A Review of PiHKAL

A Review of PiHKAL Posted on February 04th, 2011 by in Psychedelics with [fetching…]

Phenethylamines I Have Known And Loved: A Chemical Love Story, or PiHKAL for short, is a reference book of 179 chemicals, their synthesis, and experiences in commentary form from various testers. The book, authored by Alex and Ann Shulgin, is very-well put together resource, and perhaps one of the most important publications in the history of psychedelics.

The title is a bit misleading, for not all chemicals listed within are technically phenethylamines, and only a percentage of the drugs are “known and loved,” for some chemicals were deemed without effect, others having negative effects, and some having too much physical impact in par of mental stimulation. None the less, PiHKAL can teach us a few valuable lessons when it comes to chemicals and life itself.

Many of the commentaries include a rating of +0 (or just +) to +4 (++++) to judge the experience of the drug. + through +3 indicate the strength or presence of the chemical, and +4 is reserved for religious phenomena only. I am writing this article to example some of the interesting commentaries I have found. Instead of repeating X mg over and over, I was say @X; so if I’m talking about 10 mg I will designate it as @10.


What I find interesting about this chemical [2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylthioamphetamine] is that with @7, the tester reports “An amazing unification of visual hallucination seen only in the very fine detail of something” whereas only one mg higher @8, the tester reports almost no visual phenomena, but a heavy stoned instead.

All of the reports suggest a mystical and self-educating experience recommended for others. (At least for @5-7.)


[4-benzyloxy-3,5-dimethoxyamphetamine] @25, the tester is overwhelmed to the point of tears, @50, hypnogogic imagery, and @100 in two portions, a complaint of the chemical lasting too long; but the second @100 report is noted as merely “No effects.” Again, @150, the drug is compared to a tab of LSD. How can someone report no effects whatsoever when others experience such vivid results? Interesting.

A manufacturing mistake is indeed possible, although unlikely, so I believe an investigation should be held in reply to immunity.


[2,5-dimethoxy-4-methylphenethylamine] @10 it is deemed as a smart pill, @20 it is defined as a stimulant, @30 the tester rates it a +2 “not-quite-defined” something. But who would have guessed that @150 it could produce the effects of “a truly remarkable psychedelic” with intense colors, comparable to 2C-B.

Another example of how dosage can not only affect the severity of effects, but also the type of effects.


[2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylphenethylamine] This is one of those drugs that even the slightest increase of a dosage could spawn a horrifying trip. At doses between @10 and @25, 2C-E sounds fascinating. One report @25 said to be exhausted from the intense scene happening in a painting.


[3,4-tetramethylene-2,5-dimethoxy-pea]This chemical is in theory active, but has yet to be synthesized, making this an exciting drug to go after. We’ll never what enlightenment this chemical can bring to the table until a dedicated chemist figures out this puzzle.

If you are reading this article and have a PhD in chemistry, this applies to you!


[3,6-dimethoxy-4-(2-aminoethyl)benzonorbornane] This drug was rated +3 @14, but the complaints here seem to be with time duration. To me it seems that keeping one’s brain so active for such a long time leads to the sleep-deprived feeling. This chemical lasts 48 hours; that’s right, two days! Wow.


[2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodophenethylamine] I have been told by personal friends that this chemical is similar to a combination of THC & E, although this generalization isn’t to be held as fact, for all chemicals produce something different. Even if the trip feels the same, there are different things physically going on in your brain.

Anywho, this commentary is by far the most curious. The first report is done by not the tester, but instead observers. @0, just from being in the room with those testing 2C-I actually experienced the full psychedelic experience. A second-hand high, but the odd part of this is that the chemical isn’t smoked and doesn’t leave residual chemical in the atmosphere, so how could someone get second-hand high from 2C-I? The transfer of energy of course! Keep in mind that these are experienced testers and chemists, most definitely knowing the difference between a trip and a placebo. The observers came up the same time as the other participants and down around the same time also.


[2,5-dimethoxy-4-(n)-propylthiophenethylamine] @20 and @25, spiritual-like awareness is documented, and even better yet @30 the tester reports that he can control the visuals he is experiencing. “The visuals have an adaptable character to them. I can use them to recreate any hallucinogenic substance I have known and loved.” From LSD-flowing visuals to the earthly Peyote, and even the ability to stop the visuals altogether. Definitely a chemical to add on my to-try list.


[2,3-dimethoxy-4,5-methylenedioxyamphetamine] This is one of the most important chemicals missing significant preparation and commentary details. The author claims that earlier research showed the potency of this drug to be 5x that of mescaline, but the only qualitative comments for this chemical in PiHKAL is @50: “I am into it; it is much like MDA.”


[3,4-dimethoxyphenethylamine] When the urine of schizophrenic patients is chromatographed, a pink spot is found on the chromatogram; a pink spot not found in the urine of normal people. This pink spot is due to the presence of DMPEA. So what was the next step scientific procedure? To give normal people DMPEA and try to enduce schizophrenia, or just a chemical experience. Whomever agreed to be the test dummy for this experiment mustn’t have researched exactly what DMPEA was. Either that or they are the ballsiest chemists ever.

The chemical was administered to numerous participants, all concluding no effect at all. Perhaps it is good, or those test subjects could be in a mental hospital today; but also, if the introduction of DMPEA actually caused schizophrenia, there would probably be a cure for the mental illness today.


