Has Dr Shulgin killed 100 British teenagers?

By ThirdEyeFloond · Jun 2, 2009 · ·
  1. ThirdEyeFloond
    View attachment 8886
    This weekend, in clubs, pubs and bars across Britain, a million young people will take Ecstasy.

    With luck - and it will take a lot of good fortune - none of them will die horribly as a result. But what is certain is that many thousands will experience a bad trip, one which may ruin their health, and their lives, forever.

    Last month, 15-year-old Stacey Laight became a terrible, historic and tragic statistic - she is believed to be the 100th young Briton to die from taking Ecstasy. Her death came just 13 years after the first British victim of 'E', and six years after Leah Betts died after taking the drug at her 18th birthday party.

    Even at this moment, a 19-year-old university student is in a Newcastle hospital after a week desperately fighting for his life because he took Ecstasy.

    Yet, the clamour to decriminalise some 'soft' drugs in Britain is fast becoming an irresistible force. New Home Secretary David Blunkett has signalled a debate into the decriminalisation of cannabis, a move supported by two former Home Secretaries and former Tory Deputy Leader Peter Lilley. In an experimental policy, Brixton police are not arresting people caught with small quantities of the drug.

    View attachment 8885
    Ecstasy pills

    Even the ultra conservative Economist magazine this week seemed to argue for legislation, suggesting the harm to us all from drug related crime outweighed the personal risk to those who actually take drugs.

    Opponents contend such action will soften any moves against Ecstasy - and lead to the drug also being decriminalised, as has happened in Portugal.

    One man who may be watching the developments more closely even than anyone in Britain is a grey-haired, 76-year-old academic who lives 8,000 miles away in Lafayette, northern California.

    He is Dr Alexander Shulgin, who, at first glance, seems a rather benign figure. The grandfather-of-five walks with a fragile shuffle, drives a battered old VW, has a passion for Mozart and plays the viola to the adoring following of young students who regularly visit him and his wife Ann at their picturesque white wooden home.

    But while he may look like a gentle old relic from the Sixties, some claim this elderly professor is probably one of the most dangerous men on Earth. And there are many who think that Stacey Laight, Leah Betts and all the other unfortunate children who have died as a result of taking drugs, died by his hand.

    For it was Shulgin who rediscovered the formula for Ecstasy, or to give it its full name, methyl-enedioxy-methylamphetamine, or in scientific shorthand, MDMA. Alexander Shulgin, a seemingly innocuous individual, is in fact the grandfather of Ecstasy.

    The drug was first developed in pre-First World War Germany but its effect on humans remained unknown until he rediscovered it and began experimenting on himself 30 years ago. His discoveries were quickly taken up by the young people leading the counter-culture revolution which was breaking all the old taboos and boundaries in California in the late Sixties and Seventies.

    He has written seminal books on drugs which have won a cult following.

    But it is his latest project which is worrying parents on both sides of the Atlantic. The doctor has set up a website called Ask Dr Shulgin, where children from all over the world can e-mail for advice on Ecstasy and its effects. And his recipes for the potentially lethal chemical formula are now freely available on the World Wide Web. Teenagers with the right ingredients could create the drug in their own bedroom. They wouldn't even need to visit a dealer.

    Shulgin remains unabashed at the carnage he has wrought through the test tubes of his laboratory. He continues to recommend decriminalisation of Ecstasy and urges British legislators to make it more freely available.

    Doctor Shulgin says: 'If they keep it a Class A drug it is sad but I am heartened there has been a debate over lessening controls. It demonstrates a slow shifting of attitude. It may take time but Britain will eventually realise there's no danger from Ecstasy.

    'I applaud the Brixton experiment. I think it's very healthy to explore the legalisation of cannabis, to see if it helps or hurts. The real trouble comes from the social damage done by enforcing these unfair laws which break up families when drug users are jailed. People are hurt far more by that than by the drugs.'

