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Science

'Godfather of Ecstasy,' Chemist Sasha Shulgin Dies Aged 88 164

Posted by timothy
from the rest-in-more-peace-than-most dept.
EwanPalmer (2536690) writes "Alexander 'Sasha' Shulgin, the chemist, pharmacologist and author known for popularizing the drug MDMA as well as creating and synthesizing hundreds of psychoactive drugs, has died aged 88. Shulgin was known for discovering, creating and personally testing hundreds of psychoactive chemicals and documenting the results, along with his wife, in his books and papers. He is also known for introducing the positive aspects of MDMA to psychologists, which in term helped it become a popular recreational drug in the 1980s." With less irritation from auto-playing video sound, try the BBC.
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'Godfather of Ecstasy,' Chemist Sasha Shulgin Dies Aged 88

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  • And thousands of candy ravers bit down on their soothers and took another one.

  • It's just sad... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jahoda (2715225) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @12:26PM (#47157393) Homepage
    How sad it is that psychoactive chemicals like this and LSD, which have been well demonstrated to have profoundly positive psychological effects (under responsible use) still cannot be used by responsible, grown adults? They can be the key to truly overcoming the psychological demons seem to be the human condition, and unlocked our true potential as self-aware, well-adjusted human beings.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That's too black and white especially when there are people like me that have extremely addictive personalities. You probably don't know much about that, and if you don't be glad because it's not easy. I'm the type if 100 will kill me I'll take 99 and there is no calming the beast, all reason goes out the window until I get that 99. I cannot even answer why I'm like that because I don't even understand it myself.

      I am the gray.

      • by sjames (1099)

        At least in the case of LSD, you would be hard pressed to OD. Neither is considered an addiction risk.

        There is still no good reason a psychiatrist shouldn't be able to prescribe them for use in a controlled therapy session.

      • Alcohol's legal, and that has a far higher rate of physical addiction. Alcohol addiction is nasty in fact, as forcing an addict to go cold turkey would kill them. People also get psychologically addicted to adrenaline (which we create quite efficiently ourselves).
        Banning something because some people might misuse it is silly, however if you wish to go down that route, you'd also have to ban alcohol, tobacco...guns?

    • There's no logic in laws concerning sex, drugs and copyright. Don't even try to come up with sane, logical arguments. They don't work in a world that's ruled by corporate interest and thinkofthechildren.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Adult use isn't the reason why MDMA is illegal. It's because of kids getting their hands on it and using it. The shit destroys their lives, and I would know.

      I had a friend in high school who first tried MDMA at around 15. He was out with friends, they went to buy pot, and wound up buying MDMA instead. He was addicted to it for something like two years, and ran away from home within a year of his first experience with it. The only reason he stopped was that he was hit by a car one night while high, and wound

      • by digsbo (1292334)
        Wait, let me understand: MDMA is illegal so kids can't get it. And kids are getting it despite being illegal. So you're arguing for failed policies by your own admission? Asinine.
        • by Mr.CRC (2330444)
          Don't you understand? We can win the war on drugs but we need more funding for police, the DEA, the FBI, the NSA, more crates of guns to send to Mexican drug lords, more police powers to search anyone at any time for any reason, and even for no reason, and to get Afganistan under control. We can do this!
      • by Jahoda (2715225)
        So, because you knew a 15 year old with a drug problem (and much more likely problems at home), and so MDMA is bad, recreational drugs are bad, and it's not possible that they could offer anything positive to the experience of being alive. Gotcha. Ok, well, me personally, I credit MDMA and LSD with some of the most profound discoveries of self and the world around me, and I would be worse off for never having taken them.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Some people find the drug that fucks them up real good, and its THAT drug thats bad. Except for some other dude its perfectly fine.

        I know a guy who closed himself up after a bad trip on LSD became a shallow husk of himself, another women who after a month or two on Pot went crazy (literally).
        And me. i had severe paranoia attacks on Meth and consequently E (which are mostly Meth and MDMA an sometimes a little LSD for good measure).

        I can onyl speak for myself here... I was a loner and a nerd, found a group of

      • by Mr.CRC (2330444)

        "The shit destroys their lives, and I would know." "Fortunately, a few years later when I met him, he went back to school and now as far as I know he's doing okay."

        Perhaps his life wasn't quite so destroyed then? Maybe we should have finished him off by putting him in prison, to protect him from himself (but not from the rapists) ?

        We have a guy who died at 88 after trying 1000s of drugs all his life and performing at a technical career with a high degree of competence.

