2C-T-7's Bad Trip 

Sasha Shulgin invented 2C-T-7. Then he published the recipe. It was only a matter of time before his drug turned up on the tongues of non-scientists.

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In this climate, research drugs are sometimes misrepresented by dealers as legal alternatives to scheduled substances such as mescaline or Ecstasy, or sold under the name of better-known drugs in order to boost sales. Because sale of an analogue is only prosecutable if done for human consumption, research drugs are sometimes sold with a wink and a nudge. For example, online catalog JLF Poisonous Nonconsumables -- the source from which Robbins' dealer allegedly bought his 2C-T-7 -- has its disclaimer right in its name. In addition, before site visitors are allowed to do their shopping, they must click on a page-long warning that instructs: "Do not eat, drink, inject, inhale, insert, absorb, snuff, snort, smoke, slam, or ingest in any way. Do not stick, put, or throw into your or another person's mouth, nose, ear, eye, anus, urethra, vagina, or any other orifice or port of entry that may exist on your or another person's body." This cheeky disclaimer didn't sway the feds, who served JLF's owner with a thirteen-count federal grand jury indictment last September and have forbidden him to continue selling several catalog items, including 2C-T-7.

What next for 2C-T-7? If the DEA decides to schedule it, as has been suggested by some press coverage, the process would take six months to a year, during which there would be hearings and public comment. The Department of Health and Human Services would evaluate the drug's risk to public health and likeliness to cause dependency. However, no matter which way the hearing goes, the DEA retains ultimate authority to decide what class a drug will fall into. The agency is notorious among drug-policy-reform activists for listing MDMA as Schedule I after the judge had recommended it be put in Schedule III, which would have allowed it to be used for medical testing. Even if 2C-T-7 remains unscheduled, it will probably become more difficult for dealers to pass it off as legal once it becomes more familiar to local police.

For Sasha and Ann Shulgin, 2C-T-7's transition to street sales has been tremendously disappointing. They've been exceptionally open to answering the queries of just about any media outlet that's contacted them wanting to know more about 2C-T-7, and they've repeatedly made two points clear: 2C-T-7 was never meant to be a recreational drug, and they're not making money off of it, just as they have never made money from the street sales of any of Sasha's creations. "I'm disturbed by the fact that you get someone who wants to make a pile of money and doesn't give a damn about the safety or the purity," says Shulgin sadly. "It's a motivation that I'm uncomfortable with. People using psychedelics, I'm not uncomfortable with it. I consider it a very personal exploration. But I'm very disturbed by the overpowering of curiosity with greed."

There is a passage in PIHKAL that seems to foreshadow the biggest question raised by 2C-T-7's transition from the lab to the dancefloor. In it, "Alice" asks "Shura" if publishing information about his discoveries in scientific journals will encourage people to turn them into street drugs. "There's no avoiding the fact that a lot of idiots who don't know diddly-squat about chemistry are going to go to work to make some of those drugs -- the easier ones -- for sale on the street," Shulgin's alter-ego responds. "And people are going to take them at parties and use them in stupid, irresponsible ways."

Both in print and in real life, when Sasha Shulgin talks about what's become of his more wayward creations, he seems weary and somewhat sad. He's merely planted the tree; he can't help it if people choose to put forbidden fruit in their mouths. "I do not feel responsible," he says. "I think I'm doing more good than harm."

But this is not the first time one of his drugs went famously commercial. In 1967, a research compound he'd named DOM got loose. Shulgin suspects this occurred after he described it in a lecture at Johns Hopkins University. He didn't recognize the street name it had been given -- STP -- and certainly had no reason to believe his chemical was linked with the strange overdose cases that were turning up in San Francisco clinics. Street dealers were distributing STP in twenty milligram doses, what Shulgin calls a "whopping" amount, and users were re-dosing too quickly because they were used to drugs like LSD that had a quicker onset. The result was that STP became known for producing fabulously bad trips. "I was in medical school at the time right above the Haight-Ashbury, and I'd go down Haight Street memorizing for an exam and all around people were stoned on a drug I had made years earlier. It was the strangest feeling," he says. "It took the better part of six months for information to filter into the literature of what it really was, and then I realized it was my compound, and I was very uncomfortable with the fact that this was not what I had intended at all."

Things haven't changed much in the intervening decades. The ascendance of 2C-T-7 has shown that the chemist's creations are still turning up in situations so vastly unlike those sedate weekends on the Farm, and being used in strikingly different ways. The Shulgins say it alarms them to hear about young people taking drugs in large doses, in potentially dangerous combinations, or via methods they never used, like snorting -- especially when the drug in question is something they once liked. "I cringe when I hear about something new like the 2C-T-7," says Ann, "because all of the 2C-T's are really, really nice materials. They're very very pleasant and friendly.

"If we could control the way it was used," she sighs, "this would be a heavenly world."

While he's essentially in it for the thrill of the unknown, Shulgin also believes that some of his inventions might turn out to have medical or therapeutic applications if given further study. As an example, he mentions Aleph-4, a particularly unpleasant chemical that produced a totally emotion-free state. "You couldn't feel sorrow, you couldn't be angry, you couldn't be happy," he says. "You were a piece of cardboard.

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