Sasha Shulgin Smacks Down George Ricaurte
Above: the Professor with visionary scientist Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin.
I attended a delightful lecture by Sasha yesterday at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore -- home of the recent Psilocybin as a catalyst for mystical experience study.
At the end of Sasha's talk, after he had explained his very cautious methodology for evaluating new compounds and introducing them to his research group, a well-dressed, carefully groomed guy in the front asked a rather loaded question. I'll paraphrase:
Guy in front row: "Surely, you know about the people in California who ingested MPTP thinking it was heroin. This must have concerned you. It must have shaken up your group."
Shulgin: "No, it didn't."
Guy in front row: "I have a hard time believing this didn't worry you. You're testing compounds that you know nothing about. Those people got Parkinson's. And that doesn't worry you? You're not at all concerned about the safety of yourself and your group?"
Guy in front row: "I find that very hard to believe...." yadda yadda yadda.
Shulgin: "Let me turn this question around. How do you propose evaluating novel psychoactive effects in animals?" (Sasha's reply was much more nuanced, but that was the gist of it.*)
Guy in front row: (Uncomfortable silence)
My suspicions were correct -- the guy in the front row was none other than George "Oops, I fed my monkeys methamphetamine instead of MDMA!" Ricaurte. Had I known for sure it was him, I would have followed up with "Well, at least Sasha and his group KNOW the substances they're evaluating are the real things.... unlike a well-known, well-funded (pdf) scientist and his unfortunate monkeys ....**"
Damn, what a missed opportunity.
* Shulgin once said, "There are real problems involved in testing a rat for empathy or changes in self-image."
** MAPS has collected a trove of documents chronicling Ricaurte's research and the ensuing controversy. To be fair to Ricaurte, he has gone on record as admitting that MDMA may eventually be a legitimate medicine.