing them.

Taking the example of Cannabis misconception of being a bridge to drugs like Heroin and Cocaine, its legality is growing in the United States, the alkaloid CBD (Cannabidiol) is being widely sold for Anxiety for both Humans and Pets, Hemp seeds are being sold for dietary purposes, the comeback of MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD agreed by the FDA in 2019 which will be under phase 3 trials in 2022, Ketamine for depression, the LSD Micro dosing movement for Depression and the legalization of Psilocybin mushrooms.


WHAT ARE the Consequences of making a compound illegal?


Making a substance illegal has the objective controlling the use of a drug, the various attempts to make a drug unavailable to the general public by the government turned out to be a major failure, as users are able to obtain various substances from drug-dealers in the streets, thus, increasing the danger for the user as the substances are often adulterated, unregulated and are often not tested, often resulting in overdose as the cases that are being observed of adulterated Heroin containing various compounds from the Fentanyl family. 

Additionally, once a substance is considered illegal, scientists are restrained and cannot do or publish research regarding the drug or its analogs, often making compounds lost in history despite their potential benefits. 


How does one stop a compound from turning illegal?


Opposing the proposals done by the DEA can be done by submitting a formal comment at:

This way the general public can join researchers and psychedelic industries to contribute and have a voice in the choices done by the DEA, alongside providing constant academic knowledge about how these substances work in the brain and their potential to benefit the general health, creating awareness, being updated with scientific research, and the scheduling of drugs can allow one to have a narrow opinion towards the subject and help scientific research.  



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