Chapter 6: Patient Priorities

harmless is now meeting in parks, on the U campus, or at Westminster College. We’re too far along in the project to risk too much general public awareness or curiosity. We don’t want coffee shop – ‘regulars’ listening in. Today we’re on the U campus at one of the picnic tables outside the cafeteria.




“I’ve been thinking about the challenge ahead – the logistics,” I confided. “It would be most effective if we could treat all of our highest priority patients at once, thereby helping initiate an empathy tipping point.”


“You mean like over a very short period of time, so their individual experiences are roughly coherent?” Jay asked.


“And in a supportive, non-threatening environment – during a comfortable time,” Bill added. “We know that set and setting are critical to a good experience – to effective therapy.”


“It should be during a time of good press access,” Jay continued. “Perhaps when they’re giving speeches, being questioned, being interviewed.”


“What about college and high school graduations?” asked Bill. “They’d be accessible on campuses and in their local districts. Many would be giving graduation speeches – talking about futures, opportunities, careers – perhaps in a more open, compassionate mental state than normally.”


“It seems more doable – and less threatening – than at Congressional committee meetings in DC,” Jay said.


“And those speeches, receptions, interviews are covered by the press – especially in local papers and via social media,” I added. “That should work.”


“Do they get press!” Jay said. “Michelle Obama was blasted by the ideologue media for her Tuskegee University commencement speech, for saying to the largely black audience

… people might make assumptions about who they think you are based on their limited notion of the world. The racist-leaning press didn’t like that.”


“A limited notion of the world is exactly the pathology we want to treat,” I said.


“Think we could get her to be an advisor – even an active participant?” Bill asked.


“We will need ongoing action after the initial application of harmless’ therapy,” I agreed.
“And she’ll be unemployed in a less than a year,” continued Bill.


“Barack spoke at the Coast Guard Academy graduation and really focused on climate change, oceans, and coasts – and took on the deniers.” Jay said. “And while we’re on the news – why not Chelsea Clinton? She recently published her first book – for the youth market: It’s Your World – Get Informed, Get Inspired and Get Going!


“Another idea for treatment venues – book signings and receptions,” Bill suggested. “We stand in line, buy the book, get it autographed, and give the ideologue, denier, author, patient our therapy gift.”


“A small box containing our special chocolate,” I said.


“Graduations and other local events mean more traveling for us, but then we’d be in groups and environments where we’d be unknown – unrecognized. I like that,” Jay added.


“We need to define our highest priorities and search our patients activities and whereabouts, especially during the May-June graduation season,” I said. “Let’s do the numbers.”


I pulled out a large pad and began: “There are six of us to be deployed over, say, two to six weeks. We should be able to perform one or two therapies per day – say roughly 25 therapies each, depending on scheduling, travel, etc. – times six harmless people gives us an upper bound of 150 individual, unique therapies. So we’ll come up with a general patient list of about 150, allocate 25 to each of us, and then prioritize each of the 25 based on their need for therapy, location, access, schedule, etc.”


Although the team generally agreed, Jay suggested: “Some of our very highest priorities are likely to be unresponsive to our therapy. Empathy enhancement seems to work best for those already somewhat open and responsive. We probably should not waste our time, or therapy, on those likely to be hopeless.”


I agreed. “We’ll define a very high priority but hopeless group to put on hold – to perhaps address later via stronger, more effective, um, therapy.”


“If we are very successful in engendering much more empathy and open mindedness among those we do treat, that may be sufficient. It doesn’t take many individual revelations to trigger a tipping point.” Bill counseled. “It’s even possible we can just ignore the hopeless.”


“I hope so,” I said. “But just in case we do need it, I’m working on an additional approach to the truly hopeless.”


“A second act?” Jay asked.


“Yes, Act II,”I said, “assuming I’m not in jail by then.”




I’ve read Sam Harris’ The End of Faith and The Moral Landscape. He recently interviewed Graeme Wood, who had written a piece in the Atlantic Monthly on ISIS – and what they ‘want’. It was a fascinating interchange, and got me thinking again about John Morton and On Evil.


Rabid Islamists, like ISIS, wrap themselves in a distorted flag of Islam to help justify their egos, needs, and beliefs – and the evil they do to get attention, followers, and notoriety.


They’re not that different, philosophically, from rabid so-called ‘patriots’ who wrap themselves in the flag and the Constitution to justify their egos, their needs, and their simplistic, outdated moral certainties. Both the ISIS terrorists and the dogmatic, insecure, scared ‘patriots’ are acting for certainty, for simplicity, for personal worth and value. The evils they commit are, they believe, in the service of the greater good they desire.


ISIS’ evils are beheadings, genocide, rape, destruction, etc. The moral patriots’ evils are in repression of the disadvantaged, of women and children, of everything which doesn’t agree with their 18th century-based moral certainties. They are looking for certainty from fear and anxiety – and creating more in the process.  ISIS looks 1,500 or so years back for its ‘principles’; the ‘patriots’ look back some 250 years for theirs. The world has changed for the better – though both groups do not understand, recognize, or accept such change, due to their ‘moral certainties.’ Hence their actions are, to them, fully justified.


In Harris’ words:

The truth is far more depressing: These are mostly normal people—fully capable of love, empathy, altruism, and so forth – who simply believe what they say they believe … Normal people, under the sway of bad ideas, are capable of anything.


But, of course, to most of us, they are indeed crazy and evil.


Tom Friedman discusses Ted Cruz in almost similar terms:

Ted Cruz does not have a good soul. He brims with hate … Cruz wraps himself in an American flag and spits on all the institutions that it represents. And so does Trump.


“Although we discussed ‘believers’ earlier, I forgot to mention Eric Hoffer,” I said. “He had believers, violence, and terrorism fairly well figured out in 1951. David Brooks, in a column following the San Bernardino massacre, recalled and quoted The True Believer, Hoffer’s seminal work on mass movements.”


“Guess I missed both the book and the column – fill me in,” Jay said.


“Brooks’ words and perspectives are based on Hoffer, but merit direct quoting – let me get the column,” I said, opening my laptop:


The central preoccupation of a mass movement … is self sacrifice … to get people to negate themselves for a larger cause. Mass movements [tend to] arise … when a once sturdy social structure is in a state of decay or disintegration. This is a pretty good description of parts of the Arab world. To a lesser degree it is a good description of isolated pockets of our own segmenting, individualized society where some people … are driven primarily by frustration. Their personal ambitions are unfulfilled. They have lost faith in their own abilities to realize their

dreams. They sometimes live with an unrelieved boredom. Freedom aggravates their sense of frustration because they have no one to blame but themselves for their perceived mediocrity. Fanatics …fear liberty more than they fear persecution. … they are driven by a wild hope … an imminent perfect future can be realized if they proceed recklessly to destroy the present. The glorious end times are just around the corner.


The correct response is … try to heal the social disintegration that is the seedbed of these movements, …  offer positive inspiring causes to replace the suicidal ones. … mass movements are conquered when their charisma is destroyed, when they are defeated militarily

and humiliated. Then they can no longer offer hope, inspiration or a plausible way out for the disaffected.


“That seems to fully cover it,” Bill said.


“That’s exactly what most of the studies of ISIS recruitment and radicalization suggest – coupled with a dose of Quoranic mission and excuse,” Jay added.



Syndrome E (for EVIL) is the basis of a New Scientist story which updates a 1997 paper by Itzhak Fried of UCLA. The piece says that Fried then

…argued that the transformation of non-violent individuals into repetitive killers is characterized by a set of symptoms that suggest a common condition, which he called Syndrome E.


The article tabulates the  ‘Seven Symptoms of Evil’ as:


Compulsive repetitive violence

            Obsessive beliefs

            Rapid desensitisation to violence

            Flat emotional state

            Separation of violence from everyday activities

            Obedience to an authority

            Perceiving group members as virtuous.


The bold typeface was indeed used in the article.


Fried used the term ‘cognitive fracture’ to help describe the brain actions which lead people to commit brutal, evil acts.




I looked at the original paper in The Lancet and was impressed by the middle part of Fried’s abstract, as it so fully describes our patients:


… This transformation is characterised by a set of symptoms and signs suggesting a common syndrome—Syndrome E. Affected individuals show obsessive ideation, compulsive repetition, rapid desensitisation to violence, diminished affective reactivity, hyperarousal, environmental dependency, group contagion, and failure to adapt to changing stimulus-reinforcement associations. Yet memory, language, planning, and problem-solving skills remain intact. The main risk factors are male sex and age between 15 and 50. A pathophysiological model – ‘cognitive fracture’ – is hypothesised …



“Except for ‘…problem-solving skills remain intact,  …’, that certainly describes our subjects,” Bill noted.


“Three of the tabulated Syndrome E attributes match our criteria for harmless’ patient selection:” Jay added. “Obsessive beliefs, Obedience to an authority, and Perceiving group members as virtuous.”


“And the violence our patients do are to the planet and society, rather than individual victims,” Bill added.


“They’re almost all NRA members and supporters.” I said. “That, to me, implicates them all in the violence, the terrorism – domestic and internationally.”


“But are they indeed treatable? Is MDMA likely to be strong enough, effective?”


“We’ll see,” I said.



There are many who are so far to the right on the morality, values, compassion spectrum that it may be counterproductive to waste our precious MDMA – and our time and attention – on them. For them we may need a different ‘solution’ – after we’ve done what we can via harmless.




I reached out to Kay, a politically aware and active sociologist, who had recently retired. We worked together some five or so years ago on projects for The Leonardo. I told her I was developing a priority list of people who needed ‘attention’, much as I did two years ago with U interns on ‘Project 104’. I did not, of course, mention harmless or any of our plans. Kay was to be on the ‘outside’ – not in any way part of or responsible for harmless’ actions.


For Project 104 I worked with two U interns to prepare a list of all 104 members of the Utah State Legislature. We developed an environmental issues questionnaire and then called and interviewed nearly all of the 104. As two thirds or so of that 104 are very conservative, we certainly did not expect to make environmentalists out of them. We did, optimistically, hope that just hearing our questions and concerns would enhance their awareness of issues which many of them didn’t even recognize as issues – and thus make them a bit more receptive to data, discussions, and presentations on the subjects. I told Kay I now wanted to do something similar on a national scale.


Kay responded very enthusiastically. We began meeting on a weekly basis.




“Great that we have some help,” Bill said. “It takes time to chase down all the information we need on every patient we choose to serve.”


“And it’s not just each specific patient. We have to know and understand their spouses, close friends, kids, family, etc. One single treatment may not lead to a tipping point. It may take several close others to help,” Jay added.


“Yes – but keep doing your own work on your favorite evildoers,” I said. “Feed that information to me, and I’ll route it to Kay. That way I can help her prioritize – and minimize the possibility that she’ll learn about harmless.”


“But 150 patients is, I think, far too large a number. It’s unrealistic,” Bill said.


“I guess you’re right,” I said. “We’ll work to make the final list much smaller.”




Working with the team, and then with Kay, we put together a patient list, including a large number culled from a climate denier website. Kay inherited the preliminary spreadsheets that Jay and Lucien had been developing and consolidated the information. She also put together a spreadsheet of Congressional committees, so we’d know which committees each of our patient priorities serve on, and thus what committee meetings and field hearings might be useful venues at which to access our patients.


With this data in hand, harmless began to discuss prioritization of patients, setting up an initial triage strategy:


high priority – the ‘mild’ deniers, who might be influenced by enhanced empathy, compassion, family input, colleague ‘revelations’, etc. and whom we could access and ‘treat’;


moderate priority – normal deniers, who – if they respond well to treatment – might be more influential in moving towards a national and Congressional tipping point; and lastly


low priority – strong deniers, strongly vested in positions and ‘investments’ that make it very difficult for them to change their minds in the public arena. These might include McConnell, the Koch Brothers, and Grover Norquist as examples.




“That makes sense from the raw numbers perspective,” Bill said, “but not necessarily from the tipping point perspective.”


“Right,” Jay said. “If we could engineer a strong revelation – a complete about face – for a very influential strong denier, then that would have great impact.”


“Yes,” I agreed. “One revelation can lead to tens, hundreds, or more questioning their stands – asking why Mr. Strong Denier has changed his mind.”


“Which is what happened with Bob Inglis,” Jay continued. “He was a strong arch-conservative, denier – and then flipped. And now he’s talking to conservative groups all over the country.”


“He is, including groups in Utah,” I said, ‘but it didn’t really result in others changing – at least not publically, not yet.”


“And that’s the key,” Bill said. “They have to make their revelation – their mind change – public – and solid.”


“Which is why we may have more success with Priority One and Two rather than Three,” I said.


“Unless we have some unique or special way to access the denier – to facilitate the transformation – like Inglis’ 18 year old son,” Jay said.


“Or McConnell’s smart wife,” I said.


“Or Cruz’s,” said Bill. “Or Bush’s. The Atlantic just published a profile on Columba Bush – she’s quite interesting.”


“Kay will be getting information on wives, kids, mentors, and others whom our patients may hold in high regard,” I said. “We also need to consider a way for them not to lose too much ‘face’. Rubio, for example, could cite a newly discovered concern for Florida’s coastline.”


“Maybe we could get him into that new performance art piece in Miami – an aquarium with water rising in it – and Rubio inside?” Bill suggested.


“Cuba’s coastline is also of concern – for the U.S. business community, of course,” Jay joked.


“Each patient will require a unique strategy so as to maximize our – and her – effectiveness,” Bill said.


“More on Cruz,” said Bill. “Mother Jones had a great short summary of his strong values – and values flip-flops – from a few years ago to now.”


“I thought his ideology and so-called values had been consistent,” Jay said.


“No. Not at all. He’s a flip-flopping opportunist – just more persuasive than Romney. I’ll send you the link to the Deja Cruz story.”


“And Rubio’s now starting to flip-flop and pander. Suddenly he’s an evangelist as well as a Catholic.”


“They do whatever it takes!”


Bill added: “A friend of mine the other night says Cruz looks and acts like Joe McCarthy, the anti-communist tyrant from the sixties.”


“Yes – there was actually a short New Yorker piece about Cruz claiming Communists among the Harvard faculty – accusations and baiting just like McCarthy did,” I said. “And David Brooks even commented on his MyCarthyite tactics.”


“Remember the George Clooney film Good Night and Good Luck – about Edward R Murrow and Joe McCarthy?” Bill asked.


“Yes!” Jay said. “I need to see it again – this time in the context of Ted Cruz.”




We agreed that our earlier consideration of 150 treatable patients was unrealistic – we needed to get the total list and goal down to 50 or so. We began to go through our list of 125 initial Congress-people and another 25 or so ‘others’ – Supreme Court justices, key Governors, GOP 2016 Presidential candidates (they get press!), and obvious plutocrats – who also get a lot of press.


Special constituencies and interests were also considered. For example, combat veterans in Congress know about PTSD, empathy, and psychoactive drugs.


We also considered the cautions noted by psychedelic – and empathogen – using psychologists and therapists over the years. Our patients must be on firm mental, psychological foundations with the ego and self-confidence to be able to change their minds…to grow mentally, intellectually, and politically. They should have family, colleagues, friends of different persuasions whom they respect. Treating those who are too fully ideologically insulated – who exist in ideological bubbles – may be counter-productive.




“You know, nearly everyone who’s used and been a spokesperson for psychedelics and empathogens say it’s very unethical to ‘treat’ patients without their full permission and cooperation,” Bill cautioned.


“The CIA did such work in the sixties, with LSD – and generated some very bad trips. Their Project MKUltra was searching for interrogation and ‘truth’ results, rather than political persuasions,” Jay said. “It’s covered in the Acid Dreams book, based on Church Committee hearings in 1975 and declassified files released finally in 2001!”


“And that ties to The Burglary and 1971,” I said. “Because it was the Media, Pennsylvania FBI office burglars who stole and distributed the documents that were largely responsible for activating the Church Committee. It’s all connected.”


“That’s very interesting, but most ethicists would say it’s unethical – even evil – to spike a drink without the patient’s knowledge,” Bill continued.


“I agree, I said. “Shulgin said the same thing:

…something I consider truly unforgivable – giving somebody a psychoactive drug of any kind without telling them and getting their consent.

But generally such actions are to get the patient to feel or do something for the benefit of the person doing the clandestine spiking – to activate an action which goes against the patient’s interests.”


“Right. We’re trying to get the patient to have a perspective which is in their best interests – they just don’t know that yet,” Jay explained.