    Shulgin has achieved cult status among the young after publishing a book on psychedelic drugs, PiHKAL, A Chemical Love Story which is a comprehensive list of drug recipes. The name PiHKAL is a sick acronym for Phenethylamines I Have Known And Loved.

    He followed that with a further compendium, TiHKAL, Tryptamines I Have Known And Loved, and has recently completed a pharmacological encyclopaedia which will be published this autumn.

    Leah Betts, who died
    after taking Ecstasy

    It is, however, his potential influence over easily-led teenagers via the Internet, a virtually universal medium, that is something many - both here and in America - find deeply alarming.

    It is a concern the American authorities have been incredibly slow to realise. For many years they used Shulgin as their star witness at criminal drugs trials. In return, for more than 15 years, the US Government's Drug Enforcement Agency gave him a licence to make and study illegal drugs.

    Shulgin wrote the classic reference book on US laws and drugs, Controlled Substances, A Chemical And Legal Guide To Federal Drugs Laws. Indeed, it was his expert testimony that led Spanish authorities to categorise Ecstasy as one of the least dangerous drugs, something of considerable concern to the British in view of the huge numbers of our teenagers who flock to Ibiza to attend drug raves.

    But it was only when Shulgin pronounced his personal belief in psychedelics and advocated that all drugs should be legalised, that America realised the mistake it had made putting him on a pedestal. In effect, it paid him to analyse illegal drugs and he repaid it by giving the recipes to dealers and anyone else who wanted Ecstasy.

    Federal Drugs Agents raided his lab and took away most of his equipment. He has now had his official permit revoked.

    He is unrepentant about the havoc he has wreaked on society and the tragedy he has brought to families. 'I still haven't found anything like Ecstasy to this day,' he says. 'Deaths are extremely rare. Every so often you get some who are not at peace with Ecstasy, there have been several freaky cases of people having fatal reactions to all manner of drugs - aspirin, penicillin - but you do not get an hysterical reaction to those.

    'If you have lots and lots of people who use peanut butter then there is bound to be someone who is allergic to peanuts, but you don't ban them. These people are one in a million, but the spotlight goes on the one extraordinary case and then people try to generalise that Ecstasy is a bad thing when it isn't.

    'MDMA is one of the safest drugs I know. The danger has risen in recent years because the people manufacturing and selling the drug are too often adulterating it with other chemicals, or selling a completely different drug under the name of Ecstasy.'

    He says he is still searching for new psychotropic drugs (drugs which affect mental activity) and still tests compounds on himself. Intriguingly, he no longer experiments personally with Ecstasy.

    Shulgin says this is not because of the deaths or the controversy but because he wants to keep his mind clear for the many other drugs with which he experiments.

    He says: 'It's my task to invent new drugs. I'm still a loner. What else am I going to do with my life?' But who is Dr Alexander Shulgin and how did he come to rediscover Ecstasy? And how did the drug fall into the hands of back street chemists who manufacture it in their millions for distribution to impressionable, thrill-seeking teenagers?

    His story is an extraordinary one and provides a fascinating insight into drugs culture. After serving in the navy during the Second World War, Shulgin, a brilliantly gifted young biochemist, gained a PhD at the University of California at Berkeley. After going on to do post-Doctorate work in psychiatry and pharmacology, he landed a job as a senior research chemist with the highly respectable and profitable Dow Chemical Company where he produced a successful insecticide.

    Dow Chemicals allowed him huge freedom to use their labs to experiment and invent new drugs.

    At this time San Francisco was in the grip of hippy culture and awash with drugs. It was natural for the inquisitive Dr Shulgin to want to be involved on the psychedelic scene.

    Shulgin invented several hallucinatory substances. Dow, conscious of the need to conform to government guidelines, decided he was an embarrassment to the company and in 1966 he left. But he didn't stop working or experimenting.

    At his home in Lafayette, he built a laboratory in which he created no fewer than 150 new drugs and experimented with many others, including Ecstasy which, as MDMA, had been patented in Germany as an appetite suppressant and then forgotten.

