• California's psychedelic drug pioneer, 85, has speech therapy
• Family and friends appeal for help with Medicare treatment
23 November 2010
Alexander Shulgin, the "godfather of ecstasy" who became famous for
discovering and experimenting with a host of psychoactive compounds,
has suffered a stroke.
His wife, Ann Shulgin, confirmed today that the 85-year-old was in
hospital in San Francisco. "Sasha had a mild stroke over [last]
weekend and is still in the hospital, where they are treating him. He
will be undergoing speech therapy for a while," she said.
Shulgin, a pharmacologist and psychedelic drug pioneer, has been
demonised by anti-drug campaigners but also hailed as a
counter-culture hero by many more. His work has covered the synthesis
of hundreds of psychoactive compounds and his research was published
in the 1990s in two books, TiHkal and PiHKAL, which he wrote with his wife.
Shulgin was born in Berkeley, California, in 1925. From the 1960s
onwards he synthesised and then sampled hundreds of variations of
phenethylamines, drugs related to mescaline, a psychoactive chemical
found in cacti, and tryptamines, substances related to the active
compounds in hallucinogenic mushrooms.
Friends of the scientist have now launched an appeal for donations to
help with his treatment.
"We need funds for a lot of things including attempts at archiving
his work, and that is something we have been asking for money for.
But right now it's simply donations for Sasha's health that we need,"
said Ann, adding that she expected him to survive and that he was not
She said: "The Medicare system in the US pays 80% of certain things
but what is left over is considerable, and we are not wealthy. We
need around-the-clock care for him right now, and for the next few
months, and that can mount up rather fast."
A documentary, entitled Dirty Pictures,
http://dirtypicturesthefilm.com/ which explores Shulgin's lifetime
quest to unlock the human mind through psychedelics, is touring film
festivals worldwide at the moment.
The compound most associated with Shulgin, MDMA, or ecstasy, was
invented by the German drug firm Merck in 1912, and re-synthesised by
Shulgin in 1976 for use in psychotherapy settings. Its potential for
recreational use was appreciated and the drug soon escaped the
clinical confines to become the one of the world's most popular
synthetic psychedelics, fuelling the 1980s acid house dance-drug
craze. Its influence is still felt in music, art, and design today.
Ann Shulgin is adamant that her husband's extraordinary drug
consumption over many decades did not cause his illness. "Considering
the hundreds of thousands of people who have experimented with
psychoactive drugs and visionary plants, many of them using them as
spiritual tools, there is no medical evidence whatsoever that that
would be the case. It's simply not true," she said.