“What we are really doing is what philosophers and ethicists are now calling ‘moral enhancement’,” I said.




Unfit for the Future is the title of a 2012 Oxford University Press book by Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu. Persson is a Professor of Philosophy at Gothenburg University in Sweden.

Savulescu holds a Chair in Practical Ethics and Philosophy at Oxford.


The Oxford Philosophy Department has a Future of Humanity Institute, which looks ‘at big-picture questions for human civilization’. They deal with            

            …technological change, weigh ethical dilemmas, and evaluate global priorities … to clarify the choices that will shape humanity’s long-term future.

And that, of course, includes human enhancement – moral and otherwise.


Unfit for the Future is subtitled The Need for Moral Enhancement. The basic idea is that moral enhancement is essential if humanity is to avoid catastrophe.


A similar statement was made by Roger Walsh in the Roberts book on entheogens:

            We are in a race between catastrophe and consciousness … A key question … is whether we can create a critical mass of aware people in sufficient time. …whether we create a sustaining and sustainable society or leave behind a planet that is polluted and plundered and poisoned. The state of the world now reflects the state of our minds. …look at the world and its insanity, we can see that it reflects our own insanity.


Sidney Cohen made a similar suggestion in his 1967 book on LSD The Beyond Within, when he said: ‘Social change is so rapid that the precepts of one generation become the absurdities of the next’.


“Cohen’s statement relates directly to an economic and political system whose foundations are based on early 19th century assumptions,” I said. “We should understand that cognitive and moral enhancement is not a new idea – that our deficiencies in cognition are unrecognized. New World, New Mind: Moving towards Conscious Evolution is a 1989 book by Ornstein and Ehrlich that considers the deficiencies of our minds – the old mind, they call it – and the need for us ‘…to take our own evolution into our hands’.”


“Is that The Ehrlich, Paul Ehrlich?” Bill asked.


“Yes, he wrote the book together with Robert Ornstein, a neurobiologist. They advocate an education effort to facilitate ‘cultural evolution’ – to enable us to address longer term problems and thinking rather than the very short term, reactive approach that has characterized brain evolution during mankind’s survival phase.”


“1989 was at the end of the cold war,” Jay noted, “so I imagine they were very concerned about war and nuclear weapons.”


“Yes, but also about population and planetary environmental issues.”


“Jake said several times,” Bill recalled,  “in our earlier discussions – before harmless –

that it’s not the Planet we ‘environmentalists’ are trying to save – it’s humanity itself; it’s civilization. The planet will do just fine – perhaps better – without Man.”


“Understood,” I agreed. “Diversity and ecosystems return and become healthy in those political no man’s lands where people are excluded.”


“Like the 38th Parallel in Korea,” Bill added. “And various international border parks in other areas.”


“There’s been a set of books imagining – or prophesizing – what will happen when man is gone – or largely gone.” I said.  “A current one is Station Eleven, a novel where a virus wipes out nearly all of mankind – and a greatly decreased and restricted civilization somehow slowly rebuilds.”


“Have you ever read Earth Abides, by George Stewart?” Jay asked. “It’s similar in that a virus or plague wipes nearly everyone out, and small isolated groups carry on and eventually find each other.”
“There was a talk here in Salt Lake some five or so years ago – in Kingsbury Hall – by the author of The World without Us,” Bill recalled.


“That was Alan Weisman. It was a positive account of the resurgence of plants and animals – of planetary biodiversity – with Man largely gone. His newest book is Countdown – about the need to greatly control human population.”


“So maybe we’re better off letting Congress and humanity go on unperturbed,” Bill suggested, “- much of humanity will eventually crash – and the planet will then slowly ‘recover’.”


“Very, very slowly. That’s what some call the very hard core environmentalists’ position,” Jay said. “But there are some nice aspects of life and of civilization I’d like to maintain.”


“Interestingly, in the Station Eleven novel,” I said,  “there is an entertainment caravan, the Traveling Symphony, pulled by horses, which goes to the various largely isolated communities and offers Shakespeare plays and a small live orchestra. The wagons are labeled Survival is not Sufficient.”


“I saw a short local documentary the other night on KUED,” Bill added, “on the history of Salt Lake City. There was a piece on the Salt Lake Theatre, built shortly after the Mormons established the City – well before they built their Temple and Tabernacle. It quoted Brigham Young as saying something like ‘religion is not enough’ – the people need amusement.”


“I hope that means real culture – ,” Jay said, “music, theatre, philosophy, science,…”


“As long as it didn’t interfere with Mormon theology.”




The Persson-Savulescu position is that humans have very rapidly advanced science and developed technologies whose influence extends over the entire planet and far into the future. Our moral psychology, however, evolved in the absence of such science and technological powers. Our mental makeup may be appropriate to small hunter-gatherer tribes – their problems, concerns, and issues – but is simply incapable of dealing with planetary wide and long time frame issues and concerns, hence our need for moral, psychological, ethical enhancement. Their main purpose is to argue for global moral enhancement – to counter the prevailing ethical ‘wisdom’ that morals and ethics are individual, small group, small nation concerns.


They say that moral enhancement means appreciating altruism and justice, and this requires enhanced feelings of empathy and expanded imagination. They also note that, in general, women have greater capacities for altruism and empathy than men. These positions and suppositions are in line with harmless.


But they say very little about how to go about moral enhancement. There is no mention of empathogens or of any specific drugs or agents, except for oxytocin. They do mention the SSRI drugs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and suggest that pharmaceuticals may have a role in moral enhancement – and then write that ‘…no straightforward moral enhancers have hitherto been discovered…’.



“That’s astounding,” Jay said. “Are they completely unaware of MDMA?”


“It appears so,” I answered. “I’ve looked at some of their papers and chapters. The closest they seem to get is oxytocin. And it gets better – right at the end of the book they continue:

Even if such means were discovered, the daunting task of applying them to a sufficient number of people – probably in the range of hundreds of millions – would remain.


“Well, our task is certainly daunting,” Bill said. “But if we could start by morally enhancing the US Congress, it would be a good start.”


“There’s also a New Scientist story, titled Morality 2, referring to the moral enhancement work – as well as to Crockett’s. She’s the one we noted earlier who suggested in an online video

            What if negotiators popped a few moral enhancers before heading to the [negotiating] table?


“I considered trying to contact Persson or Savulescu,” I continued, “but we better not. We are on such a tight time frame and now have the need for total secrecy. By now they should know that MDMA and empathogens exist, because an Australian named Sparrow published a critique of their positions at about the time their book was published – already several years ago. The last sentence of his critique is:

...if we are concerned about the problems of war, global warming, and terrorism, et cetera, it is to politics rather than neuroethics that we should turn.”


“And that’s exactly what harmless is doing,” Bill said.


“I was just skimming through your underlines in the book,” Jay said, holding my copy of Unfit for the Future. “They do largely conclude the book with this sentence:

            Significant moral enhancement of the human species appears to be necessary in order to ensure the survival of human civilization in the longer run.”


“Amen,” said Bill.


“You want an even more pessimistic perspective?” I asked. “Here’s the opening paragraph from a little 1983 book by Konrad Lorenz, The Waning of Humaneness:


Now, as never before, the prospects for a human future are exceptionally dismal. Most probably the human race will soon and swiftly, but certainly not painlessly, be committed to suicide through use of extant nuclear weaponry. Even if this does not happen, every human being remains in peril of a slow death through poisoning and desiccating the environment in which he lives and by which he is sustained.  


“Wow,” Jay said. “And I think I get depressed.”


“Well, he wrote that in 1983, before the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain came down – in the midst of all the concerns about nuclear driven Mutually Assured Destruction.”


“And that was before global warming and climate change was on our radar,” Bill said.


“We think the nuclear threat is over,” I said, “but it really isn’t – nukes plus terrorists equals terribly frightening scenarios.”


“And now you have Putin trying to restore the old USSR – as well as the Middle East forever imploding,” Jay added.


“And don’t forget Iran and Israel,” Bill cautioned. “Say, let me mention an interview in The Sun I just read – it’s relevant.”


“I’m glad you still subscribe. They really do great work.”


“They interviewed Mathew Fox, an excommunicated Catholic former priest, who just wrote a little book Letters to Pope Francis.  The last part of the interview focuses on evil – here are the key quotes:

the economy… is an evil we are all involved in… I would consider the denial that human activity is causing climate change to be a collectivist evil…”


“I like that – a ‘collectivist evil’.”



What harmless is trying to do is indeed ethical and moral – at least according to a small subset of the philosophy – ethics communities.





We agreed, in late 2015, before Scalia’s death, that our highest priority is Supreme Court justices – and that we would each begin our homework on the most conservative five: Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts, and Kennedy.


We were meeting at a new place, Coffee Noir, the corner coffee shop at about 10th East and 2nd South, close to the U. This was part of harmless’ strategy to move around a bit and not get too comfortable at any one location.



“The Supreme Court can’t legislate – they simply come to decisions on the cases before them,” Bill said.


“Sure, there is no such thing as an activist Court,” Jay taunted. “Give me a break – that’s an idealistic fallacy.”


“And fantasy,” I said. “We do have a very activist Court, although that’s not necessarily bad. There was a recent Times story on how Justices and the Court ‘request’ cases they want to hear. It talks about ‘legal entrepreneurs’ – people who engineer cases designed for eventual Supreme Court consideration – to pass new judgments on social issues.”


“Isn’t that what the recent Affordable Care Act (ACA) case was about?” Bill asked. “Four little words, taken out of context. If the Court had agreed, it would have destroyed the ACA.”


“Which was the intent of the case,” I added. “The Court should never have agreed to hear the ‘case’.”


“But they did, and got three positive votes,” Jay said. “Fortunately there were six no votes.”


“There’ll be more entrepreneurial activist cases coming up before the Court,” Bill said. “It’s a way to legislate without going through Congress – and they are likely to have a highly conservative outcome.”


“All the more reason to provide some positive psychology for at least several key justices,” I concluded.



We also agreed to consider those in Congress with major positions of power and control.



“McConnell is in his last term,” Bill said. “He’s accomplished his goal of becoming Senate Majority Leader, and he’s looking tired. He failed at his earlier goal of ‘making Obama a one term President’. He now has his ‘dream job’ – Senate Majority Leader.”


“Yes, but he seems to be failing at it,” Jay said. “He lost to Rand Paul on the Patriot Act provisions.”


“He screwed up the timing,” Bill added. “He was confident that by letting it go to the wire, Paul would play ball. He didn’t; McConnell took a beating.”


“He seems to have a ready supply of, and taste for, Manhattans,” Jay said. “It’s his favorite drink.”


“Take two after every defeat?” Bill asked. “Perhaps with a little something added?”


“Why not?” Jay said. “It would certainly do him some good.”


“It’s an interesting power struggle – the old and young senators from Kentucky duking it out,” I said. “Both are strong climate deniers, but Paul tries to be somewhat rational, consistent, and principled.”


“Yes, Libertarians think they are principled. But many of those principles are based on out of date assumptions. The Kochs, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul – they all need treatment,” Jay added. “Let’s put them on the list and do the needed homework.”


“That’s already ten,” Bill said.


“Today’s NY Times is loaded with stories relevant to harmless,” Jay offered.


“Go on.”


“The Times editorial said that simply saying dangerous, mean, even bloody things cannot be prosecuted – Supreme Court ruled it’s free speech.”


“So if someone reads all our musings and plans about harmless, it’s not grounds for arrest and prosecution?” Bill asked.


“That’s what I thought at first,” I interjected, ‘but Roberts said ‘Wrongdoing must be conscious to be criminal.’”


“Oh, ohh, ”Bill said. “I think we are all conscious and know exactly what we’re advocating.”


“Yep. But the good news is the NSA has a bit less power than it did before Paul’s Patriot Act actions.”


“Thank you, Edward Snowden,” Jay said. “and Rand Paul.”


“The European Union just passed a resolution urging its 28 members to recognize Snowden as an ‘…international human rights defender,’ and attempt to shield him from prosecution. It was a close vote, but it did pass,” Bill said.


“And did you hear that our own Doug Fabrizio interviewed Snowden – via a video link between Moscow and Park City,” I said.


“Slightly off the subject, but very relevant, did you see Friedman’s Times column on evil?” Bill asked. “Very powerful. He covered the role of hate speech helping sow the seeds for Rabin’s assassination some 20 years ago.”


“I read it – very thought provoking. He referred to a documentary now out – called Rabin: The Last Day – on the background and conditions leading to Rabin’s death.”


“Remember Sarah Palin’s campaign and then the Gifford shooting in Arizona? Palin’s sites were showing maps of states and districts with gun sight graphics superimposed on them, including Gifford’s district. Palin actually said, regarding the districts she targeted, ‘Don’t retreat – instead RELOAD!”


Gifford said, well before she was shot:

We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list. … the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that.”


Hate speech has been even more in the news recently, prompted by Trump’s anti-Muslimism statements, Carly Fiorina’s ‘harvested body parts’ tirade against Planned Parenthood – perhaps indirectly related to the Colorado Springs shootings, and the dramatic upsurge in Google searches on ‘kill Muslims’ after the San Bernardino shootings.


Sara Lipton in a recent Times’ Opinion piece said:

…history does show that a heightening of rhetoric against a certain group can incite violence against that group, even when no violence is called for. When a group is labeled hostile and brutal, its members are more likely to be treated with hostility and brutality.

She also noted the role of images and caricatures used to portray certain peoples as evil.


“We arrest people for inciting to riot, but we don’t charge them for hate speech or hate graphics,” Jay said.


Michael Daly, writing in the New York Daily News, said:

…violent language can incite actual violence … metaphor can incite murder. …Palin added to a climate of violence.”


”There was just an op-ed in the Times on Anti-Abortion Violence. It noted Troy Newman, who has endorsed Cruz, calling for the ‘execution of abortion providers’. And Cruz said he was ‘grateful’ for his endorsement!”


“There’s now some potential good news for harmless – at least for the book version.”


“Go on.”


“In a recent court decision on a strange case, the Times reported that two of the three judges were loath ‘…to give the government the power to punish us for our thoughts and not our actions’. The judges wrote that

            …fantasizing about committing a crime, even a crime of violence against a real person whom you know, is not a crime.

The case was the subject of a 2015 documentary film Thought Crimes.”


“So harmless in book form, as State Change, is not illegal, according to that decision,” Jay concluded.


“But of course our goal isn’t to write a book, it’s to actually treat a group of political ideologues,” Bill said. “We treat, we’re guilty; if we only talk about and even plan treating, we’re innocent, right?”


“I think that is correct – and Matt would likely agree,” I said. “There’s another legal approach I just heard about – The Empathy Games.”


“Is that another novel and movie series, like The Hunger Games?” Jay asked. “The Economist just ran a piece on youth and politics, saying

In the world of The Hunger Games youngsters are forced to fight to the death for the amusement of their white-haired rulers. Today’s teen fiction is relentlessly dystopian, but the gap between fantasy and reality is often narrower than you might think.”


“Bernie Sanders seems to be mobilizing the young – so far the only candidate to really do so,” Bill added.


I continued: “The Empathy Games is a computer games competition, partly run and sponsored by our own U.”


“The Entertainment Arts and Engineering Program?” Bill asked. “It’s a program between Engineering’s Computer Science Department and the College of Fine Arts, isn’t it?”


“Yes,” I said. “It’s part of a games4health challenge; there seem to be five challenges, one of which is on empathy, and cosponsored by a group called iThrive!, which seem to promote ‘positive psychology’.”


“This could be really significant,” Bill said. “Consider the impact of Game of Thrones, SimCity, Civilization – and many others.”


“And even Dungeons and Dragons,” I said. “My kids were hooked on it.”


“Jane McGonigal is a videogame publicist who has talked about using games to develop our mind’s  ‘empathy muscle’. She has a new book out, Superbetter, to help people ‘de-stress’ and self-improve,” Jay reported.


“Perhaps we could suggest a State Change game,” Bill said.


“Let’s not forget the other really evil plutocrats and business people, like Tillerson and Watson on the oil side,” Jay reminded us.


“Two others that need revelation – and are probably ready for it now – are Wayne LaPierre and Grover Norquist,” I added.


“You bet,” Jay smiled: “The NRA and Americans for Tax Reform.”


“Yes – flush the government down the toilet, Norquist preaches.”