        We have a kid who learned the hard

      • by TheCarp (96830)

        Everybody is different. Shit I did coke a couple of times and didn't even like it that much. I mean, I could see why people liked it, I could very much see how people get into trouble with it. In fact, I think that old drug war propaganda "I do coke so I can work longer hours, so I can make more money, so I can buy more coke" was one of the better descriptions of the trap that exists there.

        Pot, I love pot....I know people who don't; and I don't mean the "I never used drugs so I am an expert" folks, shit, I

    • by jythie (914043)
      While I am in favor of legalization and letting people decide, one thing to keep in mind is that psychoactive chemicals are kinda like chloroform when it it comes to danger, the dosage for effectiveness and the dosage for risky side effects have a pretty big overlap. The difference between people who have a reaction and who do not is not in the strength or maturity of the user, but often just down to luck. Granted heavy users have their own risks, but even the 'responsible' recreational dosages can random
      • by Mr.CRC (2330444)

        One of the main points of legalization is harm reduction.

        Ruining people's lives by charging them with crimes, subjecting them to the most dangerous environment in the world (prison), potentially causing them to get blacklisted from employment forever, forcing everyone to pay ever more tax dollars for ever more government police state powers and abuses while the "meth epidemic" and the "violence in Mexico" continues to worsen, etc. are far more harmful to individuals and society as a whole than just lettin

    • by kick6 (1081615)

      How sad it is that psychoactive chemicals like this and LSD, which have been well demonstrated to have profoundly positive psychological effects (under responsible use) still cannot be used by responsible, grown adults? They can be the key to truly overcoming the psychological demons seem to be the human condition, and unlocked our true potential as self-aware, well-adjusted human beings.

      The propensity to get in a 4000 lb. weapon, and go on a killing spree (aka driving) is too large. And, yes, I realize alcohol is the same way, but at least we have a roadside test with relatively accurate results for that. Beyond that, I personally have no problem with legalizing all the things. I just don't want to be on the road with people blasted 20 different ways.

      • by Mr.CRC (2330444)

        Then drastically de-regulate insurance so that ins. cos. need only comply with rules regarding actuarial solvency, and let them charge people rates that actually have some correlation with the risk generated by a person's behavior.

        Yeah, yeah, I know, "I would never trust some corporation more than I trust the good and noble government."

        Only idiots hopelessly indoctrinated in government schools with dumbed down/censored summaries of the Constitution could possibly prefer the dangers of living in a society

    • by marxmarv (30295)

      Sure, they, can, but how do you put self-aware, well-adjusted human beings into a hierarchy beneath you? That's why these things are hard to get.

  • by mugetsu37 (1485997) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @12:28PM (#47157423)
    He also wrote two books on these experiments, Pihkal and Tihkal, both of which are part fictional autobiography, part detailed instructions on how to synthesize a lot of what he discovered. They're interesting reads, at the least.
    • Before anyone goes "oh no, he tells you how to make drugs": No. Despite containing "recipes" for a lot of psychoactive chemicals, they don't work well as a "hobbyist cookbook to easy highs".

      In a nutshell, if you can follow his "formula", you not only know what you're doing, you also have a rather well stocked lab and access to many things the average person could not even get his hands on by illegal means. So if you CAN follow his lead, you don't really need to, chances are, you did a long, long time ago if

      • I read somewhere, years ago, that Shulgin had an "informal understanding" with the authorities: he would keep his "recipes" obscure enough to prevent casual duplication by anyone without a PhD in organic chemistry, and in return "they" would leave him alone to do his work -- and they would also reap the benefits of his research via his copious and detailed lab notes and trip reports.

        I have no idea if this is true, but it sounds nice.

        In any case, well played, Sasha... RIP.

        • by Yebyen (59663)

          If that's what you heard, well... I heard that it wasn't an informal understanding so much as it was a Real Actual "Schedule 1" license to house and manufacture the most illegal chemicals known to man and laws, and it was revoked (informally or ostensibly because of the publishing of PIHKAL and TIHKAL) after a raid where they destroyed his lab because they managed to get a soil test from around his place that showed slightly elevated levels of mercury. In other words, a snow job.

  • A friend of mine called me up and told me he was presenting a talk at MIT so we went. It was amazing to see a nearly 80 year old man bouncing around. He is the same age as my Grandmother, yet he had more energy and was more with it than she was at 60.

    It was a really great talk; I could watch him talk about his "dirty pictures" all day long.

    Very sad day but, it had to come someday.

    • by leathered (780018)

      It was amazing to see a nearly 80 year old man bouncing around. He is the same age as my Grandmother, yet he had more energy and was more with it than she was at 60.

      I'd love to know his secret.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        I'd love to know his secret.

