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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"I'm creating tools to study the function of the mind -- not the brain, the mind. And here's a good example -- total lack of effect. That is a rare but real clinical thing, and here's a drug that produces that state. Can't you see the joy I would have by putting a radioactive tracer on it and sticking it into a person who had that medical problem and to another person who is a control who didn't have the medical problem and seeing this goes up here, but that goes over there?

"Ah!" he sighs, his voice dropping lower. "That would be marvelous!"

Another compelling example is a drug called DIPT that is remarkable among psychedelics for its auditory, as well as visual, effects. In fact, after tasting DIPT for the first time, Shulgin only noticed the onset of the drug because he happened to be listening to the kitchen radio, which suddenly sounded terribly out of tune. "I assumed it was probably some little group somewhere," he remembers. "It turned out to be the Philadelphia Symphony, which is very excellent. It was me who was out of tune!"

In TIHKAL, Shulgin had expressed great interest in learning how DIPT might affect the brain's auditory processing centers. And years later, he is still wondering aloud if studying DIPT might have other benefits. For example, could it cast some light on schizophrenia, which usually results in auditory, rather than visual, delusions?

Shulgin doesn't seem likely to stop inventing new compounds, either, and he says he's not looking for anything in particular. "I don't have a holy grail. I'd just like to find something new," he says. "If it's never been made before, of course it's never been tasted before. And if the structure is similar -- not substantially similar, but similar -- to other things that are active, it's so damned intriguing to know if it's going to be active and what it will do. The motive is to satisfy the curiosity. And once you've found the answer -- 'Oh hey, it's kind of neat,' or 'Oh my, I'm on the edge of convulsions,' or 'Oh my, I went to sleep' -- you've answered the question."

But the Shulgins' days of experimenting with 2C-T-7 and chemicals like it are behind them. After five decades of fascination with lab-made synthetics, Sasha Shulgin has turned his attention to botanicals, in specific a rather unexplored type of cactus alkaloid called isoquinolines. The hill behind the Farm is speckled with more than one hundred cactus plants, and the beakers in his lab are now lined with a sludgy olive-green residue. He's at work on the manuscript for a third book, one the couple jokingly refers to as QIHKAL.

"Most of the cacti out there are not known by anybody to do anything," says Ann, indicating the hillside slope. "It's all new," agrees Sasha Shulgin, who very excitedly pulls down one of the many notebooks from his laboratory shelf and opens it to a page in which he has pasted a jagged graph: a mass spectrometer printout of the chemical makeup of one species of cactus. Each peak represents a compound in need of a name and analysis, a compound that might turn out to do something new and unusual and previously unobserved.

"And you don't know what it will do," Ann adds gently, in a tone that's half statement, half question.

"I'm going to find out as much as I can," says Sasha, smiling broadly. "That's my whole art."

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