“Let’s not forget the guy advocating lung cancer around the world,” I said.


“Who’s that,” Bill asked.


“The tobacco wars are not over,” I said. “A U.S. group is advocating uncontrolled cigarette sales and consumption around the world – the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, headed by Thomas J. Donohue.”


“I did read about him. What they’re doing is criminal,” Jay said.


“Evil,” Bill added.


“We need to include some of the presidential candidates – they get large audiences, much press,” I suggested.


“Yes, especially those with staying power who are likely to be in the running at the party conventions – although all the GOP wannabes need treatment,” Jay said.


“For now, I’m betting on Rubio, although Trump, Bush, and Cruz may get more press,” I said.


“They all need attention,” Bill said. “Say, I know this is a digression, but did you see that cool piece in USA Today about Facebook grammar?”


“Yes! My son clued me in – also a writer we know well noted it.”


“There’s a software package called Grammarly, which analyzes text for grammar correctness. Looking at only spelling and punctuation mistakes, they analyzed the Facebook comments on each of the candidate’s Facebook pages.”


“Betcha I can predict the outcome – and USA Today’s not a particularly liberal paper,” Jay said.


“Me, too. The Republican average was nearly 9 mistakes per 100 words! – from 6 for Fiorina to over 12 for Trump.”


“Figures,” Jay said. “And the Democrats?”


“Average was 4, ranging from nearly 4 for Sanders to 6 for Hillary.”


“Does that reflect Carly’s Stanford education in the humanities – and Hillary’s pre-law degree from Wellesley?” Bill asked. “Did you hear about the Associated Press’ climate science literacy event?”


“Not yet,” I smiled. “Go on.”


“The AP asked eight climate and biological scientists to grade (on a 0 – 100 scale) the comments of top presidential candidates for their scientific accuracy. To eliminate bias, the names of the candidates were removed from their comments, so the scientists were scrutinizing them merely on scientific grounds.”




“The three Democratic candidates scored highly: Hillary Clinton (94 percent), Martin O’Malley (91 percent) and Bernie Sanders (87 percent).”


“Let me guess!”


“Jeb Bush was the only GOP candidate to receive a passing score of 64 percent. In dead last,

at 6 percent, was Ted Cruz.


Bill’s notes also quoted Penn State University’s Michael Mann, a well known and respected climate scientist, regarding the six percent score: ‘This individual understands less about science than the average kindergartner.’ He then learned the score belonged to Ted Cruz. Mann then continued: ‘That sort of ignorance would be dangerous in a doorman, let alone a president.’  The other candidates’ scores, according to the AP: Chris Christie, 54; John Kasich, 47; Rand Paul, 38; Carly Fiorina, 28; Marco Rubio, 21; Donald Trump, 15; and Ben Carson, 13.

Cruz was last – even worse than Trump and Carson. Bush, the highest scoring GOP candidate, has now exited the race.

“That’s enough for now,” I said “Sixteen or so to study. Congress-people will take some time and homework. My goal is to keep the final list down to 29.”


“Why 29?” Jay asked.


“You’ll see,” I smiled.


“Cause it’s a prime number?” Bill asked.


“Nope. You’ll see.”




We agreed that the selection of the dozen or so additional Congressional patients needs to be very strategic. Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy – the Congressional Leadership – of course deserve our attention and treatment.


We looked at the House Freedom Caucus and at the ideological ‘spectrum’ data available at . We discussed the possibility of treating the far right end of the spectrum, where most of the Freedom Caucus and ‘Tea Party’ members are located. We looked at a Rolling Stones magazine recent analysis of the Freedom Caucus, by Dickinson. Apparently the members are elected from largely white, lower middle class districts. Their constituents say they want ‘their country back’.

The commander of the Freedom Caucus is Rep. Jim Jordan, whose rural Ohio district is gerrymandered into the shape of a pelican: The bill reaches into the outskirts of

Cleveland, while the tail feathers ruffle up against ex-Speaker Boehner’s district in Cincinnati.

Jordan’s district is 89 percent white.


Jordan’s a high school champion wrestler, first elected to Congress in 2008. When many Tea Party types were elected in 2010, he selected and organized those critical of Boehner to form the Freedom Caucus. He can be seen ‘in action’ during the recent Benghazi hearings which attempted to implicate Hillary.


Dickinson writes that Jordan is ‘… like a less-polished version of Paul Ryan’ and ‘a master of

political leverage’ who ‘embraces obstruction’ and engineered the earlier government shutdown.


Idaho’s Raul Labrador is Jordan’s ‘top lieutenant’ – a ‘gregarious, rumpled and far less

guarded person’. Dickinson continues that Labrador ‘reveals open contempt for GOP leadership … Boehner … and McCarthy.

Labrador echoes Cruz … who led the 2013 government shutdown fight from the upper chamber’.

The Rolling Stones piece also profiles Cruz and McConnell, noting both Cruz’s and the Freedom Caucus’ contempt for McConnell.




“They are the major reason there’s no bipartisanship, no cooperation, in Congress,” Bill said.


“They are the ones largely responsible for voting for government shutdowns and against ObamaCare,” Jay added.


“Some sixty times against ObamaCare,” I said.


“I think it’s now up to about 80 times – even under Speaker Ryan.”


“They are the real partisan clowns on the Benghazi panel,” Jay continued.


“The ones on the far right also tend to be the most avid climate deniers,” Bill said, “like Jim Inhofe.”


“If our treatment could just ‘titrate’ them a bit towards the center of the Govtrack Republican ‘peak’, it could make a real difference,” I said.


“Maybe even a tipping point,” Jay smiled.




‘Adjustment’ and even tipping of those on the far right became a key consideration in harmless’ patient selection strategy. Other considerations included convenience and ease of access – such as patients representing Utah, Idaho, Colorado, and Washington. Another was connection to the Koch political plutocracy machine and interests, such as Iowa’s Joni Ernst. We also agreed we could deal with more than 29 if it was easy to do so.


We decided to treat Raul Labrador of Idaho. His district includes part of greater Boise, so we decided we might as well get to Mike Simpson, whose gerrymandered district also covers part of Boise – and of course Idaho Senator Risch, the ‘Most Conservative Senator’ according to the National Journal – and one of the least effective based on his Leadership Score. Senator Mike Crapo is also very conservative and merits treatment. Our plan became to focus on the key 29 – AND to treat nearby colleagues, if convenient.


And that led to the harmless patient priority list – as of late 2015:



Supreme Court Justices – five:


Scalia, Antonin


Thomas, Clarence


Alito, Samuel


Roberts, John


Kennedy, Anthony


Presidential Candidates – four


Rubio, Marco


Cruz, Ted


Bush, Jeb!


Paul, Rand


Plutocrats and others – five


Koch, Charles


Koch, David


Norquist, Grover – President, Americans for Tax Reform (ATF)


LaPierre, Wayne – Executive Director, National Rifle Association (NRA)


Donohue, Thomas – President, US Chamber of Commerce


Congress – fifteen


McConnell, Mitch – Senate Majority Leader.

Ryan, Paul – Speaker of the House.

McCarthy, Kevin – House Majority Leader.


Barrasso, John – Wyoming Senator.

Capito, Shelley – West Virginia Senator.

Chaffetz, Jason – Utah District 3.

Ernst, Joni – Iowa Senator; Koch support.

Gardner, Cory – Colorado Senator, Koch support

Goudy, Trey – South Carolina District 4, Benghazi Committee.

Inhofe, Jim – Oklahoma Senator.

Issa, Darrell – California District 49.

Labrador, Raul – Idaho District 1; Freedom Caucus co-founder.

Lee, Mike – Utah Senator.

Rodgers, Cathy – Washington District 5.

Smith, Lamar – Texas District 21; Chair, House Committee on Science.


These 29 and the additional ‘convenience’ patients, effectively treated, may facilitate a tipping point and a major change in governance via the Federal Government.



“We could use Centennial Valley as a key delivery strategy,” Bill said. “We could arrange a gig at the U’s Taft Center with the Kochs and with others they endorse and support.”


“Are you smoking something?” Jay asked.


“No, seriously. The Kochs own Beaverhead Ranch, which practically surrounds the wildlife refuge which borders the U Center. I read somewhere that their Dad, Fred, sent his kids there in the summers to work and help make men out of them.”


“Interesting,” I said. “So the Kochs, Joni Ernst, Jim Inhofe, and perhaps even Lamar Smith, as well as Ryan, Rubio, Labrador and their families, could all be there?”


“Sure, why not? Charles and David Koch seem to have an affinity for the Koch ranches. The Taft Center is about environmentalism and sustainability. The place is readily available and underutilized.”


“Sounds good. Will you look into it?”


“I already have,” Bill replied. “I’ll deal with the planning and logistics. Stay tuned.”


“Maybe Inhofe could fly his own plane there,” Jay said. “And perhaps pickup Lamar Smith on the way.”


“If we invite their families to Centennial Valley – the kids could read Ishmael there,” I suggested.


“Ishmael?” Jay asked.


“A beautiful little book on history, philosophy, and politics. We’ll get to it.”

Chapter 5: Testing

We now had small amounts of pure, high quality, material. The Portland team began, cautiously, human testing. We began by dissolving 20 mg in a little less than 1/4 cup (about 50 ml) of reconstituted orange juice (OJ) – this is comparable to 100 mg in a glass of orange juice, a typical dose and method of delivery; the concentration is about 0.4 mg/ml.


With swabs, we each applied some on our skin and then on the tip of our tongue.



“The bitter taste does come through,” Tom said.


“Yes, but that’s right on your tongue,” Peter said. “You’ll hardly notice it when you drink the OJ.”


We kept an eye on our skin, looked at each other, and waited for any topical effects. After about a hour, I said: “Down the hatch …”  We each took a small paper cup with 10 ml of our precious MDMA-OJ potion and drank it. And continued to watch each other.


“That’s a total dose of a bit less than 5 mg,” I said. “Wait, watch, feel.”
I distributed our testing sheets. We each put our name on one, dated it, and filled it out at 60 minute intervals for the next several hours, then signed it. There was no skin or tongue irritation, no obvious changes in physiologic parameters, and no obvious Shulgin effects.


“That’s a disappointment,” Lucien said.


“It’s obviously not LSD,” offered Peter; he’s the only one of the four who experienced LSD.


“What do you expect from less than 5 mg?” I said. “We’re all alive, largely unchanged, healthy. Tomorrow we’ll do 10 mg and work up from there.”


To maximize drug absorption and thus the speed and strength of any effects, we skipped breakfast for the next several days of testing. We did the tests, starting with 10 mg, at about 10 am, continued close observation and analysis until about 3 pm, and then had a light meal, continuing to observe and record until about 7 pm – and dinner. One could say we began the tests by microdosing.


We verified that it was barely effective in low doses (25 and 50 mg) and strongly effective at 100 mg. The Shulgins reported using 100 mg doses, with 125 mg perhaps being optimum for therapy. 75 mg was effective for me, our resident pharmacologic virgin.


We did notice enhanced alertness and perhaps increased creativity with the 50 mg doses, also small increases in blood pressure and pulse at the 100 mg level – as expected. We made sure to drink water and orange juice during the experience, so we didn’t experience any dryness or particular thirstiness; also no teeth clenching, which is sometimes reported at the higher doses.



Leo Zeff, whose work is discussed in a book called The Secret Chief Revealed, came out of retirement in the early seventies when he experienced MDMA’s remarkable properties. He helped thousands of patients with it. He called it ‘Adam’ because he believed it returned one to a state of innocence. He would give doses ranging from 150 to 300 mg with very few issues or problems. The current clinical studies use doses in the 100 to 150 mg range.


Eisner, in Ecstasy – the MDMA Story, 1994, says 50 – 75 mg is good for enhancing creativity, 125 to 160 for ‘communicating with others’, and up to 200 mg for ‘exploration of inner spaces.’ He says do not exceed 250 mg. He also advises to not eat much during the six or so hours prior to taking the drug. It does cause patients to be thirstier than normal, so water, carbonated beverages, and juices should be available and consumed during the experience. He says the effect comes on 30 to 45 minutes after oral ingestion on a semi-empty stomach; the maximal effect then lasts for 15 to 30 minutes, followed by a long (30 minutes to three hours) plateau, and then ‘a gradual descent back to normal …’ As the effect comes on, the patient experiences a clarity and intensification of awareness, everything ‘seems brighter and crisper’, there is a feeling of alertness, happiness and enjoyment and a tendency for enhanced talking and verbalization. The world is viewed in a fresh new light. During the plateau phase patients commonly ‘manifest peaceful calm awareness and affinity with others’. This is when discussions, suggestions, perspectives can be calmly shared. Generally there is a complete absence of fear or defensiveness – rather the patients generally are more open, objective, and access new or different perceptions. It often takes another several hours for the full effect to dissipate and for the patient to return to ‘normal’. Rarely, however, does the patient return to their previous normal – they are now in a new frame of mind. The experience is usually transformative, though not dramatically or obviously so.


The entire experience thus takes nearly a full day, albeit the first several hours are the most significant and important. Eisner and others describe an ‘afterglow’ effect that often continues into the second day – the mental clarity persists, the patient is generally calm, open, and significantly more empathetic. For many, perhaps most, the empathy ‘message’ has been semi-permanently ‘received’. The new normal persists.



“I think Eisner’s summary is roughly right,” Lucien said. “It’s about what I felt.”


“Me, too,” Peter said.



“Let’s track how we feel for the next 10 days or so,” I said. “If it all continues to seem fine, then we’ll be back to scale up and continue production. For now, we’ll package up most of what we’ve made and begin some delivery-related testing back in Salt Lake.”


Although the Shulgins and the therapists often used 100 or 125 mg, we needed to consider a more standard dose – on a mg/kg metric. Mia Love, for example, is small, light, and probably a pharmacologic near-virgin. Orrin Hatch is tall, like Shulgin, and probably weighs in, like me, at 175 pounds or so. Given 2.2 pounds/kg, Tom, Lucien, and I had decided on 3 packet sizes – color-coded: 67 (blue), 100 (green), and 125 (red) mg. Big people get the larger, red packet, little people the smaller blue one, and the more medium-sized folks get the green packet (that comes out to about 1.5 mg/kg). Such doses should be enough to have a substantive effect without any discomfort. We know there is a gender effect. Doses for women should be in the 70 mg range – the blue packet. We’ll, of course, continue to test ourselves with the various doses and may refine the dosages for our more serious patients. Our self-testing will include how best to deliver the material clandestinely.



“Blue for women. Really big ones deserve to get more,” Peter smiled.


“This all reminds me of The Matrix,” said Lucien.


“Yes!” said Peter. “The Matrix was an alternate reality produced by machines to subdue humans so the machines could run on our metabolic energy.”


“And citizens in The Matrix were pleased to be subdued, unthinking, existing in their alternate, real-appearing reality,” Lucien continued.


“Didn’t see it. Where do the pills come in?” asked Tom.


“The Matrix was basically a huge computer simulation, creating a virtual reality,” Peter said.


“But there was a way to disconnect from that virtual world – and reenter the real world,” I added.


“Via a pill?” asked Tom.


“A red pill disconnected you, leaving you in the uncertain, messy real reality world,” I added.


“And a blue pill to keep you connected,” Peter added.


“I didn’t like it the first time I saw it,” I said. “Too confusing to have too many ‘realities’.”


“Like multiple, parallel states of consciousness?” Lucien smiled.


I agreed. “Morpheus, a key character in The Matrix, says to the hero:


            …you are a slave…Like everyone else you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind.


“So we have a population – reinforced by simplistic beliefs, assumptions, gerrymandering, and plutocracy – in their make believe ‘virtual’ world – believing growth, pollution, and resource consumption can go on forever,” Tom explained.


“Yes,” I agreed. “And a much smaller population existing in a reality that understands there are limits – that we are headed towards the collapse of civilization as we’ve come to know it – if those with the virtual world mentality continue to be in charge.”


“But we can disconnect the ‘prisoners’ with our little red pill,” Tom said.


“And save humanity from itself,” Lucien added.


“I didn’t really notice this when seeing the film – but apparently the directors used a green tint for scenes within The Matrix (the virtual reality) and a blue tint to depict real reality,” I said.


“Except in our world, it’s reversed,” Lucien observed. “The blues represent real humanity – real reality; the reds are in their virtual ideological world.”






