Alexander Shulgin has died at 88. Infamous for TIHKAL and PIHKAL, chemistry manuals for psychonauts, the chemist pioneered psychedelic research primarily through self-experimentation. He is survived by his wife Ann.
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
Five years after my great-uncle’s death, penicillin changed medicine forever. Infections that had been death sentences—from battlefield wounds, industrial accidents, childbirth—suddenly could be cured in a few days. So when I first read the story of his death, it lit up for me what life must have been like before antibiotics started saving us. -- Lately, though, I read it differently. In Joe’s story, I see what life might become if we did not have antibiotics any more.
With the momentous series finale of Breaking Bad just hours away, fans of the show are hungry for something, anything to wile away the time before the epic conclusion tonight. So why not kick back and chew the fat with your fellow MeFites with the help of a little tool I like to call "The Periodic Table of Breaking Bad." [more inside]
Dr. Carl Hart, psychopharmacologist at Columbia, bust pernicious drug myths and talks provocatively about race and the "War on Drugs."
Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us. Summary: Inside the Cover Story. Related video: The Exorbitant Prices of Health Care [more inside]
Operation Delirium. "The military’s secret Cold War experiment to fight enemies with clouds of psychochemicals. Decades after a risky Cold War experiment, a scientist lives with secrets." [Via]
"I would point out to you that medical explanations are modern. That Americans today want medical explanations for things that in the 19th century would have been explained by hysteria, and in the 18th century would have been explained by religious conversion experiences in the context of the Great Awakening, when people were having these types of fits, and in the 17th century by witchcraft."
Even a little too much Tylenol over a few days can cause a liver failure. Paracetamol or acetaminophen, active ingredient of such over-the-counter painkillers as Tylenol, Panadol, Anacin-3 and many, many others, is considered safe - and it is, in prescribed doses. But even a single overdose can lead to liver failure despite treatment, and then only a liver transplant can avert a fatal outcome. [more inside]
Last week Johnson & Johnson announced that it is lowering the maximum daily dose for single-ingredient Extra Strength Tylenol from 8 to 6 pills per day (from 4,000 to 3,000 mg). [more inside]
"In the Bible, God appeared to Ezekiel as a “wheel within a wheel”. Spirals and concentric circles are commonly found in petrogylphs carved by cultures long dead. Similar visual effects are reported during extreme psychological stress, fever delirium, psychotic episodes, sensory deprivation, and are reliably induced by psychedelic drugs."
Form Constants and the Visual Cortex, or Where Psychedelic Visuals Come From.
Form Constants and the Visual Cortex, or Where Psychedelic Visuals Come From.
The Economist on Drugs -- Scientists in North America, Europe and Israel are studying the use of MDMA, LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana and other banned psychoactive substances in treating conditions such as anxiety, cluster headaches, addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder. They are supported by private funds from a handful of organisations: the Beckley Foundation in Britain; the Heffter Research Institute and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in America. [related]
Towards responsible use of cognitive-enhancing drugs by the healthy - a commentary in Nature that says, "we call for a presumption that mentally competent adults should be able to engage in cognitive enhancement using drugs". Farkesque debate here. [more inside]
Peter Stafford, psychedelics investigator and author of the Psychedelics Encyclopedia (PDF preview), has died. [Via BB.]
In an attempt to curb the production of crystal meth, more than 30 states have now outlawed or require registration for common lab equipment. In Texas, you need to register the purchase of Erlenmeyer flasks or three-necked beakers. The same state where I do not have to register a handgun, forces me to register a glass beaker.America's War on Science: Chemistry sets and model rockets, the staples of any geeky childhood, have essentially become a thing of the past.Wired has more on how a security obsessed society is robbing both children and adults of the opportunity to discover science for themelves.
Entheogens and Psychotherapy. A 2001 paper by Canadian psychotherapist Andrew Feldmar on the potential therapeutic uses of psychedelics and his own experience with LSD. Now, because of this paper, he is no longer allowed to enter the U.S. [Via MindHacks.]