    Shulgin was amazed at what this obscure drug could do. In scientific papers and later in the book PiHKAL he detailed experiments with Ecstasy in which he said 'the lightness and warmth of the psychedelic was present and quite remarkable ... and I developed a great respect and admiration for the material'.

    And he claims to have used Ecstasy to cure the chronic stutter in one of his students and saw it relieve an alcoholic of his addiction. Dozens of amateur chemists followed Shulgin's published recipes. Dealers were quick to see the potential and turned Ecstasy into an industry.

    Ecstasy spread to Europe, partly through the Orange people, the followers of the Bhagwan Rajneesh, who were captivated by its ability to break down sexual inhibitions.

    It seems incredible that Ecstasy could make the huge jump from the favoured mind-altering drug of a bizarre religious sect to the suburban bedroom of Leah Betts. Yet it appears that this is the case and that the popularity of the rave scene is to blame for the influence the drug exerts on teenagers. Adolescents, their senses heightened by the hard driving, monotonous thrust of the house music, whipped up by strobe lighting and frantic dancing, were offered a stimulant that took them higher than any amphetamines before. At the peak of Acid House culture, Ecstasy became essential for a good night out - but it also began to claim the lives of young people.

    Yet Shulgin says: 'I'm quite confident there will come a time when Ecstasy will be recognised for its medical value. There are so many benefits to this drug that we cannot overlook. I believe a lot of politicians are against consciousness expanding drugs like Ecstasy because they all fear the axe murderer within themselves and are anxious to repress that side of their personality.

    'The hysteria in England is so appalling. England has a very loud tabloid press which doesn't care about the truth, it only cares about what makes headlines. I don't care much any more what anyone thinks of me.

    'The appropriate use of certain consciousness-changing chemical compounds can be valuable tools for the study of the human mind. I gave Ecstasy to my own son. It became one of the most important days of his life - uncovering the deep grief and trauma from school problems which had been festering inside him for a long time.

    He adds: 'I really have one message and that is that all drugs should be made legal. But I do not believe that drugs should be made available to children and I don't think they should be used as an excuse for bad behaviour.

    'People who use drugs have a moral obligation to find out as much as possible about their effects before taking them. And such information should be made readily available. Those using drugs should be perfectly responsible for any of their actions while under the influence of them, in the same way that someone who uses alcohol is responsible for anything that might occur as a result of their drinking.

    'I do think it is a great shame that MDMA has been side-tracked into the Yahoo! generation . . . when it could be of so much benefit to the world of therapy in a controlled environment.'

    There is no doubt that Shulgin believes what he says, that he is convinced of the benefits of mind-altering drugs. But, sadly, few of the millions of teenagers who take Ecstasy will approach the drug in the academic way that Shulgin prescribes.

    Shulgin says he has never seen anyone die from Ecstasy. If he had, it is unlikely that he would be as sanguine.

    This is what it does to those like Leah Betts who die from it. First, she will have ignored warning signals of thirst and exhaustion. Next, the drug will have raised her body temperature and, combined with dancing, made her dehydrate.

    Her body will then have stopped sweating to curb fluid loss and become dangerously overheated. The build-up of water in Leah's body will have made her brain swell and become pressed against the skull, irreversibly damaging the sections of the brain that control the heart and breathing, leading to a heart attack or respiratory arrest and death.

    This month's inquest into the death of Lorna Spinks made equally horrifying reading.

    She died after taking a lime-green Ecstasy tablet bearing a euro symbol. Within hours of swallowing the drug her mouth foamed, eyes bulged and blood overheated so much that it ran through her veins 'like hot water'. She was just 19.

    Despite the action of America's Drugs Enforcement Agency to revoke Dr Shulgin's permit, he is still regarded as an expert from whom governments seek advice on contemporary drugs problems.

    Only recently, he was a crucial witness in a court case in Spain in which he argued so persuasively that Ecstasy was benign that the Madrid government says it will now remove it from the country's list of Class A Dangerous Drugs.