Tom returned to Salt Lake, via Southwest Air.  Diana and I drove back, in our now largely empty Prius. Peter and Lucien remained in Oregon. They will set up some chocolate activities in our cottage for cover purposes.




I met with the other harmless a few days later in Salt Lake – again at the Roasting Company. I filled them in on the Portland actions and accomplishments.



“We’re ready to start,” I reported. “We now have enough initial material for 10 tests. We already used some for the Portland tests and a small bit for the analytical work. It’s pure, active, and non-toxic.”


“Bravo,” Jay said.



I then retrieved from my shirt pocket a small device which looked like an older-type iPhone, opened the cover and turned it on. It was a small analytical balance, sensitive to tens of milligrams. I took a sugar packet and placed it on the balance; it weighed 2.9 grams. I then poured out small amounts of sugar into my empty coffee cup, reweighing the packet each time. Eventually we got down to about 0.2 grams – 200 mg.



“Half of that weight is the paper bag holding the sugar,” I said. “The other half – about 100 mg – is the sugar.” Pouring it onto the table, I continued, “That 100 mg is a small puddle of powder about a half centimeter in diameter. That’s what a full dose of MDMA looks like. A sugar packet is, by weight, the equivalent of roughly 25 or so doses of MDMA.”


“Well, a single dose should be easy enough to get into a small drink glass or coffee cup,” Bill said. “According to Eisner and Shulgin, it goes easily into a small glass – a half cup or so – of orange juice.”


“Exactly. That’s how we did the initial testing in the Portland lab.”


I continued:  “I just saw a TED talk – thanks to Lucien. It was by an Elizabeth Lessing on taking the ‘other’ to lunch. Very perceptive, very good. Other is someone with very different opinions, perspectives, values, and politics – that includes our right wing, ideologue patients.”


Jay got it, saying: “So let’s each select someone we know who qualifies, strike up a conversation – just the two; one on one. We listen, we empathize.  At the appropriate moment, the ‘medicine’ goes clandestinely into their beverage – juice, coffee, tea. Stir, serve, and continue the conversation.”


“Yes, but you’ll have to engage your companion in conversation for at least 45 minutes or so to begin to discern an effect.”


“Fascinating,” said Bill. “It could be in a tea bag, sweetener, coffee creamer, beer, or wine glass.”


“Or even a Metamucil packet,” said Jay. “I just discovered that stuff a month ago. Wish I’d started using it long ago.”


“Understood. I’ve been using it for decades,” I agreed, “thanks to a kindly, old, semi-retired physician helping with my constipation.”


“You had problems?” Jay asked.


“I was in my mid-forties, and serving as Dean of Engineering. It was tough, stressful, and … constipating.”


“You were the original hard-ass?” Jay chuckled.


“Until Metamucil. Works like magic.” I paused, then continued: “Our MDMA is crystallized in the hydrochloride salt form, so it’s fairly soluble although, by itself, it tastes bitter – not pleasant. The flavor must be masked – water is not enough. The information online about coffee, tea, and other maskers is not very helpful, but does suggest we should steer away from coffee – and deliver the materials before rather than during or after a meal for best effect.”


Jay added: “Given the caffeine added to street Ecstasy pills – and all the Red Bull that’s often used – I doubt that one cup of coffee will have any adverse effect.”


“I agree,” Bill said. “And given how much the Shulgins seemed to enjoy red wine, I doubt that reasonable amounts of wine would pose any concern.”


“Try to schedule and organize the encounter to optimize the effects,” I suggested. “It should be at the second meeting with them, because it takes up to 45 or so minutes for the empathogenic effect to really begin. Keep talking and looking for changes in outlook or other effects. The mental processing of the experience goes on for several – even six or more – hours. So it’s best for the patient not to have to go to a stressful or challenging situation after the experience. We want them to have time to think, to process, to ponder their new perspectives.”


“We better rehearse,” Jay continued. “Let’s take each other to lunch and take turns spiking the other’s beverage. That way we three can each observe each test and quickly evolve a process that works.”


“It would be easier if we were entertaining the ‘other’ at our own home and kitchen, but that’s not practical for our higher profile patients. So now is the time to figure out, test, and rehearse delivery processes which work in public spaces and situations.”


“OK. Let’s watch the TED talk, come up with test cases, and meet for coffee, or orange juice, Wednesday – same time, same place,” Bill concluded. “We’ll come up with suggestions for testing candidates.”


“I’ll entertain one of you then, I said, “ – and have packets available for our next several rehearsals.”






Next meeting: I was nursing a Roasting Company mocha, and Jay was gently stirring his herbal tea.


“Let’s say I want to spike your coffee,” Jay said, “without you or anyone around us noticing what I’m doing.”


“Are you going to distract me?” I asked. “Play a magician-like sleight of hand?”


“How do you get a tenth of a Splenda packet into someone’s drink – invisibly?” Bill added. “As Huxley might say, 100 mg of near-instant revelation!”


“That’s the challenge,” Jay said. “I don’t have it worked out yet. Let’s play.” Jay opened a Splenda packet and started packing powder under his center fingernail.


“You’d be giving someone the finger, literally,” Bill chided.


“Or the powder would just fall out while you wave it in mid-air,” I said.


“If it was LSD, you could coat the fingertip with 100 micrograms easily – and then do a fast dip,” Bill noted.


“And likely go on your own bicycle trip,” Jay said, alluding to Albert Hofmann’s accidental bicycle super-trip when he first began to experience LSD.


“Yes, but MDMA isn’t absorbed via the skin,” said Bill.


“The finger nail delivery system might work,” I said, “as long as no one – and especially your patient – does not see you dipping your finger in her drink.”


“This is a very serious challenge,” I said, “because just one early discovery – or even suspicion – will blow up the entire project.”


“Other ideas?” quizzed Jay.




An empathy epidemic might indeed be very helpful. Bill had previously told us about a Doug Fabrizio interview of Roman Krznaric on RadioWest. Krznaric started the Empathy Library website, driven in part by his book Empathy: A Handbook for Revolution. Although the book and the Library say nothing about MDMA, it is a reflection of the need in society for compassion and empathy.


“Do you remember The Republican Brain?” Jay asked. “We discussed it during your campaign.”


“Yes,” I answered – “by Chris Mooney, who also wrote The Republican War on Science back in the Bush era.”


“Well, his latest posting relates compassion to environmentalism,” Jay continued. “There’s a recent German study subtitled: Compassion Fosters Proenvironmental Tendencies. He ties it to empathy and compassion, and if folks are told it’s good to be compassionate, they indeed feel and act with more compassion. ‘It’s infectious,’ Mooney says.”


“There’s actually a now old video game, Peacemaker, which Netanyahu might consider. It involves a strong empathy and understanding component,” Bill noted. “Krznaric mentioned it during the Radiowest interview.”



“I think it’s too bad that neither Fabrizio nor Krznaric mentioned MDMA during the discussion. You’d think they’d both be aware of empathogens,” I said. “I sent them each an email about it, but no response.”


“Since we started harmless, I’ve been using a GoogleAlert on MDMA,” Jay added,  “and came across a Norwegian group working to make MDMA readily available. They call themselves EmmaSofia. They’re trying to raise a million dollars on line to get started.”


“I wonder if they’re connected to MAPS?” I asked. “I’ll ask.”


“More and more stuff is appearing,” Bill said, “such as the Pollan article in the New Yorker on recent psilocybin work. Pollan said that psilocybin has some MDMA-like characteristics – a positive and lasting effect on the personality of most participants.  And more than a year after the sessions many of the volunteers showed significant increases in their openness. The research psychologists were very impressed.”


“The new brain imaging is especially cool,” I said. “One recent study of psilocybin and placebo, by Petri and others in 2015, concluded that

…the psychedelic state is associated with a less constrained and more intercommunicative mode of brain function, which is consistent with descriptions of the nature of consciousness in the psychedelic state.

I continued: “The longer term effect of a single MDMA experience is now being called the ‘afterglow effect’. After the peak effect, which for MDMA is roughly an hour or so after taking it, the effect starts to wind down over the next several hours. That we know, but the effect or change that stays with the patient for days to months afterwards is being called the ‘afterglow.’ And much of the glow for a majority of patients continues for months to years.”

“When you get the message, hang up the phone,” Jay smiled.

“That’s an Eisner quote,” I said. “I did some homework on him. He died early, at age 63, of a gastro-intestinal hemorrhage. He was working on a book at the time.”

“We better get busy,” Bill said. “You never know when you – or I – might croak.”

“Amen,” I said.


The Pollan paper also discussed the work of Carhart-Harris on the ‘entropic brain’. There’s something in the brain called the ‘default node network’ (DNN) which requires a lot of metabolic energy. The DNN’s job is to keep us focused so we can get work done. It tends to inhibit new thoughts, distractions, and daydreaming. If the DNN relaxes, we have a type of attention-deficit, which in our society and economic system is diagnosed a disorder. Meditation seems to relax the DNN – as does psychedelic agents. Creativity is helped by distraction – by entertaining multiple thoughts and ideas at the same time. Thus creativity seems to be enhanced by some psychedelics – especially LSD and MDMA. This helps explain why MDMA and other agents facilitate empathy, compassion, openness – as opposed to narrowness, focus, rigidity.

The DNN works hard to keep the ‘doors’ somewhat closed most of the time, enabling us to deal with the current job or task. Certain drugs, meditation, and perhaps breathwork relax the DNN, opening the doors of perception, compassion, and empathy. There are some, not many, people who can open and close their own doors – who can focus when they choose to, and can be open, creative, expansive when they choose to. But some people could benefit from more – and others from less – focus. Doors are for opening – and for closing.

“You know,” Jay said, “maybe we should rephrase Eisner’s ‘get the message, hang up the phone’ with something like ‘let’s oil the hinges on the doors’.”

“Make them easier to open…I like that,” Bill said.

“Or close,” I agreed. “It’s very interesting that Sidney Cohen said – in the 1967 second edition of The Beyond Within – that in our normal, waking sane state, called sanity, we are mentally inhibited, allowing us to focus and minimize distractions. Cohen defines unsanity as a more dream-like, less inhibited, state, facilitated by dreams, meditation, and LSD. Insanity results from strong feelings of insecurity and anxiety, and from other causes.”

“So Cohen was in synch with Huxley and others who felt that it might be helpful to disinhibit our thoughts periodically,” Jay said.

“Cohen said that ‘LSD does nothing specific. It springs the latch of disinhibition’,” I said.

“That’s the same, more or less, as saying it opens doors or windows,” Bill added. “I think he would have been fascinated by MDMA.”

Ben Sessa, a coworker of Carhart-Harris – and of David Nutt – published The Psychedelic Renaissance several years ago. Sessa was actually the first subject in one of Carhart-Harris’ early psilocybin studies. He writes that

…the psychedelic state can result in important changes to one’s self, one’s relationships and one’s entire outlook on life…these changes can be real, lasting and positive. With specific reference to MDMA, he says it: …is able to induce a mental state that is usually pleasurable to almost every user, almost every time.

A recent paper in the Canadian Medical Association, by K W Tupper and others, noted:

[the re-emergence] of a paradigm that acknowledges the importance of set (i.e., psychological expectations), setting (i.e., physical environment) and the therapeutic clinician–patient relationship as critical elements for facilitating healing experiences and realizing positive outcomes.

The paper summarizes the ‘psychedelic agents currently under investigation for their potential benefits as adjuncts to psychotherapy’, including MDMA. Although MDMA is not a psychedelic, it was included due to interest in and studies on its great potential for psychotherapy. It also said that during the sessions

interaction between patient and therapists is kept to a minimum, with the patient encouraged to spend much of the time engaging in self-reflection while listening to carefully selected music. … medical school curricula may need to be updated to include the latest knowledge about psychedelic drugs.

Sessa’s book also covers psilocybin, including taking it via magic mushrooms – fresh, dried, or as a tea – and referring to Paul Stamets’ beautiful book Psilocybin Mushrooms of the World. Given the recent reports of success in using psilocybin to treat PTSD, there is likely to be growing interest in magic mushrooms as a source for self-medication. In a recent New Scientist Opinion piece, Stamets said:

Recently scientists have discovered that psilocybin stimulates neurogenesis – it helps build neurons. I believe that’s what happened to me; that it helped to remap a neuronic pathway in my brain.

Sessa also addresses the likely role of magic mushrooms in the evolution and development of religion, creative thinking, and language – going back a million years or so, citing Terence McKenna. Sessa also briefly covers the early use of soma, the Eleusinian rites via kykeon, and possible fungi sources for soma and kykeon. He goes on to talk about ancient mushroom cults, Jesus, the rise of Christianity, and the mushroom motif in early Christian art. He also surveys a range of plants with psychedelic, toxic, and/or anesthetic properties.


“We are not clinicians, but we are reasonable, informed, intelligent empathetic and responsible individuals,” I said. “The Tupper paper helps put in perspective and context what we are proposing and indeed doing.”

“We have to physically deliver 100 mg into something which will be easily absorbed and rapidly ingested,” Jay said.


“Right. I think it has to be absolutely clandestine, secret,” I said. “And it becomes even more difficult when it’s not a friend or acquaintance – when it may be an ‘other’ who may not be fully comfortable.”


“Well, you can’t just give the patient something, like a lozenge or piece of chocolate,” Bill said. “They’d remember that for sure.”


“But it doesn’t always have to be liquid,” I said. “It could be a solid.”

“Wait a minute,” Bill said excitedly. He normally doesn’t get very excited. “Why can’t it be chocolate – or in a chocolate? It’s actually the perfect host – better than pills, powders, packets.”

We all sort of looked at each other.

Bill continued: “People are always eating something – chocolate, fruit, candy, lozenges – and even if they do remember you gave them a piece of chocolate – so what?”

“Of course,” I added. “We could actually inject the MDMA into the center of a soft filling commercial chocolate. There are strong chocolate flavors which should easily mask the intrinsic bitterness of the MDMA.”

“I’m sure our testers are up to the challenge!” Jay said.

“In fact, they’re already ahead of us,” I noted.  “We’re using chocolate as a ‘cover’ for the Portland lab. Lucien and Peter have been checking out chocolate suppliers and shops in the area.”


I quickly did some homework on chocolate as a delivery vehicle – and the various types of chocolate. It seems to be optimum for our needs. There have been chocolate-based drug delivery studies, although there is apparently no common, commercial product – except for ExLax. There seemed to be no reason to not use chocolate as our delivery vehicle. So chocolate is now not just a ‘cover’ for Oregon-based synthesis efforts – it may become our optimum delivery vehicle.



Tom had just finished his current chemo-treatment. We briefed him on what we had learned – and been discussing. We began with EmmaSofia in Norway:

“So if EmmaSofia is going to make MDMA available, at least in Norway, why don’t we partner with them?” Jay asked.

“Well, first, they have to raise a million dollars to really get going,” I responded. “And, secondly, they’re in Norway, and we are in the ideologically-bound, Homeland Security and NSA dominated USA. But we should be able to learn a lot from them.”

“Oh, and regarding MAPS,” I continued. “MAPS responded, saying there’s no connection or collaboration. In fact EmmaSofia had not contacted MAPS at all. The MAPS spokesperson says they’ve probably greatly underestimated the costs and complexities of the project.”

“But MAPS is focused mainly on the US of A, right?” asked Bill. “And our byzantine, ideological, fear-based drug laws.”

“Yes – and the laws in Britain – and now Canada – as well. EmmaSofia claims in a Newsweek interview that they will be working to change European laws to permit more reasonable access to MDMA – and Norway is likely to be far more reasonable than most,” I said.

“Let’s not forget Australia,” Bill said. “It’s apparently the highest per capita user of ecstasy – and the bad stuff results in lots of problems. A young Melbourne pharmacist, and a physician there, are arguing for legalization and regulation.”

“Part of the platform of Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was to legalize marijuana. So now that Canada has a semi-liberal government, maybe there’s hope for MDMA-based treatments there – soon,” Bill said.

“That’s what the Canadian paper suggested – and it was published just before Trudeau’s election.”

“Do you know that the awful arch-conservative Prime Minister Trudeau defeated, Steve Harper, says Breaking Bad is his favorite TV show?” I asked.

“Don’t hold your breath,” Jay said. “That MDMA ecstasy feed Google keeps sending me has about an entry a week on bad stuff. It keeps reinforcing public and regulatory perception that MDMA is very dangerous.”

