Alexander Shulgin

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Alexander Shulgin
Shulgin alexander9 med.jpg
Alexander Shulgin in 2008
Born June 17, 1925 in Berkeley, California
Died June 2, 2014 in Lafayette, California (aged 88)
Known for
Residence United States
Nationality United States (1925– 2014)
Occupation Chemist, Psychopharmacologist, Writer
Fields Chemistry, Psychopharmacology, Psychonautics
Notable works PiHKAL, TiHKAL
Spouse(s) Ann Shulgin (1981–Present)

Dr. Alexander "Sasha" Theodore Shulgin or "Shura" was an American chemist, pharmacologist, psychopharmacologist, and author. Over the span of 50 years, he created more new psychedelic drugs than any other known person to date - nearly 250 by his own accounts.[1] Shulgin also rediscovered the drug MDMA and established its use as a tool in clinical psychedelic therapy for a short time.

He has written two books detailing his endeavors, PiHKAL and TiHKAL, and also contributed numerous highly appraised chemical assays and studies throughout the years. Shulgin is best known for synthesizing hundreds of psychoactive drugs most notably 2C-T-7, 2C-B, 2C-E, 2C-I, DOM.


Alexander Shulgin was born in Berkerely, California on June 17, 1925.[2] Shulgin entered Harvard University at the age of fifteen and joined the navy at age 19. After serving in World War II, he attended U.C. Berkley for doctorate level work in biochemistry.[3] In the 1960s, he conducted his post-doctoral work in the fields of psychiatry and pharmacology at U.C. San Francisco. He got a job as an industrial chemist at Dow Chemical and developed the first biodegradable pesticide, Zectran.[2] It is during this time that Shulgin began to research and test psychoactive chemicals and publish his findings in various contemporary journals. Shulgin is responsible for re-synthesizing the previously patented drug MDMA, which had been synthesized in 1912, but remained forgotten until Shulgin discovered its psychoactive potential sixty years later.

In the 1960s, Shulgin participated in regular psychedelic group testing sessions for his chemicals and developed the Shulgin Rating Scale, a leveling system for measuring psychedelic effects. In 1966, Shulgin quit his job at Dow Chemical to devote himself entirely to the study of psychoactive drugs. He worked as an independent consultant, taught at universities and hospitals, and served as an expert witness for the DEA.[2] Shulgin obtained a DEA Schedule I license to possess and synthesize scheduled drugs for his expert testimonies in drug trials.

He and his wife Ann Shulgin published PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story in 1992. The book, in two divided sections, narrates their love story with each other and psychedelic chemicals. The second section contains detailed information and instructions on the drug synthesis and reported psychoactivity of various phenethylamines. Two years after the publication of PiHKAL, the DEA raided Shulgin's lab, requested that he forfeit his DEA license, and fined him $25,000 for the possession of analytical samples.[2] Regardless, Shulgin continued to synthesize new drugs within the limits of the law. In 1997, he and his wife published TiHKAL: A Continuation which continued to explore the love story of the previous book as well as detailed information on the synthesis and activity of tryptamines.

At age 82, Shulgin received replacement aortic valve surgery. In 2010, he suffered two strokes and had to receive skin-grafting surgery in order to save his foot from being amputated. Shulgin recovered at his Northern California home with the support of his friends and family as of 2013 but died in 2014, surrounded by his loved ones.

Shulgin rating system

  • PLUS / MINUS (+/-) The level of effectiveness of a drug that indicates a threshold action. If a higher dosage produces a greater response, then the plus/minus (+/-) was valid. If a higher dosage produces nothing, then this was a false positive.
  • PLUS ONE (+) The drug is quite certainly active. The chronology can be determined with some accuracy, but the nature of the drug's effects are not yet apparent.
  • PLUS TWO (++) Both the chronology and the nature of the action of a drug are unmistakably apparent. But you still have some choice as to whether you will accept the adventure, or rather just continue with your ordinary day's plans (if you are an experienced researcher, that is). The effects can be allowed a predominant role, or they may be repressed and made secondary to other chosen activities.
  • PLUS THREE (+++) Not only are the chronology and the nature of a drug's action quite clear, but ignoring its action is no longer an option. The subject is totally engaged in the experience, for better or worse.
  • PLUS FOUR (++++) A rare and precious transcendental state, which has been called a 'peak experience', a 'religious experience,' 'divine transformation,' a 'state of Samādhi' and many other names in other cultures. It is not connected to the +1, +2, and +3 of the measuring of a drug's intensity. It is a state of bliss, a participation mystique, a connectedness with both the interior and exterior universes, which has come about after the ingestion of a psychedelic drug, but which is not necessarily repeatable with a subsequent ingestion of that same drug. If a drug (or technique or process) were ever to be discovered which would consistently produce a plus four experience in all human beings, it is conceivable that it would signal the ultimate evolution, and perhaps the end, of the human experiment.

— Alexander Shulgin, PiHKAL, 1991


Shulgin has written six books as well as numerous publications.

  • 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.

See also

External Links


  1. Self-Experimenters: Psychedelic Chemist Explores the Surreality of Inner Space, One Drug at a Time |
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Alexander ‘Sasha’ Shulgin (Alexander Shulgin Research Institute) |
  3. Sasha Shulgin, Psychedelic Chemist (Erowid) |