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PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story  
Cover of PiHKAL, 1st ed.
Author Alexander and Ann Shulgin
Country United States
Subject(s) Pharmacology, Autobiography, Psychoactive drugs
Publisher Transform Press
Publication date 1991
Media type Paperback
ISBN 0-9630096-0-5
OCLC Number 269100404
Followed by TiHKAL

PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story is a book by Dr. Alexander Shulgin and Ann Shulgin which was published in 1991. The subject of the work is psychoactive phenethylamine chemical derivatives, notably those that act as psychedelics and/or empathogen-entactogens. The main title is an acronym that stands for "phenethylamines I have known and loved".

The book is arranged into two parts:

  1. A fictionalized autobiography of the couple.
  2. Detailed synthesis instructions for over 200 psychedelic compounds (most of which Shulgin discovered himself), including bioassays, dosages, and other commentary.

Shulgin's choices of synthesis procedures in the second half of the book are themselves perhaps a small act of subversion: while the reactions are beyond the ability of people with no chemistry education,[citation needed] they tend to emphasize techniques that do not require difficult to obtain chemicals. Notable among these are the use of mercury-aluminum amalgam (an unusual but easy to obtain reagent) as a reducing agent and detailed suggestions on legal plant sources of important drug precursors such as safrole.


Impact & Popularity

Through PiHKAL (and later TiHKAL), Shulgin sought to ensure that his discoveries would escape the limits of professional research labs and find their way to the public; a goal consistent with his stated beliefs that psychedelic drugs can be valuable tools for self-exploration. The MDMA ("Ecstasy") synthesis published in PiHKAL remains one of the most common clandestine methods to this day. However, many countries saw these chemicals as dangerous and banned the major ones such as 2C-B, 2C-T-2, and 2C-T-7. In the United Kingdom, most of the drugs in PiHKAL are illegal.

DEA Raid of Shulgin's Lab

In 1994, almost three years after the publication of PiHKAL, the United States (US) Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided Shulgin's chemical lab. They requested that Shulgin turn over his DEA license (which allowed him to work with and possess otherwise illicit substances), claiming to have found problems with his record keeping, and he was fined US$25,000 for the possession of anonymous samples which had been sent to him for quality testing. Shulgin passed commentary of some of these events at the beginning of his second big book, TiHKAL.

Prior to the publication of PiHKAL, during the 15 years in which Shulgin held his license, there were two unannounced reviews of the lab; both failed to find any irregularities. Richard Meyer, spokesman for DEA's San Francisco Field Division, has stated that "It is our opinion that those books are pretty much cookbooks on how to make illegal drugs. Agents tell me that in clandestine labs that they have raided, they have found copies of those books," suggesting to many that the publication of PiHKAL and the termination of Shulgin's license were related.[1]

Notable Excerpts

Essential Amphetamines

The "Essential Amphetamines" are what Shulgin describes as ten amphetamines that differ from natural products such as safrole or myristicin by only a molecule of ammonia.(PiHKAL Entry #157 TMA). The list consists of:

  • PMA (para-methoxy-amphetamine)
  • 2,4-DMA (2,4-dimethoxy-amphetamine)
  • 3,4-DMA (3,4-dimethoxy-amphetamine)
  • MDA (3,4-methylenedioxy-amphetamine)
  • MMDA (3-methoxy-4,5-methylendioxy-amphetamine)
  • MMDA-3a (2-methoxy-3,4-methylendioxyamphetamine)
  • MMDA-2 (2-methoxy-4,5-methylendioxyamphetamine)
  • TMA (3,4,5-trimethoxyamphetamine)
  • TMA-2 (2,4,5-trimethoxyamphetamine)
  • DMMDA (2,5-dimethoxy-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine)
  • DMMDA-2 (2,3-dimethoxy-4,5-methylenedioxyamphetamine)
  • TeMA (2,3,4,5-tetramethoxyamphetamine)

It should be noted that not all of these are chemicals bioassayed in PiHKAL, some are merely mentioned.

Magical Half-Dozen

The so-called "magical half-dozen" refers to Shulgin's self-rated most important phenethylamine compounds, all of which except mescaline were developed and synthesized by himself. They are found within the first book of PiHKAL, and are as follows:

  • Mescaline (3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine)
  • DOM (2,5-dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine)
  • 2C-B (2,5-dimethoxy-4-bromophenethylamine)
  • 2C-E (2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylphenethylamine)
  • 2C-T-2 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylthiophenethylamine)
  • 2C-T-7 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-(N)-propylthiophenethylamine)

See also


  1. ^ Drake Bennett (January 30, 2005). "Dr. Ecstasy". New York Times Magazine (New York Times). 

External links

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