“Making our own material means we have control – quality, confidence, and privacy – secrecy,” Tom said. “But it would certainly be helpful to have some reference material to analyze, study, and even test to calibrate and validate our own material.”

“Agreed,” I said. “I’ll try to contact Krebs and Johansen – the EmmaSofia couple.”


Lucien and Peter were brought up to date – by phone – on our chocolate delivery discussions. They then visited Papa Haydn’s and several so-called chocolatier shops in the Portland area, concluding that they are far too specialized, expensive, and even traceable than we need or want. So back to Trader Joe’s, Walgreens and related sources for more common, filled or soft-center traditional chocolates – the Forrest Gump variety. They bought an assortment of filled chocolates, picked up a handful of Splenda and Shape packets – one gram each – and proceeded to literally inject the solid powders, in roughly 100 mg amounts, using a syringe and needle. They were reporting back to the Salt Lake team, via Skype:

“Solid didn’t work well,” Lucien advised. “But dissolving in the smallest volume of orange juice, about 1/2 milliliter, works ok. It requires a large, cheap chocolate with a very soft center.”

“Yes, and the chocolate and liquid need to be warm, about 80-90 F, so the chocolate is on the soft side and can deform to accept the 1/2 cc volume,” Peter reported. “And when you pull out the needle, very slowly, the chocolate ‘heals’ and seals. Then it can be cooled back down and even refrigerated.”

“It is a bit explosive when you bite into it,” Lucien said. “And can be messy – the liquid can flow out. And that could be a real problem.”

“Tell him about the Jello version,” Peter said.

“We’ve worked on a solid Utah solution,” Lucien said. He was born in and went to school in Utah.

“We dissolve the powder in warm gelatin, inject it warm into the warm chocolate, then cool and refrigerate the chocolate. An hour or two later we bring it back to room temperature, where the gelatin stays solid, with the active in it – and in the chocolate.”

“That’s really clever,” I said.

“Does this make me a scientist?” Lucien asked.

“More a chemical engineer,” I said, adding: “We’ll do some experiments together during the annual family retreat in Manzanita.”

Given we were talking on line, as agreed to earlier, we avoided making any direct reference to illegal activities or agents.



Our family spends about a week each summer, sometime in mid-June to mid-July, on the Oregon coast – in Manzanita. Diana’s family, our two sons, and their families, including three wonderful granddaughters, participate. Sometimes we invite friends to join us for a day or more. We share a large house near the beach for a week. We’ve been doing this for seven years. Many of my ideas for the harmless project – and this book – were developed at our last several Manzanita family retreats.


A year ago – Neahkanee Mountain, near Manzanita. Peter, Lucien, and I – another beautiful Oregon coast hike. It wasn’t fully legal then (it is now), but it was easily available and tolerated. Peter’s delivery device, like an e-vap for nicotine, was easy to use. It was just one puff – on the way up the trail. 73 year old hikers have enough problems with balance on mountain trails, so I didn’t want to push it. I felt nothing, although Lucien said I was in ‘a very good mood.’ Peter and Lucien each took several puffs. They seemed fine. On the way down, Peter again offered, and I accepted – just one puff. Balance is even trickier on the way down. Nothing obvious. Maybe I’m pharmacologically sterile.

And now there’s JuJu Joints, an adjustable, tunable cannabis delivery device for vaping that even looks and feels like a cigarette. Perhaps next time.

We had talked earlier about the Austrian and Dutch voluntary testing services, available mainly at raves or other large public events. We now asked about such services in the Portland area.


“Interesting you should ask,” Lucien said. “I was jogging through the Reed College campus a few months ago – in a light drizzle – and took cover in their Food Commons, picked up the student newspaper, and learned something very interesting.”


“That’s a good place to get the New York Times, for free,” Peter said. “What did you learn?”


“There’s a Reed chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) – and they have a testing ‘service’.”


“Really. And?”


“They have two lockers on campus, with combination locks, which contain drug test kits. You get the combination by sending an email to: .”


“Did you?”


“I had no drugs to test then, and the rain had let up, so I let it go and continued on.”



Homework. I sent an email to the ReedSSDP and received a nearly immediate automated response with the locker combinations.


On the way to Manzanita for the family retreat, Diana and I spent a few days in Portland. I went to Reed, found the SSDP locker in the Food Commons basement – across from the campus post office – and opened the lock. Inside were plastic bags with six or so test kits and various food supplements. The original email with the lock combinations contained the needed instructions:


When you take the kit, please note on the sheet when you took it and approximately when you’ll be bringing it back. If you have contact info that you would be comfortable leaving, please also leave that so we can find the kit if it goes missing. Return the kit as soon as you can so others can use it as well, and mark that you brought it back. If you find any contaminants, please report them at (password: reedieshelpreedies). Tests do not indicate “purity” of a sample, but they can identify adulterated or misrepresented substances, which are frequently more dangerous to a person’s health.


There are five different kinds of reagents currently available in the library locker, and one type of single-use testing kit. Multi-use reagents are used by dropping a drop of the reagent on to the substance you intend to test. Please take care to allow drops to run out of the bottle and not touch the tip of the bottle to anything. Reagents should be administered on a white background under bright light for best identification. A disposable paper/plastic plate or a ceramic plate are ideal for this. Because a disposable surface is ideal, microfuge tubes are included in the locker for your convenience. Holding this above a stark white background (like printer paper) should make the color change reaction sufficiently visible.


Only a very, very small amount of substance is necessary to produce a reaction. An diameter of powder less than the size of a matchhead is sufficient for a reaction.


Marquis, Mecke, and Simon’s reagents can be used to identify MDMA and similar substances. One of either Marquis or Mecke is necessary to determine the presence of an MDxx compound, and Simon’s reagent to distinguish secondary amines (for example, between amphetamine and methamphetamine or MDA and MDMA.


The Mandelin reagent is useful for identifying presumed Cocaine and Ketamine, but can also be used to help identify MDMA.


The Ehrlich reagent is used to identify tryptamines (e.g. DMT) and LSD in liquid or on blotter. Blotter should be diced finely before it is tested to help speed up the reaction. Testing blotters is an exception to the above statement about sizes, and a full blotter may need to be tested to produce a visible reaction.


Also in the locker are single-use cocaine testing kits to screen for some common cuts in cocaine. Additional instructions are included on the sheet attached to the single use ampoule.


There should also be instructions for use in the kit itself. If not, see below for images of instructions and a link to further info. If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know via the locker e-mail and we will respond as soon as we can.


That text was written by someone apparently experienced and quite self-confidant of her knowledge. Reed is known for its outstanding undergraduate science program, with a particular strength in Chemistry. Some of the students involved with SSDP are likely to be very well informed and even well trained chemists.


It is apparently fairly common for those taking ecstasy and perhaps other drugs to also take commercial food supplements with them, believing that these agents may help to alleviate drug side effects or provide other desirable effects. So the ReedSSDP email also includes a link on Supplements


The colorimetric tests described and commonly used for drug ‘testing’ are qualitative at best. They can generally help determine if the pill or capsule has something, but not how much. Although the reactions used are semi-specific, they are not truly chemically specific. More rigorous testing requires gas and/or liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, and infrared and/or Raman spectroscopies.



“I’ve always though very highly of Reed and its faculty and students,” Tom said.


“I’ll take a look at the lockers and the tests the next time I pick up a paper there,” Peter added.


“And I’ll jog through the campus with more interest now – reading the student newspaper more thoroughly. It is a beautiful campus – the paths, the lake, the stream, the trees,” Lucien said.




A few weeks before our Manzanita trip, we had been discussing fiction writing with a friend who was a reporter and is now a successful playwright. Let’s call her Sally. She mentioned that her son, and his family, who live in Portland, had an interesting recent experience with empathy enhancement, thanks to MDMA. So we invited them to spend a day with us in Manzanita to discuss our common interests in MDMA.



Sally’s daughter-in-law started the discussion, her husband at her side. I’d known him since shortly after he was born, some 40 years ago. Their 18 year old son was to be the major subject of the discussion – and our information resource.


“Our son insisted that we take it together,” she said, looking at him. “He said that if we took it together, as a family, we’d understand how he felt – how he’s been changed. As he had the ecstasy pills, we took it once, all together, and waited for an effect.” She paused, looked around the table, then continued. “It took about 30 minutes. When the effect came on, I felt an openness – I felt I could interact with multiple people at once. It allowed me to let go. I felt an empathy for all – there was plenty of empathy to go around.” She looked at her son and husband.


“I’ve taken it about 10 times, so far,” the son said. “We hadn’t been talking. I was pissed at them,” he said, looking at his parents. “… pissed for taking me out of school in Tucson and dragging me to Portland. But I discovered Molly here – and that helped.”


“It was the first time I seriously wondered what others were thinking,” the father said. “It had been very difficult to talk. We were each sure we were right. It allowed me, us, to let go of the fear of admitting – or proving – myself wrong.”


“It was the first time we’d openly talked, as a family, in two years – since the Tucson move,” she added.  “We opened up – felt some empathy for each other – tried to understand.”


“It depowered the negative feelings,” the son continued. “I recognized the negative feelings, but could let them go. I didn’t need to dwell on them – to perpetuate them. Fear became nearly non-existent.”


He talked about the Molly scene in Portland, street prices, availability, the ‘Point’ system:


“A 1 point pill is supposed to mean 100 mg, though it’s only about 75. A 2 point, 200 mg, though it’s really less – about 150 mg. I’m told the mass difference is due to a coloring agent.”


He said that a 1 Point pill in Portland goes for about $15 – $20 – supposedly pure Molly.


Mom and son were each well aware of the problems with taking MDMA too often. He gave us a short lecture on serotonin re-equilibrium, re-balancing. He seemed well aware of the potential problems, yet admitted he’d taken it some 10 times – and had more pills at home.


We discussed the Eisner quote: ‘When you get the message, hang up the phone.’ They obviously had heard the message. I tried to reinforce the idea that you now have the message – no need for more evidence. I said that it’s like learning to swim or ride a bike – once you get it, you’ve got it.


“The effect is really about people, faces, emotions,” the father said, “but it came at the expense of having no interest in anything physical – clouds, stars, the physical world. During the experience I didn’t have as much interest or curiosity about the physical world as I usually do. It was very different.”


His son had been pacing during the discussion, lightly strumming his guitar, so I asked about music. He’s been considering studying music – composition and neuro-connections – at the U of Oregon. He also noted his experiences with mushrooms.


“Composing was easier – being extemporaneous was easier on MDMA,” he recalled. “I wasn’t so worried about the next note. It could just flow. There was less second guessing of myself.”


“Another longer term effect, at least for me, is decreased appetite,” he continued, “for several days. I also experienced, especially on the bus or among people I did not know, a calming feeling – especially about 30 minutes after taking the pill, when its effects first become pronounced. It felt like a wave of tranquility.”


“That’s not the real you,” his mother said, smiling.


“No, but maybe it is now – at least for a while.” He looked at me. “This has been really interesting,” he said. “But the only way to feel it, to understand it, is to take it.”


He stood up and handed me a single Molly pill in a small plastic bag with a Love-Heart symbol on it.


“It’s a gift,” he said. “Thanks for an interesting discussion.” I accepted, with thanks. He then began pacing again, strumming his guitar.


I asked about purity and safety – and testing. He said his only information was his own – and his parents’ experience, that it was good Portland stuff, and should be fine.


The discussion group included four members of my immediate family – several had experienced MDMA some decades earlier. One recalled that ‘…tactile sensations linger for a day or two. I had an enhanced ability to feel texture, touch’.


Peter and Lucien were late for the discussion as they had been working with Tom in our Portland cottage lab.


Peter contributed to the discussion, of course, and Lucien and his brother contributed as well. We were all a bit surprised by just how much ‘experience’ and perspective there was in this family! Some of it went back 40 years, some of it only 10. And some of it was fairly recent. Marijuana, LSD, mushrooms, ayahuasca, and MDMA were the major players.


That was the bulk of the discussions. We had lunch, chatted, and played. The four girls – my three granddaughters, and our friend’s younger daughter – played well together. They had some beach time, and some backyard time. The discussions continued – one on one and in small groups – for the rest of the afternoon.


The son seemed to have little interest in Reed, perhaps because he lived in North Portland, but also because he felt it was for rich kids. When I mentioned the SSDP chapter and the test kits, he seemed unaware, and sort of shrugged it off. Perhaps he was less informed than I had originally thought.


Lucien briefly discussed Eugene and the U of Oregon with him as he serenaded the kitchen team preparing dinner – playing a bit too loudly.




Most of what was shared was consistent with what we’d already read and discussed. The familial communication piece was especially interesting and relevant to harmless. So much of our problem with governing today is legislators talking without listening – taking ideological positions they simply cannot change. It’s like a force field – a wall – around individuals, preventing them from interacting through or beyond the wall. MDMA helps penetrate the wall – helps decrease the self-imposed force field. Most ideologues seems to have an insecurity and fear – rooted often in self-anxiety – which makes dialog, discussion, compromise, diplomacy, etc. almost impossible. Building on our guitarist’s words, we need to loosen the negative feelings – and let them go. It reminds my of that oft-quoted line from Disney’s Frozen: ‘Let it Go!’  The granddaughters would often run around the backyard singing ‘Let it Go!’. They actually performed the entire song for us the year before!


There was a lot more MDMA discussion during our week in Manzanita. So much so that at one point Diana threw her shoe at me. She did not like such discussions, although she was sympathetic to our political concerns and to planetary wellbeing.




The Portland lab team had made another batch of MDMA – this time about 50 grams – enough for about 500 treatments. Tom didn’t come to Manzanita as he had to get back to Salt Lake for the new radioactive sphere treatment for his liver cancer. He stayed in Portland only long enough to complete the final recrystallization of the MDMA and then carefully packaged and stored it. Then he caught a plane back to Utah. Lucien, Peter, and I would do the analytical work later in the week when we returned to Portland. The Molly pill I was given would, of course, also be analyzed. Neither Sally, her grandson, nor his parents, know what we are doing – that we are actually making MDMA. As far as they know I’m just trying to write an interesting novel.

Lucien and I spent a day in the cottage analyzing the new batch #2 and comparing it with the Molly given to me in Manzanita and our initial Batch #1. Batch 2 was a scaled up run, about five times more product than our first run. Tom and Peter reported that it all went smoothly, except that we were now very low on methylamine. The TLC and SERS results were almost identical to Batch 1. The street Molly was not quite as pure, based on the TLC results. The spots were slightly smeared. We did see the colorant spot which may have complicated the analysis.



Portland is known for chocolates and chocolatiers. I had done some online homework. So while in Portland, I had to look into the chocolate scene. The most interesting, for harmless’ needs, was Moonstruck Chocolates. I visited their little downtown shop and experienced their liquor-blended (not filled) chocolate. Heavenly! Diana agreed. Beautiful, tasty, delicious, hand made and hand decorated chocolates containing 4-5% special, unique liquor. Moonstruck calls it their Distillers Collection.


Portland liquor stores generally stock the more well known liquor-filled chocolates, especially during the Christmas holiday season. I managed to buy about 20 – half of them containing tequila – for my upcoming belated birthday party in Salt Lake.

Lucien and I melted a small batch of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate – roughly one ounce or about 30 grams. We had earlier done some homework at  and learned about melting, tempering, and handling of solid and molten chocolate. MDMA melts in the range of 110 to 150 C, depending on its free base to HCl salt content. Dark chocolate melts just under 50 C. We didn’t worry about tempering or other fine points of working with chocolate. As we wanted to test four roughly 8 gr pieces of ‘loaded’ chocolate, we dispersed about 400 mg of MDMA onto the chocolate, now slowly cooling, and gently stirred it in. It dispersed fairly well to produce an MDMA-dark chocolate block. We let it cool, then cut it into four equal pieces, and prepared to test it.

This was our first test of ‘active’ chocolate – and our third test of MDMA. Our previous doses were dispersed in orange juice – this was our first test with a solidified form. We each gently chewed a piece. It was very palatable – basically Trader Joe’s dark chocolate. Since only about 1/100 of it was MDMA, the drug’s bitterness was not noticeable. Although MDMA is a very stable compound, we were a bit concerned about its activity in the chocolate matrix. We just relaxed, listened to some music, and scanned today’s Times.

We expected the effect to take a little longer to develop due to the chocolate matrix, but it didn’t. I started to feel it in about 40 minutes, Lucien in about 30 – he’s not as ‘virginal’ as I. It was what we hoped – a kind, gentle, open and aware feeling.