    When we told Janet Betts, stepmother of Leah, about Dr Shulgin, she said: 'I believe him when he says he is very sorry that it is being used in the wrong way. I am sure Ecstasy could have a medical use. It may be like morphine that has a use in medicine but you don't want heroin to go on sale.

    'Unfortunately, however, Ecstasy is used irresponsibly by a great many people. Leah bought that pill. Nobody made her do it. But she paid the ultimate price.'

    Janet Cousins, whose daughter Helen nearly died after taking Ecstasy at a New Year's Eve party in Peterborough in December 1995 is not so tolerant. 'Shulgin has made an evil thing that has caused so much suffering. It is a terrible shame that he even invented it. It is deadly. It is evil. I can't see that it can be a benefit to anybody.'

    None of the 100 deaths from Ecstasy so far recorded seems to have slowed the popularity of the drug. A million people in Britain continue to take the drug every week. It is inevitable there will be more deaths.

    It is also unforgivable that Dr Shulgin appears to accept no responsibility and shows no remorse for the loss of life that his experiments in a California laboratory 35 years ago have led to in British homes up and down the country.

    by PETER SHERIDAN, Mail on Sunday



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  1. Pringles
    Absolutely not. Deaths are caused by Ignorance, misuse, taking substances that are either misrepresented or contain other other ingredients and (rarely) an allergic reaction. If mdma cured headaches & did nothing else i think it would be available in the high street today.
  2. bananaskin
    I say not.

    The blame has to lie , more than anything imo, with governments and doctors feeding disinformation and hype.
    As we know, as the 'e' has become more familiar, so knowledge in it has improved and deaths have decreased.

    Even with the deaths, adulterants very likely contributed... not in themselves but with interaction with the MDMA and themselves.

    What is important to remember, however , is that 'Ecstacy' is more often than not , not MDMA but a mix of any of Ketamine, Amphetamine, Cocaine, occasionally some heroin and possibly many other chemicals including binders and fillers, and cutting agents.

    So death on an 'E' can be from many causes.

    Remember too, that Dr Shulgin did not discover MDMA... he REdiscovered it.
    The patent was originally held by Phizer Pharmacuticals.
  3. Euphoric
    Dr. Shulgin cannot be held responsible for "ecstasy" related deaths any more than Einstein can be held responsible for Hiroshima, or Ford for car accidents.

    This article should have included data on the number of deaths and health problems associated with tobacco and alcohol too.
  4. Abrad
    Oh come on! Children synthing MDMA in their bedrooms?
  5. Alfa
    Pfff. Another bizarre article by the Daily mail. When will they start hiring journalists?
  6. dyingtomorrow
    Good for Dr. Shulgin. People like him I hold as real heros - surrounded by lying insane-minded zealots but still doing good work in spite of them; work on drugs that will inevitably be recognized for their benefits, hopefully by a more enlightened future society.
  7. Bajeda
    Is it just my overactive imagination or did the article really refer to The Economist as an "ultra conservative" magazine?!? [​IMG]

    And the article is just ridiculous all around. If the rhetorical question posited in the title isnt enough....

    If I was as ignorant as the people who write articles like these I would think sobriety leads to brain damage!

    The fact that he quotes so many of Shulgin's informed comments and interjects with utterly incompetent hysterics is all the more mind boggling!
  8. nibble
    Wow this is unbelievable, in fact I find it absolutely disgusting. There are an absolute myriad of analogies that show how ridiculous this is but that means nothing to the authors of course. Would you hold the sun responsible if someone died from melanoma? Absolutely absurd. The half-baked journalists that write this excrement do not have a fraction of the mans intelligence and cannot begin to even grasp what it is he actually has done in his lifetime. It makes me so deflated and simply sad with the world that this is what is on offer as mainstream "news".
  9. Scrubbs
    Pathetic... No one wants to talk about the inventor of the nuclear bomb, which has taken many more lives than MDMA. There are many more things in this world that kill alot more people than MDMA does, so why focus on the evils of this drug? It seems insignificant compared to nuclear bombs, pollution, cigaretts, guns, etc.

