73-year-old guru behind designer drugs
By thisislancashire – 23 November 1998
The recipes for two new designer drugs to hit Britain, one 33 times stronger than ecstasy and the other already responsible for three deaths, are available to anyone on the Internet, thanks to 73-year-old analytical chemist Alexander Shulgin.
Neither drug is illegal, and each is sold by the thousand in clubs and at raves across the country. Drug experts and police who want them outlawed are hampered because they can be made by anyone with a working knowledge of chemistry.
In “rediscovering” ecstasy and inventing nearly 180 similar designer drugs, Shulgin became the guru for a culture which has seen scores of deaths among those who have tried his recipes.
His book, Pihkal – A Chemical Love Story, contains “recipes” for ecstasy and related drugs, with descriptions of their effects. It continues to be widely circulated on the Internet. Before it was published Shulgin was an establishment figure, analysing drugs and giving expert evidence for US police.
The book, jointly written with his wife, Ann, was the result of a research grant from the giant Dow chemical company. Shulgin used the grant to research and synthesise an entire family of mind-altering chemicals known as phenylethylamines, of which the best-known member is MDMA or ecstasy.
When DOW realised the nature of Shulgin’s work they sacked him but Pihkal – which stands for Phenylethylamines I Have Known and Loved – became an underground best-seller.
One of the 179 recipes in the book is for 4-MTA, one of the drugs now worrying British police. A recent inquest in Warminster, Wiltshire, heard how Steven Evans, 21, a private with the 1st Battalion of the Devonshire and Dorset Regiment, took it before falling into a coma and dying.
Shulgin now acknowledges in a foreword to a new edition of the book that the compounds he described can be dangerous. It is a warning lost on the amateur chemists and dealers who supply the club circuit.
There is no way a user can know exactly how much they are getting in a dose, or even if they are getting what the dealer says they are.
The National Criminal Intelligence Service has now compiled a dossier on counterfeit rave drugs.
Every weekend, rave drugs worth around £10 million are sold. Many ecstasy tablets are brand-marked with a dove, a crown or a smiling sun, but these trademarks are faked by other dealers peddling ketamine, ephedrine and caffeine. Users could be getting something they are not prepared for – or getting the drug in a much higher dosage than they think.
Meanwhile, dance-drug aficionados pore over Shulgin’s follow-up book, Tikhal, which deals with plant-derived drugs.