“Thank you Trader Joe and Sasha Shulgin,” Lucien said.

“It’s not as good as the Moonstruck variety,” I added, “but it’ll do.”

“Maybe we should call it StarStruck. There’s more to do to make it a real taste treat – a new chocolate ecstasy.”

“We do need to call it something relevant. Since it produces a wonderful open, aware, even blissful feeling, for now let’s call it Ananda’s – as in anandamide,” I said.


“That works for me. And now that we know chocolate and MDMA really works, I’ll get Brian, my chocolatier friend, to teach me some real techniques – and perhaps we’ll talk with some people at Moonstruck.”

“Terrific. And perhaps work on a logo and cool design for Ananda’s Chocolates.”

“Will do – and remember, Ananda means bliss in, I think, Sanskrit.”

We were feeling very creative, empathetic, and positive.


Lucien and I then talked, via phone, with his friend, Brian, who makes his own chocolates and is especially fond of Ecuadorian cacao. I suggested other ‘flavorings’, sort of a Utah version of Moonstruck’s Distillery approach – exotic herbal chocolates made using multi-level marketing (MLM) products! Brian was excited.

“You can just disperse the flavoring throughout the chocolate during the manufacturing process,” Brian said. “That’s not hard to do. I’ll be doing a batch in two days. Lucien, if you can come by around 2 pm Thursday, I’ll show you what I know.”

“Deal,” Lucien said.


Lucien, Peter and I had opened the Molly capsule I’d been given in Manzanita, removed just enough for the analytical work, and resealed it. We had removed less than about 10 mg. We did the TLC separation and the SERS Raman work. As our guitarist ‘supplier’ had said, it was good stuff – not quite as pure and clean as Tom’s, but essentially pure MDMA – and some colorant, as expected. I gave the capsule to Peter, as he had a close acquaintance who really wanted to try it, under his supervision and guidance, to attempt to deal with some old, difficult, and stressing issues.


Diana and I then said our good-byes to Lucien, and headed back to Utah, via Bend and Lakeview. Just north of Bend, in Madras, we found a coffee/sandwich shop well stocked with Portuguese wines. Really! So we bought three bottles for a wine-tasting during my upcoming belated birthday gig with friends in Salt Lake. From Oregon back to Utah – culture shock.

A day later I met with Jay, Bill, and Tom with the Moonstruck Distillers Collection in hand, but no ‘active’ preparation.


“That’s incredible!” Jay said.

“I thought you’d like it – have another,” I offered.

“Amen,” Bill agreed. “I’ve never tested, or seen, anything like that.”

“Wow. What a way to deliver anti-cancer drugs,” Tom said. “And if they don’t really work, you go out smiling!”

“I wonder what 100 mg MDMA might do for them?” I asked.

“Only one way to find out,” Tom said. “Suddenly being a taster, tester has become a lot more interesting!”

“Lucien and Peter said the same thing last week in Portland.” I continued: “Lucien and I did a pilot experiment a few days ago, using Trader Joe’s dark chocolate and 400 mg of Batch #2.”

“Batch 2 is very good, isn’t it?” Tom asked proudly. He had gotten back to Salt Lake in time for his radioactive spheres and was feeling fine so far.

“Yes, it is very good – and got along well with the Trader Joe’s dark chocolate. Everything works.”

“But you didn’t bring us any?” asked Jay.

“Not yet. Lucien’s now becoming a chocolatier – give him a couple of weeks to make some truly wonderful stuff.”

We agreed that the Moonstruck approach is the way to go to provide a truly delicious and optimally active therapy. We began by watching the Moonstruck video – a 5 minute ‘tour’ of their factory and process. We talked about a chocolate ‘brand ’ – a fictitious name, brand, and web site to minimize – and to satisfy – curiosity as to the source of the chocolates. Some ideas:








Delphi or OracleChocolate


AnandasChocolates (for anandamide)

We continued to be partial to Ananda’s Chocolates because it had a message, was sufficiently mysterious, and was not connectable or traceable.  is a yoga meditation site. A quick search turned up .nl and .de sites for anandachocolate but nothing for anandaschocolates. We quickly reserved the .com version and proceeded to put up a limited in process site. We set up the websites  and  , both registered and paid up for 10 years. I didn’t ask Jake to do them because we want to be sure he’s in no way connected or identified with the real harmless project.

As far as delivery to patients, we could just have the chocolates with us, place them on the table or counter, and offer them to the current patient. We did have concerns. What if they take the box home – and give it to their kids? Easy answer – don’t put a box on the table, just very few individually wrapped and labeled chocolates.

We talked about ‘chocolates for adults’ – adults-only chocolates. Clearly, they shouldn’t be given to kids.

We also discussed set and setting – the need for those close to you to empathize with you – with what you are thinking and doing. We felt set and setting could be somewhat aided by appropriate packaging and branding – and by a small foldout insert with more information – like a prescription drug insert but more interesting and readable.

“In some ayahuasca ceremonies,” Lucien said, “dark and white paper is passed out – dark on one side, white on the other. The participants are told to write on the dark side those feelings, events, etc. they want to leave behind – to escape from; on the white side they write what they are striving for, where they’d like to go. It’s a From To exercise.”

“Interesting,” I said. “Let’s consider wrapping – sealing – the individual chocolate in foil, then surrounded with a dark-white tissue, pre-printed with the words From and To, each followed by a set of lines. The message, hopefully, is ‘fill in the blanks’.”

“And the insert or flyer would be perhaps a 2 x 3 inch very thin paper, folded tightly and very small, to fit within the tissue wrapping,” Lucien added.

“The insert would be titled Ananda’s Chocolates – aiding your path forward – and printed with brief paragraphs on History, Chemistry, Health, Medicine, Society,” Bill suggested.

“The content could, perhaps should, be the same as on the web site,” Jay said.

“A good plan,” I said. “Lucien?”

“I think it’s a good approach.”

“I’ll start designing. Perhaps a logo-icon related to light, brain, and forward movement? I assume you’ll get me text for the flyer-insert.”

“Roger,” I said. “I think your logo idea is right on. Let’s see it.”

“It should only take me a couple of days.”

I worked on the text, which Lucien and I then finalized:


Ananda’s Chocolates – opening your path forward

Ananda’s is a unique chocolate experience, providing feelings of relaxation, contentment, empathy, and understanding for responsible adults.

History:   Amanda’s not very secret ingredients include Anandamide – a natural hormone, commonly known as the bliss molecule. It’s connected with oxytocin, the hormone which helps with bonding and attachment between mother and her new born. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid, as is THC, the key active ingredient in cannabis. They bind to natural neuroreceptors responsible for heightening motivation and happiness. Chocolate is one of the very few natural foods with elevated levels of anandamide.

Chemistry:   Ananda’s Chocolates are made from high quality dark chocolate containing anandamide and related empathogens. Consumption of just one chocolate results in a feeling of relaxation, introspection, empathy, and even bliss. These effects begin to develop within an hour or so of consuming the chocolate. The feeling of comfort, understanding, bliss, and contentment may continue for several hours, often for much longer.

Health and Medicine:   High quality chocolate is well known for its beneficial health qualities, including positive and supportive mental states, as well as enhanced empathy and compassion. Regular consumption is not needed and not recommended; in fact just one chocolate is generally sufficient for a semi-permanent change in attitude and perspective.

Society and Culture:   Consumption of Ananda’s Chocolate in a family or group setting facilitates communication, understanding, introspection, empathy, and compassion. It is also an aid to creativity and problem-solving.

Availability:   Ananda’s Chocolates is a new venture in the early startup and testing phase. Regular production and distribution is expected in late 2016. We cannot take orders or send samples at this time. Check back here in several months for updates.

Ananda’s Chocolates are for adults only.


As we progressed in our discussions on presentation of the chocolate to a specific patient, we considered the treatment of his wife, friends, colleagues – if we felt that might be helpful in providing a helpful and supportive environment. The doses we’re using wouldn’t harm youth and adults. We also discussed half-doses for staff and others to taste and do ‘diligence’.

We would likely get questions: Are the chocolates our creation, a friends’, a family member? Are they available? Can you purchase them? Perhaps we’re just helping a friend (Ananda) field test her new chocolates. She could have a web site without content – saying that it is going live in three months: ‘Ananda’s working. Visit again in three months. Be patient’. And, by then, harmless should be finished.

I did some homework on chocolate and drug delivery, and came upon some new information. One company, focused on food supplements for kids, has filed a patent application on dark chocolate – based delivery of drugs. Another firm, Cambridge Chocolates, is now selling very high end soft skin, anti-aging so-called ‘beauty’ chocolate, arguing that the high antioxidant levels provide such benefits. Interesting.

We continued to discuss other means for effective delivery. Another treat might be Super Grapes – large seedless grapes injected with our potion. Ben Sessa, in The Psychedelic Renaissance, refers to a Michael Hollingshead serving grapes containing injected LSD to his friends, one of which was Paul McCartney. It would take a big grape to hold 100 mg but it may be worth some experimentation! But we focused nearly all of our attention on a delivery system based on chocolate. We just needed to work out the details, the production and packaging, the branding, and the delivery.

Tom had worked on a few additives which would make analytical and forensic detection of MDMA in the chocolates difficult. We didn’t want some of our first patients to suspect something and submit their chocolates to local labs for analysis. If that were to happen, and MDMA was detected, there would suddenly be much publicity and uproar about ‘laced’ chocolates being given to popular right wing ideologues – and we would soon be in jail. I was kept in the loop with the Portland Three on an almost daily basis:


“Chocolate contains a variety of biochemicals closely related to drugs,” I said. “Maybe we don’t need to worry about possible analysis.”


“If you do a high resolution mass spec or HPLC analysis of chocolate, could you find MDMA if it was there?” Lucien asked.


“Sure,” Tom answered, “but you’d also find many other things of perhaps greater interest.”


“Like?” Peter asked.


“Like anandamide, theobromine, phenylethylamine, various alkaloids and flavenoids, tryptophan, and other stuff.”


“When we talked about anandamide earlier, didn’t someone say it has cannabis – like effects?” Lucien asked.


“Yes, and with cannabis now legal in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, cannabis-laced chocolates are becoming very common,” Peter said.


“So why not just stir in a little THC with the MDMA and anyone looking at it will likely find cannabis,” Lucien said.


“Which gets MDMA off the suspicion list?”


“I think so,” Tom answered. “Unless it’s a serious DEA-type drug analysis, most will assume that whatever the effects are, they’re due to chocolate itself, or – perhaps – to cannabis. That sounds good to me. I really didn’t want to get into the deuteration or other modifications of MDMA to mess up serious forensic analyses. I’m getting too tired to do very creative – or difficult – chemistry.”


“Let’s just acquire a small amount of cannabis oil and include very small amounts in our chocolate preparations,” I suggested.


“That will work. Good idea.”




The Salt Lake group continued talking and planning, focusing now on the branding and packaging. We were at Coffee Noir again, near the U.



“Most of our patients are very conservative, so we don’t want a druggie or flower child look – no liberal, empathic, or celestial icons,” Bill suggested.


“Right. We want them to feel secure and comfortable with the packaging – the look. It’s after they accept and consume the treat that their journey or revelation might begin. And it would indeed be helpful if their wife or partner is having a chocolate at the same time,” I added.


We came up with several ideas for branding which would help the patient accept and consume the chocolate:


Presidential Collection (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln)

for Presidential candidates, some Justices;

Freedom and Liberty Collection (Flag, USA map)

for NRA-types, vigilante types, flag wavers;

Heavenly Collection

for Evangelicals, Mormons, Muslims;

For Adults Only!

for Humanists, Thinkers, Academics;

Ayn Rand Collection

for Libertarians, Adolescents.


“You did it without me?” Tom asked, jokingly.

We were all in Salt Lake to review our plans and to bid Tom goodbye from the group – as he moved on to more aggressive and partially debilitating treatments, starting with taking oral cytotoxic anticancer agents.

“Because you’re such a great teacher,” Lucien said.

“You made an organic chemist out of a communication major and graphic designer,” I smiled.

“Hey, organic chemistry is like two parts art and hands for one part chemical science,” Don said. “Lucien’s a good artist with great hands.”

“And don’t forget Peter,” Lucien said, beaming. “He remembered all the details and asked all the right questions.”

“And saw to it that we used every last drop of methyl amine,” Peter added.

“That last batch must have used nearly everything we had,” Don said.

The last batch yielded about 20 grams, nearly 200 additional doses. Lucien chose to carefully keep it safe and secure in case we might have a need for it later.

“Not much to dispose of, correct?”

“And how might we dispose of everything else?” I asked. “I’ll get the glassware, and the Raman and TLC stuff, back in to my U office – and the other chemical equipment.”

“I was going to ask to take it,” Tom said, “but I don’t think that’s wise. I probably won’t last long enough to use it – and Bonnie would not like it.”

“What about your Oregon residency plans – and the Death with Dignity concern?” I asked.

“I’ll either survive or I won’t,” Tom said. “I’ll take my chances in Utah. Bonnie didn’t like the idea of moving to Portland. She’s too hooked on Utah sunshine. I’ll have a good supply of Ananda’s Chocolates. And I’ve acquired enough marijuana while in Portland to hopefully deal with some of the terminal pain issues. Bonnie will know what to do.”

“I’m not any good at praying, “ I said, giving Tom a gentle hug.

“Me neither,” he said. “In times like these, I often think of the James Taylor song, Enjoy the Ride.”

“I love that song,” I said. “Another great one is Gracias a la vida, sort of a Mexican – Spanish anthem to life.”

“I don’t know that one,” Tom said.

“In English, the first line is: Thanks to the life that has given me so much.”

I opened my laptop. “Just happen to have it here. It’s really beautiful in Spanish. Listen up:”

We listened, saying nothing.

“Isn’t that the name of an old Joan Baez album?” Jay asked.

“It was the title song of a Baez album – over half a century ago,” I said. “I saw a similar sentiment the other day, in a Times obituary. At the very end of the long obit, they included the deceased’s preferred tombstone message:

I adored you, and you returned my love a hundred fold. Life, I thank you!

“There’s always something interesting in a Times obit,” Bill said.

“You don’t have James Taylor on that laptop, do you?” Tom asked.

“Sure do. It was used in the last program of my Science without Walls course and TV show. The song’s title is the Secret of Life. Give me a second.”

We waited, listened, again quietly, smiling.

“’Since we’re on the way down we might as well enjoy the ride’…I like that,” Bill said.

“Me, too,” Tom said. “I’ve really enjoyed this part of the ride – with harmless.”

We were all suppressing tears. I gently broke the reverence.

“I’ll get the hardware and put it in my office at the U.”

“I’ll package up the remaining chemicals, label them, put them in a closed box, and wrap some CAUTION tape around them,…” Peter then hesitated.

“And?” I asked, looking at him.

“Why don’t I place the box in the Chemistry Building at Reed College,” he answered, a bit quietly. “The second floor is a lab floor, with a few old tables in the main hall. I can just place the chemicals there.”

“That’s a great plan,” Lucien said. “The building’s open in the evening, almost no one is ever there at night, and there’s no security. I go right by the building during my evening runs across the Reed campus. I can be security and watchman for you.”

“And when the Reed professors or students discover it, they’ll either deal with it or call the cops to handle it,” I suggested. “But it might be better to carry the chemicals in via a backpack, unpack it onto the tables, and then wear the empty backpack back out. You also need to dispose of our chemical waste containers.”

“Easy. We’ll label and deposit them in the same place at the same time.”

“And since Reedies don’t really like cops on campus, I’m sure they’ll just deal with it,” Peter said. “We won’t deposit the chemicals until the cottage is vacated and released back to the landlord.”

“Agreed. We’ll move out of our little Portland cottage lab, clean it up, and formally vacate it,” I said. “I can be out there in about 10 days to pack up the stuff and return it to the U.” Looking at Lucien, I continued “Perhaps you and Peter could package the stuff up and clean up the place.”

“Sure. We’ll wash, dry, and package everything. It’ll be ready when you arrive.

Lucien and Peter returned to Portland. I followed in the Prius some 10 days later.

Chapter 4: The Therapy

Sassafras is fascinating. Bill and I compared notes.  We had each looked at the web sites of botanical gardens and arboretums, finding specimens, listings, and descriptions.