    I think that people just don't like it when other people are having a good time :)

    Whoever put bad rep on me is a bastard, there I said it whoever you are. I know you understand the point i am trying to get across in my message but you want to discredit my opinion go ahead.
  10. Coconut
    I think it is quite unfair to label Dr. Shulgin as a "dangerous man" or to imply that he is any way responsible for deaths related to the compounds he has invented or popularised. In contrast, it is reasonable to do the same to someone who invented a form of weapon. The difference is that the substances in PIHKAL and TIHKAL were designed to allow exploration of human consciousness - an entirely benign practice - whereas weapons exist for the sole purpose of inflicting harm, destruction and death.

    Personal responsibility has no meaning to the writers and editors working for these sensationalist newspapers. Shulgin is being used as a scapegoat, as I'm sure he has been for many years. Unfortunate, as his work warrants the bestowment of the title "genius" upon him.
  11. I<3Salvia
    Lmao!!! Agreed. :)
  12. nibble
    Well I wouldn't necessarily agree with the sentiment against Oppenheimer either to be quite honest, sure it was him and his team that put in the ultimate research and testing that led to the development of a workable bomb but why not go back further and "blame" Einstein for his massive contribution to the field that eventually led to a fission bomb? The man didn't drop any bombs on humans it was the government that used the technology and their war which led to the ensuing destruction.

    Anyway that's somewhat off topic but these men are scientists, it is their duty to engage in research no matter how unsavory the possible uses for any outcomes and findings are.
    This article is utterly ridiculous on so many levels, MDMA manufacture in the bedroom of a teenager? Even the description of a relatively complex synthesis as a "recipe" is idiotic. Stating that "Ask Dr Shulgin" is new is also very strange, the last entry is from almost four years ago..

    Also it is well established that Leah Betts died of water intoxication, this article does not state that at all simply that "ecstasy" caused her death not the 7 litres of water she drank in less than 90 minutes. Yet nobody wants to listen to that? They simply must have something to demonise, to find some sort of evil in a molecule..
  13. Joe-(5-HTP)
    I used to think articles like this were revolting filth but recently I have had a change of heart:

    Considering that the author is clearly not only utterly stupid but also probably has some emotional problems causing him to write crap out of jealousy and anger sublimating out of some inferiority complex or general mediocre cancerous lifestyle, it seems that it must be a good thing for his views on Dr Shulgin to be so negative.

    Think of it this way: Biased jealous ignorant scum will have principles which reflect their nature. Therefore, if their principles lead them to criticise someone like Dr Shulgin, we can safely assume that it is because Dr Shulgin represents the opposite of the ideals of fools like the journalist who wrote this carcinogenic article.

    So although this doesn't make me feel any better about the fact that this article is going to spread ignorance to those vulnerable to it, it does validate my understanding and strengthens my conviction of the supreme and intense value of people like Dr Shulgin.
  14. Greenport
    Does that not say it all? Do we have to spell this out? So 100 teenagers died on ecstasy - that is out of the MILLION people that will take it this weekend. In comparison, how many kids are going to go out drinking and get killed in an accident this weekend? Surely more than 100, and that's just this weekend...in 2005 almost 17,000 people died as a result of drunk driving. More than 400,000 die annually from tobacco use. Yet ecstasy has a reputation as a devil drug because an oh-so-high total of ~100 people a year die from it.

    It's like comparing the chances of dying from getting in a car accident to the chances of getting struck by lightning!

    For god's sake Shulgin did miracles for the world - to say that he was in any way related to the deaths of 100 teenagers is like saying the makers of Jim Beam whiskey are responsible for killing thousands upon thousands. It's nonsense.

    The news has an amazing ability to stretch the facts and they do all the time, because they don't have to list their sources and can twist the words around any way they want.

