Alexander and Ann Shulgin are well-known elders who have been working in the field of psychoactive research for decades. Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin, Ph.D., is a pharmacologist and chemist, best known for his rediscovery of MDMA (XTC) and the creation of many new psychoactive chemicals, described in the books TIHKAL and PIHKAL.
Alexander started off as a senior research chemist at Dow Chemical Company. In 1965, Shulgin left Dow to pursue his own interests, and became a private consultant.
Through his friend Bob Sager, head of the U.S. DEA's Western Laboratories, Shulgin formed a relationship with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) and began holding pharmacology seminars for the agents, supplying the DEA with samples of various compounds, and occasionally serving as an expert witness in court. He also authored a definitive law enforcement reference book on controlled substances and received several awards from the DEA.
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 otherwise illicit drug. Shulgin set up a chemical synthesis laboratory in a small building behind his house, which gave him a great deal of career autonomy. Shulgin used this freedom to synthesize and test the effects of psychoactive drugs.
In 1967, Shulgin was introduced to MDMA (ecstasy) by Merrie Kleinman, a graduate student in the medicinal chemistry group he advised at San Francisco State University. MDMA had been synthesized in 1912 by Merck and patented in 1914 as a byproduct of another synthesis, but was considered useless, and was never explored. Shulgin went on to develop a new synthesis method, and in 1976, introduced the chemical to psychologist Leo Zeff. Zeff used the substance in his practice in small doses as an aid to verbal therapy. Zeff introduced the substance to hundreds of psychologists around the nation, including Ann Shulgin, whom Alexander Shulgin met in 1979, and married in 1981.
In 1994, two years after the publication of PIHKAL, the DEA raided his lab. Allegedly finding problems with his record keeping, the agency requested that Shulgin turn over his license for violating the license's terms, and he was fined $25,000 for possession of anonymous samples sent to him for quality testing. In the 15 years preceding the publication of PIHKAL, two announced and scheduled reviews failed to find any irregularities.
Richard Meyer, spokesman for DEA's San Francisco Field Division, has stated that, "It is our opinion that those books are pretty much cookbooks on how to make illegal drugs. Agents tell me that in clandestine labs that they have raided, they have found copies of those books," suggesting to many that the publication of PIHKAL and the termination of Shulgin's license were related.
The money used to pay the fine was his pension that he built up over the years. The authorities took his money when he was in his seventies. Now, fifteen years later he is in his eighties, and his health is deteriorating (in 2008 he underwent surgery to replace a defective aortic valve). He nor his wife Ann have any money left to pay for the hospital bills.
The Shulgins have a large collection of both primary and secondary physical materials (books, journal entries and so on) that need to be organized, archived and made publicly available. Erowid is seeking $25,000-$50,000 for this project in 2010 to support an expert assistant for Alexander as well as for scanning and processing costs. Donations can be made either through the Erowid Center, or directly to the Shulgins.
The Erowid page where you can find more information and leave a donation: Support the Shulgin Collection