There’s a good YouTube video on harvesting sapling roots for root beer (sure!). Some herb and spice places sell the dried root; it’s even available via A cool fact is that Atlanta volunteers planted 200 sassafras trees along a section of the Beltline trail system. It was Georgia’s Plant of the Year some years ago.


Sassafras trees produce safrole, a root beer – smelling oil with a fascinating, and complex,  chemical structure. From pure safrole it’s only a few chemical steps to MDMA. There are some trees and shrubs with very high safrole contents, especially in certain areas of the tropics.


The rain forests in the Cardamom Mountains of Cambodia were being destroyed by the harvesting of Cinnamomum parthenoxylon trees for sassafras oil, which is shipped to Europe and Asia for MDMA synthesis. The issue is covered in Drugs Unlimited, by Mike Power, and documented in a 20 minute film titled Forest of Ecstasy.


We learned there’s an herb and tea supplier in Watsonville, California that sells sassafras root bark for $35 per pound. I bought some online.



Tom and I discussed synthesis routes and final chemical needs. He was preparing to return to Oregon in a few days and spend two weeks setting up and testing the lab between his chemo treatments. Peter and Lucien were cleaning up and furnishing the place in preparation for his return.




“Are we staying focused on MDMA?” Tom asked.


“Yes,” I answered.


“I thought there was some other agents, more effective for revelation purposes than LSD or MDMA,” Tom said.


“Nothing as good as MDMA. Power discusses, in Drugs Unlimited, an interesting variant called 6-APB – it’s essentially MDMA with one of the dioxygen ring’s hydrogens missing. He quoted an English major Jeffrey Jenkins as saying

MDMA intrigued me .. with its strangely universal experience, its ability to make even the hardest soul empathic….


“An English major!” Tom said. “He didn’t make the stuff, did he?”


“Sorry to bust your expertise bubble,” I smiled, “but Jenkins apparently taught himself organic chemistry so he could make his own MDMA – and then legal variants – and he put it all online. Although 6-APB was formally legal in Britain, they busted him and jailed him anyway.”


“‘Make even the hardest soul empathic’… I love that. Weren’t there earlier attempts at something better – even by Shulgin?” Tom asked.


“Yes, but I think Sasha and Ann both agreed they never experienced anything better than MDMA. There was a lot of interest – and much effort by the CIA and the Army – way back,” I said. “Much of the history is in the Acid Dreams book of 1985, just before MDMA became widely known.”




We were now back in Oregon, setting up the lab.



Some homework revealed that there were several so-called super-hallucinogens studied by the Army and the CIA in the sixties and seventies. The most developed and tested was BZ – Army code EA2277. In addition to the Acid Dreams book, which relied on declassified Army and CIA files, there was a mea culpa book by an Army Chemical Warfare Colonel, James Ketchum, published in 2006: Chemical Warfare: Secrets Almost Forgotten. The New Yorker discussed Ketchum and his book in a December 2012 piece (just after the paperback version was published) called Operation Delirium. Much of the Army work was on aerosol delivery – sort of a psychic gas approach.



“Cool!” Lucien said. “That must be what stimulated a Sherlock TV episode that used a military psycho-chemical gas – The Hound of the Baskervilles. I saw it a few weeks ago via Netflix.”


“So the Army wanted to use gas or aerosol delivery?” Tom asked.


“Yes. But for military – not political revelation – purposes, although many of the LSD pioneers had ideas about political and cultural transformation via LSD – Hubbard, Osmond, Kesey, Leary – and others,” I said.


“And funded by the Army and the CIA,” Lucien said. “In the Sherlock episode – I think it was in Season 2, it was to cause delirium and total incapacitation.”


“How much TV do you watch,” I joked.


“When you’re 44, single, and without much social life, Sherlock helps.”


“Do see, if you haven’t, Cumberbatch’s The Imitation Game,” Tom suggested. “He’s not only a great Sherlock, but also a great Alan Turing.”


I continued: “BZ was intensively studied and tested over a two week period at Utah’s Dugway Proving Grounds – at least according to Ketchum’s book. The project was unofficially called Project Dork – a play on the ‘crazy’ General Dick who ordered the test. BZ was likely burned and eliminated there later at the Army’s Chemical Agent Disposal Facility nearby.”


“It seems there’s always some Utah connection,” Lucien noted.


“Well, BZ is not a psychedelic and was not studied by Shulgin – although, interestingly, he wrote a brief Preface for Ketchum’s book. BZ can be considered an incapacitating agent. Shulgin called it a ‘deleriant’ on p. 218 of The Shulgin Index.”




Project MK-Ultra was an even earlier government ‘research’ effort, from about 1953 to 1973, by the CIA and the Army, to apply methodologies to manipulate people’s mental states and alter their brain functions. The goal was to develop truth-telling capabilities, often involving the surreptitious administration of LSD or other drugs. Research was done at some 80 institutions, including colleges and universities, hospitals, prisons and pharmaceutical companies in the US and Canada. The CIA used various front organizations to fund and monitor the work. In many respects the CIA was thus responsible for the ready availability of LSD among the research and medical communities. The program was made public via the Church Committee investigations stemming from FBI surveillance activities, chronicled in the recent documentary 1971.


There’s been some interest in methylone, sometimes considered a substitute for MDMA. A Breaking Bad – like Chinese professor, a Dr. Zhang, set up a lab and, in 2014, before he was caught, sold methylone. It’s essentially a ketone derivative of MDMA. Perhaps he chose it because he thought it was outside of Chinese or Australian drug laws. It was available in The Netherlands in 2004 under the street name Explosion.


Shulgin also made and evaluated methylone, saying it

…has almost the same potency, but it doesn’t produce the same effects. It has an almost antidepressant action, pleasant and positive, but not the unique magic of MDMA.


In addition to all the positive experiences with MDMA over the years, Shulgin’s review in PIHKAL is among the best:

            I feel absolutely clean inside, and there is nothing but pure euphoria. I have never felt so great, or believed this to be possible. The cleanliness, clarity, and marvelous feeling of solid inner strength continued through the rest of the day, and evening, and into the next day. I am overcome by the profundity of the experience…




“MDMA has most of the effects we want – ” said Peter, “- decreased personal fear of others and of the unknown, decreased social anxiety, increased empathy, general openness and wellbeing, and for most a real personal transformation, revelation.”


“And since we will likely have only one major opportunity to use it on each of our patients, I think we’ll want to use at least 100 mg amounts – perhaps 125 mg for big people,” I said.


“Shulgin’s 1986 paper is the best synthesis summary I’ve seen – six routes to MDMA,” said Tom.


“Yes,” I agreed. “He also published one that same year on his testing protocol for new drugs, via self-experimentation – the Shulgin Protocol.”


“As one of the key testers, I’m pleased to learn there’s a protocol,” Lucien added.


I continued: “The more recent papers from the forensic communities have been very helpful – they tend to focus on impurities in the various synthetic processes, with the goal of helping to identify clandestine labs.”


“My thought is that the original safrole bromination process is the most direct, involves fewer chemicals, and results in a less traceable MDMA product,” Tom continued. “That route doesn’t involve MDA, a common contaminant of clandestine MDMA.”


“It’s just two steps, isn’t it?” I asked.


“Yes – by brominating safrole’s propylene group, followed by a methylamine replacement of the bromine,” Tom said. “The reaction’s been studied by the Polish forensics community; the more recent papers are readily available in English.”


“So we only need hydrobromic acid and methylamine? And the safrole?”


“A steam extraction and distillation gets us safrole from sassafras,” Tom continued. “You know, it’s curious that Shulgin doesn’t mention the direct safrole to MDMA route in PIHKAL, but includes it in The Shulgin Index, published in 2011, some 20 years later.”


“MDMA merits the longest discussion in the Index, but with no synthesis details – lots on analytical chemistry, however. It’s been noted that the bromo approach produces relatively low yields compared to other routes, which is probably why Shulgin didn’t use it much,” I said.


“Increasing the yield involves using a high pressure reaction step which isn’t difficult. If we were into making large amounts of MDMA, we’d consider it,” Tom added.


“We need to do much more homework focused on potential side reactions and impurities – and on various purification steps and procedures,” I said. “ – and on analytical methods.”


“Agreed,” Tom concluded.




We already know that MDMA is an incredible molecule. It’s chemical structure suggests amphetamine, met-amphetamine, MDA, and something else – all rolled into one very special molecule that is non-addictive, non-hallucinogenic, non-toxic; no visions, no crazy images – just a gentle, open, relaxed, empathogenic frame of mind. Huxley would have loved it. Of all the ‘psychedelics’, it’s the closest to his ideal moksha, described in his final novel, Island. And not at all like the soma of his Brave New World – and not at all like LSD.




“Huxley started with mescaline, got to LSD via Osmond, and experienced psilocybin via his work with Timothy Leary. MDMA didn’t become available until the early eighties, some 20 years after Huxley died,” Peter said.


“I’m now reading Moksha, a collection of his shorter writings – letters, speeches from 1931 through 1963.” I said.  “I started with the most recent, working back in time. What a wonderful, perceptive, open thinker and writer. He foresaw and cautioned us against almost everything we are now concerned about in our modern overpopulated, over consumptive, over technological, and over politicized society.”


“Amen,” Tom said.




I planned to acquire multiple small bottles of the solvents and reagents needed for all major MDMA synthesis pathways, in case the direct safrole to MDMA bromine-based reaction isn’t adequate for our needs. This would be done in stages from different sources: borrowing small amounts, getting some from the U Chemistry stockroom, and independent orders from the major chemical suppliers – spread over several months. As methylamine is a ‘watched’ substance, I will ‘borrow’ it from some chemistry researcher friends. We can also directly synthesize it.


The bromination – methylamine route is simple and direct, although there have been reports of low yields. That’s not a problem as long as we are careful to purify the MDMA and as long as any residual impurities are not particularly toxic. Clandestine street products are rarely carefully purified or characterized – and it’s those products to which the forensic labs and ‘watchers’ are tuned or focused. The bromination route of course has the major advantage that we can start from sassafras. Although it, too, is likely ‘watched’, especially safrole oil, we will obtain sassafras in small quantities from multiple sources, ostensibly for botanical studies and for root beer and tea preparation.


It’s interesting that Shulgin’s procedures required long times – much patience. He originally used the slower, safer processes. He was also very concerned with purification and characterization. Time and patience are not normal characteristics of clandestine drug synthesizers or dealers.


The drug forensics people have provided detailed information on synthesis via the various routes. They do that to understand the various impurities so as to try to identify labs of origin for street drugs. The forensics papers are the most helpful for harmless!






“Hydrobromic acid is nasty stuff,” I said to Tom.


“Most strong acids are,” he responded. “We chemists understand and respect acids. HBr is a stronger acid than hydrochloric but no more difficult to work with. We’ll just use a good chemical hood and ventilation. Not to worry.”


“And methylamine?”


“I’m more concerned about that,” Tom answered. “Maybe I’ve watched too many Breaking Bad! episodes. Since methylamine is a key ingredient in meth labs, it’s likely to be ‘watched’ much more that sassafras or safrole. I’ll need to use a respirator mask and good ventilation. But that’s standard for real organic chemists.”


“You’re the chemist,” I said.




The demand for MDMA is high. About 25,000 kg are used yearly in Britain, most of it coming from Holland via land, air and sea. Each kilo of MDMA costs about $1,000 to produce, but is sold wholesale for about $4,000. Middlemen pay about $15,000/kilo. A gram on the streets costs up to $50 – that would be up to 10 doses of pure MDMA.



I obtained some methylamine solution from a friend who was retiring and cleaning out her lab. No methylamine paper trails. Hydrobromic acid, 48%, I purchased from the U Chemistry stockroom, and bought sassafras root and bark from several different tea and herb sources online.


I checked out the vacuum pump and the various lab equipment obtained from the stockroom and from Surplus and Salvage. The small, portable fume hood worked fine. I bought a venting hose from Home Depot. This was all to go to Tom’s new home and lab in Portland.


But we did need more glassware and equipment: a rotary evaporator, better funnels, heating mantles, thermometers, a manometer for vacuum distillations, and several more ice/cooling baths. Back to Surplus and Salvage.


The TLC plates and developing equipment are also going to Portland. We will also experiment with some high performance TLC methods to hopefully improve the TLC analysis and detection.


I considered keeping the Raman spectrometer in my U office, to help provide credibility for my purchases and new research project, but in the end decided it, too, needed to be in Portland so we could perform all the analyses there. With my earlier Raman collaborator, we modified the software to make it easier to use for our harmless needs. I also purchased the silver colloid precursors to facilitate the SERS analysis.


We scheduled our trip. Tom will fly again to Portland next weekend. I’ll drive by way of Winnemucca and Denio Junction; I just love that long, lonely road through NW Nevada.


By then Lucien and Peter will have the Portland house in shape, with the new locks and appropriate lights and fans for our needs. Tom decided to set up the ‘lab’ in the basement half-bath (just basin and toilet); it does have a basement window suitable for hood venting; there are other basement windows to facilitate air movement via fans. Lucien’s already planted small bushes and grasses outside the basement windows to increase basement privacy. Much of the work will be done during daylight times to avoid need for nighttime basement lights. As we get started we’ll monitor any odors or other signals which might lead anyone on the street to ask what’s going on (lots of people have watched Breaking Bad!).




Diana and I drove to Portland via I-80, Denio Junction, and I-5. She agreed to come along to spend a few days with her sisters in Portland.


Our no longer pristine Prius had several small boxes of chemicals – for, if asked, chemistry and luminescence demonstrations I arranged to do at a small science center in Eugene. I also do Leonardo da Vinci ‘shows’ for classes and science centers. These have been serious education outreach activities for me, but now they provide cover for harmless. Diana and I also carried small equipment, the Raman system, the portable hood, and my Leonardo posters and gear, as well as our travel suitcases.


The chemicals and solvents were, of course, ‘mis’-labeled in accordance with what I’d be doing in the demonstrations and shows. Given the chemical sophistication of our population, I didn’t expect any problems.


We got to Portland and unloaded without any questions or issues. Diana spent the next several days mainly with her sisters. Tom and I, together with Peter and Lucien, moved into Tom’s new home – the harmless cottage – and began to set up shop.


We used an old, used refrigerator as the basement chemical storage safety cabinet. We set up a sturdy used table right outside the downstairs bathroom, placed the portable hood on it, ran the vent to the basement window behind some shelving and drapes, and placed a used 4-drawer metal filing cabinet nearby to house equipment, books, and incidentals.


Lucien used his great design skills to make new covers for our drug and organic chemistry library. The books were now all labeled as science teaching for schools and museums. Almost no one casually looking at such a book would realize that they were really anything else.


In addition to the cover I would have used on the drive, if needed, we thought up some cover for Tom. He is developing curricula and exhibits for schools. I was there to teach him bioluminescence activities – a curriculum we had developed many years earlier called ‘Science in the Dark’. He was also learning my da Vinci programs. Tom would say, if asked, that he relocated to Portland because of his medical problems and the Death with Dignity law. He was working as a consultant and advisor in the area of science education. Although some of this cover was used in conversations with neighbors, store clerks, and visitors, no one ever came by to make a serious inquiry.


The vacuum pump and a dry ice trap were placed and installed under the table and the fume hood. Dry ice is readily available from local supermarkets and can be acquired as needed. As everything had been previously tested in Salt Lake, most of the set up went quickly.


We had previously installed a small window air conditioner to be sure the downstairs lab temperature stayed around 70 F or below.


We used a small main floor bedroom for our chemical analysis work, especially the thin layer chromatography (TLC).



“I’m a great fan of TLC,” I said. “It’s so simple, so inexpensive, so effective.”


“I remember a great set of paper chromatography activities – at OMSI,” Lucien said, referring to Oregon’s Museum of Science and Industry. “The facilitator had us write our names with black felt pen on the paper, and then separated the colors making up the black color. Cool.”


“It’s the same process as getting a celery stalk to ‘pull’ a colored dye up the stalk,” I said. “Capillarity is almost magical. Just molecules in the liquid shaking hands with those on the walls with enough strength to counteract gravity.”


“And now we’re using it to analyze illegal drugs,” Tom said, “to see if I’m still a pretty good chemist.”


“Did you see the recent story on beards and bugs?” Peter asked, stroking his chin. “Beards are loaded with bacteria and other organisms.”


“I wonder if Shulgin kept his covered while working,” I said.