    Don't buy into this kind of bullshit the news is always trying to print another story about a killer drug that's destroying the lives of young ones. How about printing a story about how many lives alcohol and tobacco kill then compare them to the deaths caused from ALL other amphetamines together! Bet the figures wouldn't even be close.
  15. Swing
    Although I don't agree with the article considering non-adulterated MDMA isn't lethal I still am borderline about it's regulations. Swim used to go raving and do all the fun pleasurable pleasurable sooo pleasurable things that go along with it. But after finishing my pyschopharmacology and more importantly my neurophisiology classes I view it quite differently. Studies have shown that MDMA is probably one of the worst drugs in the case of neuro toxicity. Besides draining the serotonin and to a lesser extent, dopamine and norepinephrine (it's a dirty drug because mulitple transmitters release) it also will sort of "dry" up the neurons in different regions of the brain eventually leading to less dendritic density in those areas as well. Swim was going to take E as a reward for passing his classes with flying colors but is now thinking twice about it. Matter of fact college professors, even liberal ones that except drug use in their students, are coming more and more to a conclusion that MDMA is really one of the worst drugs for your brain's health because it has so many pharmadynamics. Personally I think it's okay to try if you're so inclined but many of these teens you'll see at the raves are in thier crucial formative years and many are going to have severe problems later on in life if they've been over abusing it.
    I think MDMA should be legal under a prescription and should have close follow ups with a doctor that will only use it sparingly.
  16. Alfa
    100 people a year in the UK? Its more likely to be a few people a year. 100 people may have died from ecstasy in all time and world wide. Does anyone have the official statistics?
  17. davestate
    The psychobiological dangers of recreational
    Ecstasy or MDMA.
    ACMD meeting November 2008
    Professor Andy C. Parrott,
    Department of Psychology,
    Swansea University, UK

    Nutt (2006) Editorial.
    MDMA is less damaging than alcohol.
    Ecstasy/MDMA effects described as follows:
    Premature deaths: 10 per year/UK
    Brain damage: unsure
    Dependency potential: ‘ecstasy is not addictive’
    Interpersonal violence: none
    Road traffic deaths: none
    Safety in Overdose (x15): ‘Ecstasy is less toxic in overdose
    because it doesn’t cause respiratory depression or block
    the cough reflex’
    Liver cirrhosis: none
    Heart damage: none

    Response to this:
    Parrott (2007) Editorial Reply
    Following effects with Ecstasy/MDMA
    Deaths. 40/70 year/UK (Schifano’06)
    Brain damage. ‘Most robust finding was a reduction in
    serotonin transporter density’ (Cowan’07 - review).
    Dependency. Two-factor structure: compulsive use &
    escalating use (Bruno’08, confirming Topp’97)
    Aggression. Increased mid-week (Curran’04; Hoshi’06).
    Car driving. Can be ‘extremely dangerous’ (Brookhuis’04)
    Overdose. Hyperpyrexia (fever) related deaths (Henry’92)
    Liver. ‘MDMA has hepatotoxic properties’ (Montiel’02).
    Liver. Transplants needed in <30 year old Scots (Smith’05)
    Cardiac. ‘MDMA has profound cardiovascular effects in
    humans and animals’…‘MDMA disrupts metabolic
    homeostasis in cardiac tissue in rats’ (Perinne et al ’08).

    As such, there is severly conflicting data for the UK, and it seems like more of a bitch session between researchers. Heres the ACMD paper, but personally, I wouldn't take too much to heart
  18. cannabis-sam
    It's even better than that, it's actually 100 people in the last ten years.

    I fucking hate the daily mail, I think the quote from shulgin in the article itself really is all that needs to be said:

    Just look at the way this article is written, just sickening and opinionated with no real substance.

    Let me say it again, I FUCKING HATE THE DAILY MAIL, I ask everyone to go to your local news agents and supermarkets and burn every copy.
  19. Alfa
    That is not realistic. What is realistic is that we are denying media requests from the daily mail. Media requests are quite frequent.
  20. davestate
    What? As in, requests by the media for info or interviews from Drugs-forum? I'm confused as to whom "we" refers to
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