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A monumental work on drug structure.
on April 18, 2002
While the story itself is rather interesting, the last section of PIHKAL ('book II') is the true star. It's not a story...it's a list of aprox. 200 psychoactive and potentially psychoactive drugs, each lovingly described as to structure, synthesis, dosage, and effects. Each item is based on the core skeleton of phenyl-ethyl amine, which Shulgin laboriously explored at virtually every point, substitutive alkyl groups, thio groups, halides, etc. (Methoxy ring substituents are especially popular in his work.) The result is an astonishing array of hallucinogens, amphetamines, and some seemingly inert materials. While he is perhaps best known for his work on MDMA, the drug that would later gain infamy as the illegal drug 'ecstasy', it will surprise most readers to discover that MDMA is only one of an entire family of psychoactive drugs, each with their own sometimes subtle, sometimes astonishing differences. A truly extraordinary, landmark work for the pharmacologist, or simply those curious about psychoactive drugs from a more technical, exploratory stance. (That said, if you wouldn't know a carbon atom from a Honda Civic, you'll still like the biographical part, which is anything but dry and technical.)