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PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story

By Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin and Ann Shulgin

Alexander (better known as “Sasha”) and Ann Shulgin’s PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story has become a foundational work in the genre and was the first book to fully impart the how-to chemistry, and convey the effects, of many of the entheogenic drugs that are currently being studied and used to heal trauma and deal with death. An acronym for “Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved”, the book spans autobiography, organic chemistry, politics, ethnobotany, and psychopharmacology, and the cultural impact is likely to be profound for decades to come, as it has already.

Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin

Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, PhD, (1925-2014) was one of the most pioneering chemists of the 21st century. 

He is most often remembered for his rediscovery and synthesis of a chemical known as MDMA, commonly known as Ecstasy, a drug Shulgin suggested would be a powerful aid in therapy.

Completing his Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley in 1955, Shulgin went on to get a job at the Dow Chemical Company, where he invented a highly lucrative, biodegradable pesticide,  Zectran. Ultimately, Shulgin went on to pursue his own research program, synthesizing psychoactive substances after an experience with mescaline. 

Shulgin left Dow in 1966, setting up a home-based laboratory on his ranch in Lafayette, California, where he synthesized more than two hundred novel psychoactive compounds. A bold explorer of the frontiers of neurochemistry, Shulgin tested the majority of the substances he synthesized on himself, his wife and co-researcher, the late Ann Shulgin, and a small circle of trusted friends. 

The Shulgins and their friends kept diligent notes on their experiential research forays, and later founded Transform Press in 1991 out of their shared passion and commitment to an uncensored examination of psychoactive compounds. Through Transform Press they co-authored and published PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story (1991) and TiHKAL: The Continuation (1997), a sequel to PiHKAL, standing for “tryptamines I have known and loved.” Shulgin’s work has been featured in two Netflix documentary series: “The Business of Drugs” (2020) and “How to Change Your Mind” (2022).

Shulgin in the 1980s, Shulgin taught a popular course on drugs and society at San Francisco State University. In 1987, he recorded his lectures and interactions with his students, and those transcriptions became the series, The Nature of Drugs: History, Pharmacology, and Social Impact. Volume 1 published in 2021, and Volume 2 is forthcoming in 2023.

(Author photo by Charles R. Lucke)

Related: Continuing the Shulgin Legacy: Synergetic Press & Transform Press Agree to a Co-Publishing Deal

Ann Shulgin

Ann Shulgin (1931-2022) co-founded Transform Press in 1991 with her husband, Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, out of their shared passion and commitment to an uncensored examination of psychoactive compounds. Through the Press they co-authored and published PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story (1991) and TiHKAL: The Continuation (1997), the two cult classics based on their psychedelic experiences. The publications generated regular discussion groups on psychedelics and psychopharmacology which the Shulgins led together for many years. They also contributed jointly to several other publications including, The Secret Chief, The Secret Chief Revealed, Entheogens and the Future of Religion, and Ecstasy: The Complete Guide.

Ann served as a lay therapist facilitating the use of MDMA and 2CB in therapeutic settings while those substances were legal. She brought a Jungian orientation to her examination of psychedelic experiences, and she placed particular emphasis Shadow integration while encompassing an overarching theme of spirituality and unification with the divine in all things.

Description

Alexander (better known as “Sasha”) and Ann Shulgin’s PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story has become a foundational work in the genre and was the first book to fully impart the how-to chemistry, and convey the effects, of many of the entheogenic drugs that are currently being studied and used to heal trauma and deal with death. An acronym for “Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved”, the book spans autobiography, organic chemistry, politics, ethnobotany, and psychopharmacology, and the cultural impact is likely to be profound for decades to come, as it has already. PIHKAL is divided into two parts, the first of which is a fictionalized autobiographical ‘novel’ – the main fiction is that it is fiction. This first half of the book is The Love Story, about two people named Shura and Alice who fall in love, though one of them is already in love with someone else. This love triangle is a painful ordeal they must go through, and that process unfolds before the reader with grace and great insight into human nature. Shura is a brilliant chemist who has dedicated his career to making psychoactive drugs, in the story they go through many experiences with the psychedelic compounds that Shura has discovered and has made in his lab, all of which have been bioassayed himself. The reader will find themselves going on this journey with them, experiencing what they experienced, both in their hearts and in the psychedelic journeys they have. The second half of PIHKAL is called The Chemical Story, and it contains detailed instructions for, and effects of, the synthesis of 179 psychedelic phenethylamines which were mostly discovered by Shulgin himself. For each substance there is information on its synthesis, suggested effective dosage, duration, and detailed commentary on the subjective effects that were experienced. This book appeals to adults of all ages and cultures, and to the psychedelically experienced and inexperienced alike.

Additional information

Weight 3 lbs
Dimensions N/A
Format

Paperback, Audiobook, eBook

Pages 0

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