US ‘Godfather of Ecstasy’ dies at 88

June 3, 2014

LOS ANGELES, California – U.S. chemist Alexander Shulgin, known as the “Godfather of ecstasy” for turning an obscure chemical into a widely-used party drug, has died at 88, his family said. “Sasha died [Monday] … he was surrounded by family and caretakers and Buddhist meditation music, and his going was graceful, with almost no struggle at all,” his widow Ann said on Facebook in a statement posted early Tuesday.

The octogenarian, who lived in California and studied chemistry at Harvard and Berkeley, suffered from liver cancer.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Shulgin developed an interest in the swinging 1960s in so-called psychoactive chemicals, testing hundreds of them including anti-depressants, aphrodisiacs and stimulants on himself and his friends.

In the 1970s he began working with the amphetamine MDMA, which later became the rave or nightclub drug of choice, Ecstasy, or E. It allowed clubbers to dance for hours, although there have been cases of sudden death, raising questions particularly about the purity of the drug.

The stimulant had already been synthesized at the end of the 19th century and patented in 1912 by pharmaceutical firm Merck, before being abandoned.

Shulgin created a new way of synthesizing it, working with a psychologist, Leo Zeff, who used it himself and recommended it to colleagues to treat patients.

The chemist, who organized psychodelic drug sessions with friends, wrote several books on his experiments.

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