“Not me,” Tom volunteered. “It’ll be largely under a respirator mask most of the time anyway.”


“And you do wash it?” I asked.


“Bonnie insists I do,” he smiled. “Time to make some stuff. Where’s that sassafras? Root beer, anyone?”


“I’d prefer tea,” said Lucien, handing Tom a bag of dried, chopped root bark with about two pounds of material.


“Two pounds, dry weight. Here’s the rough estimate: dry bark is perhaps 7% sassafras oils, via steam extraction. It’s less for the root – like only 1%. About 80 % of the oil is safrole, which we get via vacuum distillation of the sassafras oil. So a pound of dry bark – about 500 grams – gets us about 35 gr sassafras oil, meaning close to 30 gr of safrole,” said Tom.


“And I have about five pounds in this old suitcase,” I said. “It’s already in a powder form. No difference in price between bark and powder- $35/pound – from Monterey Bay Spice and Herbs.”


“The seven pounds should get us some 200 grams of safrole. If the MDMA synthesis is 100% efficient, that would mean over 200 grams of MDMA. Let’s guestimate a yield of 10% or so, providing roughly 20 grams of MDMA.”


“That’s about 200 normal doses. More than enough for our initial testing and even initial treatments,” I said.


“Time to prepare our key reagent” Tom smiled, “via steam extraction and distillation. Stand clear.”


“Talk me through all this,” Lucien said. “I want to learn some real chemistry.”


“You want to be Tom’s ‘graduate student’?” I asked.


“Why not? They don’t teach you any chemistry when you’re a Communications major – and it’s starting to seem that good organic chemistry may be the key to enhanced communication.”


“OK, but you’ll have to do some practicing and homework. Start by reading this little Organic Chem Lab Survival Manual by James Zubrick,” Tom said, pointing to his expanding chemistry library, “and watch carefully.”


“I want to learn, too,” Peter added. “I can be Lucien’s assistant.”


“I’m already a chemistry lab supervisor?” said Lucien.


“You guys start with learning the structures – the unique safrole and the magic 29 for MDMA – notice the similarity?”






Safrole                                                          MDMA




Tom then set up a steam/extraction distillation unit, including condenser and needed flasks for delivery and collection. He provided a running commentary of his actions and activities. He had carefully washed and organized all the glassware and related materials needed for the various steps of the reactions. Tom’s teaching skills had obviously not deteriorated over the last 20 years!

We were on our way.



“Lots of steps for a small amount of root beer – smelling oil,” Lucien said.


“That’s why most kids don’t want to be organic chemists,” Tom smiled.






“Remember Papa Haydn?” Peter asked.


“You mean that great chocolate and pastry shop?” Lucien responded. “Yes, why?”


“I read a fascinating article in that New Scientist you left lying around – on the science of chocolate,” Peter said, looking my way.


“I remember that,” I said. “An incredibly complex process, involving many different types of fungi and bacteria.”


“If you go to Trader Joe’s, you find dozens of varieties of chocolate,” Peter continued. “Stuff with salt, with pepper, with strange flavors – and most of it really delicious.”


“And some of it very strongly flavored,” I said. “Are you thinking what you’ve now got me thinking?” I asked.


“It may be perfect to mask MDMA’s bitter taste – in a very pleasant way,” continued Peter. “After all, look what brownies have done for marijuana.”


“We can become chocoholics,” Lucien said. “I’m game.”


“You know, it can be even more useful,” I said. “It can also provide cover for us – for harmless. We’re concocting chocolate flavors – that’s why all the equipment – the lab.”


“We can be cooking chocolate while we’re doing the other reactions,” Lucien suggested. “The downside is that the chocolate aroma may well encourage walkers to stop and ask questions.”


“And we can just say we’re formulating new chocolate flavors,” Peter said. “Q.E.D.”




So I did some homework. Can we mix chocolate and MDMA? Proportions? Taste? It’s been done.



“MDMA in chocolate truffles got a UK master chef arrested back in 2011,” I reported.


“I assume he’s now in jail,” Bill said.


“Nope. He was convicted, fined, given 9 months jail time, but the sentence was apparently suspended,” I said. “I didn’t learn anything about amounts, although two kids ate some chocolate mousse laced with MDMA and got sick. The adult who ate two truffles said he had an out of body experience.”


“Has there been any follow up?” Jay asked.


“Nothing I could easily find on line.”


“Great chocolate is certainly ecstatic as well as blissful,” Bill said.


“What’s interesting is that they did detect the MDMA in the truffles and mousse, thus all the other stuff in chocolate doesn’t really mask the analysis.”




Further web searching hinted that mixing MDMA with chocolate should be fine, although absorption might be a little slower than with liquid ingestion. In searching chocolate and ecstasy all I could find is  – and not with MDMA. These are basically expensive chocolate tasting excursions. They seem to be very popular. There’s even a line of Ecstasy Elite Truffles. So perhaps that provides even more cover – we’re involved in the feelings of ecstasy delivered via chocolate.




“Remember anandamide -” I asked, “the bliss molecule.”


“As in cannabis? I remember the feel-good gene research,” said Peter.


“Exactly. It was discovered in 1992 – and four years later was found in chocolate – in very low concentrations.”


“That is really cool!” Lucien said.


“Yes – and a third or so of the US population have higher levels of the bliss molecule than the less-blissful other two thirds – and thus don’t respond as strongly to THC in marijuana – that’s the feel-good gene story.”


“This all keeps getting more and more interesting,” said Peter.


“Yes, but…” I cautioned, “the concentrations in chocolate are so low as to have very little direct effect. But that doesn’t make good chocolate any less blissful.”


“Let’s visit Trader Joe’s – and Papa Haydn’s,” Lucien suggested. “We’re all willing to put on some weight for the cause.”




There’s more to anandamide and cannabis. There’s a component in cannabis that really boosts anandamide: cannabidiol. It apparently is helpful in treating the nine percent or so of regular marijuana users who actually become addicted. And it treats the dependency by somehow boosting internal anandamide concentrations.






“So our bliss molecule is somehow tied in to marijuana?” Lucien asked.


“Yes – and not only cannabis and its components – but also to oxytocin,” I said. “Oxytocin is called the ‘bonding’ hormone and linked to social bonding and feelings of empathy. There are some studies underway to see if it might be helpful in alleviating dementia. The jury’s still out as to whether MDMA and oxytocin are connected or inter-related.”


“I saw a clip on the mdmathemovie site, where Julie Holland seemed to think MDMA did act, at least in part, via oxytocin,” Lucien noted.


“We’ll see,” I said. “The MDMA film is close to being finished and released. Perhaps the perception will change. Video segments and clips are viewable on line at .


“I love the semantics,” Lucien said. “We’re dealing with empathy, ecstasy, bliss, bonding, and also love – oxy’s been called the love hormone, you know. And now I just learned that awe is another trait we need to cultivate.”


“Awe?” I asked.


“For once I read something before you did! A NY Times op-ed: ‘awe is the ultimate collective emotion’. It binds us, motivates us to act in collaborative ways, and be more generous to strangers.”


“Sounds a bit like empathy to me,” I said. “Look out for a bunch of new studies trying to relate awe to MDMA, oxytocin, or anandamide.”


“You read those,” Lucien said. “I’d rather experience awe – and bliss.”



“I’ve been more thoroughly studying the synthetic procedures,” Tom said. The forensic papers by Noggle and friends report a seven day reaction for the bromination, followed by a four day reaction for the amination step.”


“That must be why clandestine labs tend not to use the HBr – methylamine route,” I said. “Fortunately, we’re not in a very big hurry, and we don’t need very large amounts.”


“If it’s that slow, and the yields aren’t great, perhaps the watchers will be watching elsewhere,” Peter added, optimistically.




Tom and I studied the papers covering synthesis of MDMA – as well as some clandestine lab and self-published stuff online, including the online book MDMA Synthesis for the First Time Chemist – which certainly facilitates clandestine production.


I had purchased (via Amazon!) A Laboratory History of Narcotics: Amphetamines and Derivatives. Much of the book is available on line, but it is convenient to have the information in book form. The book is very informative and complete, including a chapter on chemistry principles and one on lab techniques and procedures, a good companion to the Zubrick book. It’s apparent that the author, a Jared Ledgard, must not have had much formal education – evidenced by the spelling and semantic errors – and may be largely self-educated in chemistry, but it’s all there. The book is probably self-published and did not have any serious editing services. An Amazon search shows his more popular books are a Preparatory Manual on Explosives, and an earlier one on Chemical Warfare Agents. Interesting fellow.


After reviewing the Ledgard materials, and the other material we had read, Tom and I agreed to begin with the process described in the Noggle, 1991 papers – basically 3 key steps:


getting safrole by steam distillation from sassafras, then via vacuum distillation – which we had already done;

brominating the safrole, to get the bromo precursor of MDMA; and

swapping the bromine out with methylamine, to produce MDMA.

And finally step 4 – purification.


Tom agreed to write-up the procedures in sufficient detail, with Lucien’s help, so we (meaning Lucien) could reproduce them without Tom’s assistance, in the event we need more moksha and Tom’s no longer able to produce it. And Lucien made a fake cover for the Ledgard book, whose original cover is an ominous black with Narcotic in large font – we didn’t want any visitors or even burglars noticing it.




“We didn’t do badly; we have about 100 grams of safrole from Step 1,” Tom said, proudly. “I only used about half of our sassafras bark stock. But do get some more.”


“It’s on order,” I said.


“Given the issues with hydrobromic acid, it’s best to do Step 2 – the bromination reaction – in small batches – about 5 gr of safrole, added dropwise to about 25 ml of the hydrobromic acid.”


“You’re the chemist,” I said, putting on my safety glasses.


Lucien and Peter hovered nearby, with the requisite lab coats, nitrile gloves, and full safety glasses. Tom then poured, in the hood, very slowly, 25 ml of the acid into a beaker. He then began adding, slowly, the safrole – drop by drop – while stirring the acid solution on a magnetic stirrer. It was all done at room temperature – and to be continued for seven days!


“It’s a slow reaction,” Tom said. “I’ll start another batch every day for the next three days. Organic chemists only seem slow – the good ones are cautious and patient.”



Seven days later, Tom said, “Not bad. Looks like we got about 4 ml from the 5 ml safrole we started with. That’s an 80 % yield – by volume.”


“You are good, “ I said. “Interesting color.”


“Yes, the heavy Bromine atom changes the optical properties to a deep red and increases the density, although there could also be some free Bromine,” Tom explained. “Step 2, bromo-safrole – check.”


“Check, and the literature suggests that no additional purification is needed at this stage.  Onward,” I said.


Peter and Lucien each studied the process and performed their own trial extractions and distillations. Tom would have them ‘solo’ with one of the next batches.


We cleaned up the Step 2 work and began Step 3 – which needs to react for 4 days.



The trick to chemical reaction speeds (kinetics) is to increase the rates at which the reacting molecules collide; they have to touch each other via collisions. But that’s not enough. They have to hit each other with certain orientations, so that the bonds doing the reacting can ‘hand-shake’ with each other. It may take millions or billions or more collisions before a just right one occurs. And that all takes time – entropy. Higher concentrations, higher temperatures, and higher pressures all increase the collision rates. But such super-charged conditions can also lead to unwanted side reactions, lowering yield and producing unwanted contaminants. That’s why organic chemistry is a balancing act – a delicate art – of getting conditions, and thus reactions, just right. Tom’s very good at it.



“It’s always about entropy, isn’t it?” Lucien asked, suggestively.


“You know it is,” I smiled.


“You know I still use your license plate holder – the one that says Entropy Wins!”


“Keep it,” I said. “It’s a classic.”



Four days later Tom took the Step 3 reaction container and went through the additional nine steps, resulting in pure MDMA – an oil.



“And now we have Step 3 – MDMA. Check. Now it’s time for Step 4: purification. The best description I’ve seen on purification is Shulgin’s in the PIHKAL book.”


Tom then did the eight steps needed for purification, resulting in fine, white crystals of MDMA hydrochoride salt, about two grams – more or less. Our overall yield, based on the original safrole amount, was about 40% – enough for up to 20 doses.



“Pure MDMA – real Molly,” Tom said. He carefully smelled the powder. “And no safrole smell – just a touch of ether, but that will disappear. Pure MDMA – check!”


“Time for some tester analytics – and for some analytical chemistry,” I said.


“Testers start at very low amounts and slowly work up,” Lucien volunteered, “nice and careful, like Shulgin did.”


“I‘m with you,” Peter agreed.


“We need to keep it sealed,” I said. “Exposure to Portland’s ultra-humid air is not a good way to store chemicals.”



I had brought a plastic heat-sealer for packaging the material in low density polyethylene (PE) bags. It was very fast and simple to seal 100 mg portions in small PE bags.



We discussed the private testing we would soon do. We reviewed Hofmann’s process for dealing with new chemicals as well as the more extensive Shulgin protocols. The protocol we devised for our very first batch of MDMA was;


skin tests (we expected some minor irritation due to the acidic nature of our MDMA-HCl salt),

tongue tests (ditto),

oral ingestion in orange juice (10 mg, then 50, then 100 – each a day apart).


Lucien, Peter, and Tom (for the time he’s still in Portland) would each test while being observed by the other two. We devised a testing protocol and data recording worksheet which was a bit more comprehensive and complete than what Shulgin originally used. Our data included – every hour for six hours:




blood oxygenation

blood pressure

mouth dryness

teeth clenching

sweating or flushed feelings.


The standard subjective mental feelings and observations recommended by Shulgin were used:


No effect (-) – baseline;

Very minimal (0) – perhaps placebo effect – alert;

Plus one (+), Shulgin: ‘…a real effect, and the duration but not the nature of the content can be discerned. The “alert” has progressed into something unmistakable’; clear-headed, creative, engaged;

Plus two (++) – ‘There is an unmistakable effect, and both the duration and the nature of the effect can be stated. It is at this level that the first attempts at classification can be made’; for MDMA this may manifest as openness, lack of fear, lack of anxiety;

Plus-Three (+++) – ‘…the level of maximum intensity of drug effect. The full potential of the drug has been realized. Its character can be spelled out … and the chronological patterns to be expected are defined’;

Plus-Four (++++) – ‘…the “peak experience” … a serene and magical state … the extraordinary place, that one-of-a-kind, mystical or religious experience which will never be forgotten…. in a class by itself.’ Unlikely for MDMA at the doses we are using.


We also reviewed some of the experience with low dose MDMA – the ‘creativity’ studies by Fadiman, Eisner, Beck, and others. About half of the ‘normal’ dose often resulted in enhanced alertness, creativity, problem-solving skills. Eisner claimed to write better with a little MDMA in him.




We had set up the TLC work area in a main floor bedroom, on a table just in front of a large window looking to the back yard. We had a dehumidifier in the room, to deal with Portland’s humid air. Opening the window, and using a large fan strategically placed, we were able to push the TLC solvent vapors out into the environment. Our real environmental concern is the liquid waste, which we placed in waste containers, as trained to do in university chemistry labs. We didn’t know yet how we’d dispose of that waste.


Lucien and Peter continued training under Tom, and Tom proceeded to complete the remaining batches of the synthesis over the next week. He’d observe Lucien’s and Peter’s initial, cautious personal testing.


We based the TLC work on an undergraduate honors thesis we found on line – the same one that used silver colloid – enhanced Raman for drug analysis. The student and her professor collaborated with local drug forensics labs and, through them, had access to reference amounts of MDMA. We followed their published protocol.



“Doesn’t seem to be any major contaminant,” Tom said, examining the plate.


“It looks very good,” I agreed. “Most anything else that might be there should also have separated, but with a different migration distance, resulting in multiple spots or a skewed or distorted spot.”


“So far, so good,” Tom said. “But is it MDMA?”


“And that’s where the Raman comes in. Analysis step 2 coming up,” I said.


In order to detect the chemicals present in the spot with our fiber-optic Raman unit, we needed to use surface enhancement – the so-called SERS method. Again we chose to go with the undergraduate student project process, using a silver colloid.

“Pretty good, for a first try,” I smiled.

“Damn good,” Tom said. “The spectra are essentially identical to what that undergraduate got. Our MDMA could be used as a reference!”

“Don’t get carried away,” I responded. “It looks very good – very pure.”

“This is starting to sound like that first episode of Breaking Bad,” Lucien joked. “I’m ready to test.”

“Me, too,” said Peter.

“Check,” Tom and I said at the same time.