        Ecstasy and other designer drugs he created. ;-)

        • He didn't actually discover MDMA. He discovered the psychoactive properties of it.
          He probably looked at its molecular structure and "had a feeling" it would be psychoactive.
      • by TheCarp (96830)

        > I'd love to know his secret.

        Honestly, I think its that he kept active and kept working on things that excited and interested him.

        If you understand the basics of what the human mind does, matching patterns and re-wiring itself to respond to them better, if you have seen the research on dementia and alzheimers and the evidence that novel environments that keep the mind active and experiencing new things can mean drastic differences....

        Is it really any surprise that when comparing a person who has mostly

  • I'd post a comment in this thread, but my NSA file is getting heavy enough as it is. How sad that Sasha did not live to see a bit more sanity in this world.
    • Why care about the NSA? You can't even say you are sad that someone died without them getting on your case?

      What is this, the USSA?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        >What is this, the USSA?

        No, but many paranoid SlashDerpsters think it is. The groupthink here ranges from exceptionally stupid to completely delusional.
         
        It's been a real eye-opener as to the mental state of the tech community. People with minor technical skills who mistake themselves for smart people seem to go off the deep end just as readily as any far-right-wing nutjob on the wingnut blogs or Twitter wingnut tags like #TCOT or #TGDN.

      • by vonWoland (615992)
        It is not difficult to see how posting in a Sasha Shulgin thread might have repercussions for American citizens. For instance, Mr. Opportunist, since both you and I posted in the same comment thread, even though I have no idea who you are and never will, our names are linked in some NSA database. How this can bite you in the ass (albeit, currently at a low probability level) is already public knowledge: http://www.washingtonpost.com/... [washingtonpost.com]
        • Go ahead. It is no secret that I consider the legal situation concerning drugs more than just a tad bit questionable. To the point where I dare say that a mature adult should have the unalienable right to do with his body and mind whatever he pleases.

          At the very least I'd like an answer to the question why tobacco and alcohol are legal while other drugs, which are according to various scientific sources less addictive and less damaging to the human mind or body, are not.

  • can you imagine all the touchy-feeling-corpsey groping otherwise? dude...
  • This headline is terrible - Shulgin was WAY more than just some "godfather of ecstasy." He was a true scientist, pioneer, and explorer - a brilliant chemist and great writer. Everyone should at least read his book, PIHKaL. You'll get great insight into why he explored psychoactive chemicals, how he synthesized them, and (imo, most interestingly) how he went about exploring their effects.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    He was much more than just the Godfather of Ecstasy. A brilliant chemist who wanted to unlock the secrets of the brain and the inner workings of the mind and soul. He was bigger than just one drug, his work was far more important than just the Rave culture. He won't be understood in his own time and his contributions will not be fully understood for hundreds of years. Once humanity has decided that chemical and substance research can be of great use to mankind, his contributions will finally be recognized.

    R

  • Your brilliant mind and revolutionary work will be missed. And no doubt the world will be a little dimmer without your bright spirit glowing among us.
  • MDMA: Empathy (Score:5, Informative)

    by digsbo (1292334) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @01:26PM (#47158137)
    Too bad fear rules all. MDMA was highly effective in couples therapy, leading to years of progress in hours.
    • Too bad fear rules all. MDMA was highly effective in couples therapy, leading to years of progress in hours.

      Until two days later when they went back to hating each other again but twice as bad. MDMA can give you some short term breakthroughs in communication, but the side effects are counter productive. The experiments were far from "highly effective." Now if we can just get a drug that ratchets up serotonin production without the re-uptake "hacks" like Prozac or short term "dumps" like MDMA we would have something.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The side effect you talk of is simply a resistance to the natural serotonin in your brain, due to an over abundance of it when taking advanced doses. The serotonin resistance & associated depression disappear after a couple of hours/days, once natural levels are restored.
        This isn't experienced with the low doses used in therapy however. Therapeutic doses are a fraction of those used by recreational users.

    • by Prune (557140)
      The biggest problem with MDMA is toxicity. It's highly excitotoxic, among other things: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu... [nih.gov] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu... [nih.gov] It's ability to cause depencency has not been as well studied, but stimulants in general are addictive (including legal prescription ones like Adderall and Ritalin). The fleeting nature of any benefit, as http://science.slashdot.org/co... [slashdot.org] notes, makes this not worth it given permanent nature of the neurotoxic effects. If you've got to do something, stick
  • "Shulgin was known for discovering, creating and personally testing hundreds of psychoactive chemicals and documenting the results, along with his wife, in his books and papers." He documented the results AND he documented his wife? -- C.

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