Cheap, safe drug kills most cancers. That's the good news. The bad news is that because there's no patent and it's so cheap to make, researchers may not be able to get funding from the private sector for further research since the treatment wouldn't make a profit. [Via Hullabaloo.]
What's That? You say you want to stay drunk for a longer period of time?
Dr. Ecstasy. (NYT) A peek inside Sasha Shulgin's infamous lab.
Nootropics ("smart" drugs) - all wish to be smarter, correct ? And - while exercise, nutrition, learning, travel, and social interaction (the last 3 via release of neurotrophins) effectively do this, Nootropic drugs have been researched since the 1950's and have been shown to cause at least short term cognitive function enhancement. Piracetam, the first of this drugs, shows promise in the treatment of Alzheimer's and Attention deficit Disorder. Alas, as with poor little Algernon, the effect seems temporary. Nootropics can be a little difficult to acquire in the US. Beer is not a nootropic, but sex on the other hand.....
Anxious? Depressed? - you need more brain cells. Just take one of these twice a day. New research shows that antidepressants may not work as we thought at all, rather they actually stimulate growth of cells in the hippocampus area of the brain. This may all be for the good - but it seems strange that we release millions of happy pills and market them as safe without knowing for sure what they do. Perhaps its the money talking.
Curing male pattern baldness is more important then savings somebodies life, because there is no money in saving a person's life. So says a doctor who was cured from a fatal illness by a new drug.
Ecstasy is being hailed as the key to better treatments for the Parkinson's disease, marking a complete turnaround from a few weeks ago when ecstasy was condemned for causing the disease.
William James, The Nitrous Oxide Philosopher The fascinating history of laughing gas has always included goofy moments and famous users (Samuel Coleridge and Peter Roget among them), but few took the drug as seriously as American philosopher William James. He wrote an 1882 essay about the "intense metaphysical illumination" nitrous provided. Of course, laughing gas has dangers, can kill you if used stupidly, and can also send you to jail. But is hippie crack always bad? Or are there times when it might actually be kind of appropriate? [more inside]
ADHD/ADD and Drug Abuse They found a link between children with common 'behavioral' disorders and drug abuse later in life. Well what do you expect when we teach kids that the best way to deal with a problem is to turn to drugs (ritalin).
Prozac seems to be societies new legal LSD. In the 60's acid could cure anything. If you were feeling down, tune in turn on and drop out and everything will be good. Timothy Leary was a huge part of this whole "acid culture", but as Hunter S. Thompson so eloquently put it "He crashed around America selling consciousness expansion, without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all those people that took him seriously." In the end the acid culture failed, but we have yet to learn the lesson that everything can not be cured with a magic pill or some powder, you can't just add some water and cure societies problems like making instant soup. Could this belief in drugs that Tim Leary promoted during the 60's have lead to the overmedication of children today? Those old acid heads that have since become working stiffs that have kids still believe in the back of their minds in "better living through chemicals" and allow doctors to over prescribe their kids chemicals such as Prozac and Ritalin. Do you think that there could be a connection between this overmedication and school violence?
Scientists test hallucinogens for use in treating mental illness: Hallucinogenic drugs like LSD and peyote — derided as toys of the hippie generation — are increasingly drawing the interest of neurologists and psychiatrists who want to test the idea that they may be valuable tools in treating a range of mental disorders. The researchers involved in the new work are not suggesting that people start medicating themselves with hallucinogens. Still, Dr. David E. Nichols, a professor of pharmacology and medicinal chemistry at Purdue, believes the drugs' potential should be investigated. Nichols, an expert on hallucinogenic drugs, said there were reports that symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, like washing one's hands dozens of times a day, subside under the influence of psilocybin, a hallucinogen derived from mushrooms. (Note: it's a New York Times link, free registration required.)