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Alexander and Ann Shulgin

knew you were in an altered place, but you couldn’t give it a name or a character. There were no visuals and no time distortion – nothing. So we threw it open to the group, and we were all up against the wall! When I went to take a pee in the bathroom the wallpaper came out and shook hands! (laughter) Everyone had an intense experience.

Ann: Sasha goes through the boring stuff – tiny bits increased very gradually over weeks and weeks. I come in at the exciting point.(laughter) There are certain things that if we find, we don’t pursue use of the substance. For example, if my emotions are flattened, it’s an absoloute no-no to go on with it. Also, if we’re not interested in touching each other then there’s something wrong. Also, of course, you learn to spot signs of impending nervous system trouble, like the possibility of a convulsion.

Alexander: It’s like soldiers marching across the bridge. If you break step, you’re not going to have the rest of the bridge getting to some resonance which could lead to a catastrophic event. You search out your thought patterns and abort them before they come to any consequence. Then you start another thought pattern and stop it. If you don’t let things consummate that diffuses things and pretty soon you realize that it’s not necessary any more. The other answer is phenobarb which is much easier. (laughter)

Ann: The group doesn’t get any of these things until we’ve gone up to a plus 3 and usually beyond that to the point where it’s too much.

So we know for sure that it’s not going to attack our nervous systems.

David: What are some of the basic guidelines that you would recommend to an individual who was experimenting with psychedelics?

Alexander: Learn everything you can about the material and stay away from all information that’s clearly geared to encourage or discourage its use.

Ann: Doing your first experience with a very trusted friend who has taken this substance before is very important. That sort of companionship can turn a very bad trip into a very good learning experience. Your psyche is very eager to have you learn things and if you can develop an acceptance and a calmness you can overcome a lot.

David: What type of drugs do you see being developed in the future and how do you see pharmacological tools being used to expand potential in the areas of creativity, intelligence and spiritual understanding?

Alexander: In this direction I think anything that the human is capable of doing through the mind is duplicable pharmacologically – it’s all chemistry upstairs. I think anything from insight to paranoia to joy to fear can all be reproduced chemically.

The fact that there are specific receptor sites for specific materials in the body which duplicate the actions of drugs from outside the body implies that those receptor sites at which these drugs operate are there because the human produces one for that same purpose.

Ann: I think that depending on the way you interact with any particular psychedelic, creativity and imagination can arise. Basically you’re giving yourself permission to use these powers. I can’t see a particularly creative psychedelic.

David: But they may be developed with more specificity. You developed a drug whose only property was to create auditory distortion.

Alexander: Right, that’s a good example. I’m intrigued by that one because most of the spontaneous schizophrenic states have auditory rather than visual components. If there is a physical correlate to schizophrenia you could deposit this material in a person and see where it accumulates. You could play strange noises and see if it accumulated faster or slower.

Rebecca: How many psychedelics have you synthesized?

Alexander: Around 100.

Rebecca: And how many of those are illegal?

Alexander: About fifteen. The analog law will label a drug illegal on the grounds of it being “substantially similar” to an already existing illegal drug. I was once asked in a drug case down south if two drugs were substantially similar. I said that the question had no meaning. The chemist, who came from the Ventura County crime lab, said that two things are substantially similar if they are over fifty percent identical. I just abandoned ship at that point. It’s a lot of gibberish!

David: How has your relationship influenced your psychedelic journeys?

Ann: If you’re going to do psychedelic exploring the ideal is to have a partner who is on the same wavelength. There is, needless to say, a certain amount of vulnerability when you take these substances, and you have to totally trust the other person. The only disadvantage is that I suspect we pick up each other’s responses a little faster than we should.

Alexander: I had one experience that really startled me. I got up in the morning and went to wash the dishes from the night before, and I realized I was not at baseline. It was nice, but I was wondering, “What caused this?” Sasha came in, and I was wondering if I should say anything to him when he came up with the information that he had taken a sample of a new drug that morning!

David: Do you think you might have been exuding pheromones, which the other person was picking up?

Alexander: That’s possible, but you’re normally unaware of the extraordinary vocabulary of body language. Just the way people carry themselves or the way they respond to a stimulus can give them away. And if Ann’s washing dishes, I know we’ve got a problem. (laughter)

David: What projects are you currently working on?

Alexander: Tryptamines. (laughter)

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