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Alexander and Ann Shulgin

acceptance that this drug allows you to feel. There is a validation of the self which is a miraculous and marvelous thing to experience. MDMA does not remove common sense caution – you still don’t cross the road at the red light – but this deep-seated fear is gone.

It is also an extraordinary tool for discovering repressed memories. When I was doing therapy, a great many of our patients were women who were professionals in the child-abuse field. An extraordinary number of them had gone into the field not knowing that they themselves had been sexually abused as children. MDMA brought out these memories. It is a tremendous uncoverer, but with the uncovering is a gentle, compassionate validation and acceptance.

We also worked with married couples. What it seems to do with two people who are having problems is, it allows them to forget the defensiveness of, you said that first, no I didn’t, kind of thing. They can drop all that and get hold of the feelings of love again.

One of the most moving things that happened was when Sasha and I gave MDMA to one couple who ended up holding hands again and being able to reaffirm the commitment they had. Two weeks later their older son was diagnosed with leukimia. He died four years ago. They said that if they hadn’t had that day with MDMA, they didn’t know if they could have supported each other through what was an extremely difficult time. One of the things I want to do in our next book, Tihkal, is to write about psychotherapy with psychedelics.

After MDMA was made illegal, all the therapists who had been using it told us they would never quit. Of course, the entire method of using it would change. They would have to know the patient for at least a year in ordinary therapy before they even mentioned it. The patient would also have to be able to deal with the fact that they would be committing a felony. I’ve used the phrase that MDMA is penicillin for the soul, because that is exactly theway therapists feel about it. It is already used legally in therapeutic settings in Switzerland.

Rebecca: MDMA seems to work very differently to traditional therapeutic drugs. Thorazine is designed to suppress what’s happening to the patient whereas MDMA opens it all up.

Ann: It also requires a different kind of training of the therapist. Handling one particular person’s psyche for six hours is very different from fifty minutes.

Rebecca: PCP has a bad reputation because many people have become extremely violent while under it’s influence. Is there a drug, do you think, which could turn the Dalai Lama into a raving sociopath?

Alexander: In my case PCP didn’t release any aggressive tendencies at all.

Rebecca: Why does it have this reputation then? Isn’t it perhaps more likely to cause aggression than say marijuana?

Alexander: PCP, like Ketamine, is an anesthetic – people don’t get feedback of pain. They don’t know that they’re exceeding their normal capacities of muscle. So the anesthetic aspects of it could allow violent behavior simply because the person may not be able to feel the consequences of their violence.

David: I spent years working in psychiatric hospitals and when somebody came in with a psychotic episode triggered by LSD (which was very rare) it was far less extreme than one triggered by PCP.

Alexander: It’s an entirely different action on the nervous system. Most of the psychedelics as with most of the stimulants are usually considered sympathomimetics – they imitate the sympathetic side of the nervous system. PCP, Ketamine and Datura are parasympatholytics. Instead of actively participating in encouraging one side of the nervous system, they fail to discourage the other side of the nervous system when these two sides are in balance. Things shift in a direction either because you’re pulling a certain way or else because you are releasing the restraints that keep you from going that way.

The analogy I give is in the dilation of the eye. The pupil of the eye is dilated because of two opposite things. One, you have things that are pulling it open and you have sphincter muscles that try to keep it closed. So, if you give a stimulant or a psychedelic, that activates the puller-opener mechanism and the eye dilates. The sphincter muscles are okay, they’re just over-powered. If you force a light in that person’s eye, you get a reflexive closing down of the pupil, and then it’ll open up again.

Now if you give something that craps up the sphincter muscles, like Ketamine, the eye dilates because the radials are pulling it open and the sphincters don’t have any power to keep it from happening. If you flash a light in that person’s eye it doesn’t close because the mechanism that closes it doesn’t work.

Rebecca: Why is it that the parasympatholytics: Datura, Belladonna, PCP and Ketamine, have this reputation for being the somewhat darker and weirder members of the psychedelic family.

Alexander: You have amnesia for what’s going on in there. There’s a dream-like quality. You have an idea of what’s happening but the detail is elusive.

Ann: I have never experienced what could be called an hallucination. The word hallucinogen is one we really don’t like.

Alexander: I’ve talked to people to whom that has happened. But the same thing can be said of finding Christ at a revival meeting. Suddenly there it was!

Ann: I have a prejudice against anything that causes amnesia. What’s the point? If you can’t remember, you can’t learn anything!

Alexander: There was a person who was giving his impressions while on Ketamine. Just before he stopped talking entirely he said, “I think I see it, I think I finally have it, in fact I know I have it, it’s completely clear, it’s obvious…” This went on for hours, and it turned out that it was the sole of someone’s shoe!

Ann: I like your question; is there a drug which could turn the Dalai Lama into a sociopath? I suspect that the Dalai Lama has developed his own consciousness sufficiently that he is already aquatinted with this animal. So he’s already made his choices. During psychedelic therapy, you eventually have to go to the monster and get to know it. TheJungians go as far as getting a good look at it and accepting that it’s there. What we do is, we go into it and look out it’s eyes so that we become it.

The worst terror I think a human being can experience is when he or she is facing doing that, because we’re all afraid that we’re going to get stuck in the demon. What you have to realize is that you have already made your choices of what side you’re going to be on in this life. You have basically chosen whether you’re going to be a nurturing person rather than a destroyer and soon.

Once you get inside the demon, the first thing you experience is the absolute lack of fear and then you begin to recognize that this is also the survivor aspect of yourself. There’s a part that takes care of you. Then it begins to transform, and you recognize its quality of total selfishness – it’s going to take care of you and nobody else, right? – but itis your ally. And then you begin to recognize its positive aspects.

David: That’s interesting, because part of the therapeutic process for people with multiple personality disorder involves an understanding that each personality has a particular function.

Ann: Absolutely. This is why I believe that all psychedelic use, even if it’s at a Rave, is part of a spiritual search. My suspicion is that psychedelics are going to be accepted, if they ever are, only when they are seen as tools for spiritual development. But the trouble is that the West basically treats the unconscious as the enemy – as if only an ax-murder will be found in there! For God’s sake repress it! (laughter)

David: Because drug use can present serious problems, every society needs a well thought out drug policy. The American government’s personification of drug users through the criminal justice system has, in the face of rational thinking, been a totally unsuccessful attempt at fighting drug abuse and has seriously eroded many of our constitutional rights. What do you see as the cause behind this zealously fought War on Drugs and what kind of drug policy do you envision for a tolerant society of the future?

Alexander: Well two changes I see as indispensable. One is the laws will have to change and that is going to require the other part which is honest education and distribution of information about drugs and their actions. The way the term `abuse’ is used nowadays is that it means any use of a drug which you don’t approve of.

David: For a long time I thought all drugs should be legal and available to everybody until I read Mark Kleiman’s

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