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Alexander Shulgin and the War on Drugs

The “Godfather of ecstasy” had held out hope that clinical trials would reveal medicinal benefits of new psychedelic drugs.

This week’s death of Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, the chemist in Berkeley who is credited with developing the party drug ecstasy, reminded us of a 2005 piece he wrote for MIT Technology Review (“Abused Substances”) in which he argued that the so-called war on drugs inhibited research into potentially beneficial psychedelic compounds. At the time, clinical trials were examining whether psychedelic drugs could be used to help people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, and Shulgin hoped that medical and legal winds would shift in favor of his kind of research.

That hasn’t really borne out. But read the piece anyway for a lesson on the difference between entactogens, empathogens, and entheogens.

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