[2,5-dimethoxy-4-methylamphetamine] This is the only drug in PiHKAL that a tester ranks greater than LSD. @4, the user ranks DOM number one out of all previous experiences (amphetamine, phenobarb, LSD, mescaline, cannabis, and peyote, to say the least).

All testers say they’d gladly participate in evaluating this drug again. Yet another chemical to add to my list.


[3,4,5-trimethoxyphenethylamine] Better known as mescaline, experiences range from communication with God, to the deepest self-introspective. Pick up a copy of PiHKAL, if only for this page alone.


[3,5-dimethoxy-4-methallyloxyphenethylamine] Another drug with very interested results in par of dosage. @45, “Too much overload.” “Much too much too much.” @60, “Extremely restless…But if I repeated it would be at a lower dose.” “The sinister is not far away.” But @65 “Completely involved—good psychedelic state,” “Beautiful…Intense +3…Good connections between parts of self.” It’s strange that lower dosages can cause bad trips in most reports, yet most reports at slightly higher dosages feel no discomfort.


[3,4-methylenedioxy-n,n-dimethylamphetamine] I think the most important lesson learned in this book is that dosage isn’t a pre-designation to a good/bad trip, instead it’s the setting.

@150 no effects to slight threshold, @1000 absolutely nothing, but @550 the tester reports a very bad trip, with his friends experiencing a +3 @200.


[3,4-methylenedioxy-n-methylamphetamine] I think it’s unfair that ecstasy is fully evaluated within PiHKAL, but the Shulgin followup, TiHKAL lists LSD, yet decides to completely skip qualitative commentary.

The reports of MDMA are as anyone would expect: “pure euphoria,” “cleanliness, clarity,” “totally peaceful.” E is one of the most well-known party drugs, but LSD has much more depth and should have been evaluated to the fullest!

This note is to you Alex & Ann.


[3-methoxy-4,5-methylenedioxyamphetamine] The commentary seems to lean towards this drug being used as a psychedelic introductory. @150: “This is a good introductory drug to the drugs of this class, to become familiar with the drug state in as gentle a fashion as possible. This substance seems to have a much gentler action than others of this class; perhaps more like cannabis or psilocybin.”


[3,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylthiophenethylamine] @20 the tester says that it wasn’t the trip that affected him the most, but rather life following the experience. “The aftermath of this experience was the most profound of any that I have had in a long time. For the following week, I found myself on a new level of functioning, very energetic and very much in the flow of life and free of mental distractions.” Evaluation should certainly be done to test the effectiveness of TE as a therapy drug.


[3,4-dimethoxy-5-methylthiophenethylamine] I’m adding this commentary because I read it and thought, “What is he talking about?”

@80: “there seems to be no problem in writing physical words. But there is no urge to, as there are no new things. This is progressing into something more complex and there is an interesting shielding effect. I still have the desire to write and I sense that many things are going on underneath, but my conscious control suppresses their availability. It is now the third hour. Music. I would like to try this material at 100 milligrams. Now awareness seems much more pointed. I have need to build a writing table.”

They have no problem writing, but have no urge to do so, yet they still have the desire to do so. Then they throw a jumble of words together in the structure of a sentence. No real paragraph structure. I’m not quite sure what pointed awareness means. You’re probably thinking, “Leave him alone, he was high.” But the thing is, these reports are written much after the experience has ended. Perhaps quoting a crazy person isn’t the most qualified approach, and testing this chemical on such a person is even less ethical.

The commentary continues with a poem they wrote about writing the poem on the newly-created writing table.

I digress, this chemical seems at least interesting from the other experiences.


[2,4,5-trimethoxyamphetamine] The author explains that the rearrangement of the methoxy groups of TMA from 3,4,5 positions to 2,4,5 had the unexplained increase in potency compared to TMA. TMA-3 produces no effects, and TMA-4 and TMA-5 are compared to lose doses of LSD. TMA-6 seems to be comparable to LSD also, with more deep-introspectives.

Add TMA-2 and TMA-6 to your to-do list.


[4,5-dimethoxy-3-ethylthiophenethylamine] Another psychedelic to have a profound effect on the user for weeks to come, along with spiritual and self-revealing wisdom.

@60: “I feel that it was in the two or three days that followed that it had the most profound impact on me. It was at the time of the death of my wife’s mother, and I found that I could look directly towards death and its ramifications. Including my own death. I felt very close to the Higher Powers that seemed to make their presence felt all around…But it is certainly an experience one should have once a year, if not oftener.”

And more importantly, @100 this tester is enlightened about what the messiah really is: “I had a sudden revelation–what I called the wet-paint theory of Christ. How does one find and identify the Messiah? It is most simple. All of life is nothing more than a freshly painted fence separating us from the rest of the world. And the fence has many, many signs on it that say: Beware. Don’t Touch. Wet Paint. And if you touch too soon, indeed you get a dirty finger because the paint really is still wet. But the very first man to touch it and find it dry? There is your natural leader, your Son of God, and all those who touch later than He are the followers of the leader who first touched and found the paint dry.” Perhaps the most informative paragraph in the entire book.


PiHKAL is a must read for any psychonaut. Whether you want to read-up on a chemical before inducing, need instructions for creating, want new chemicals to experiment with, or you just like to read experiences for entertainment. The second part of the book, all of which this material derives, may be distributed for non-commercial reproduction and can be found at various sources such as Erowid.

However, the book is definitely worth picking up to read the first half of the book that details Alex Shulgin’s life and his adventures that unveil his place in the world.

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3 responses to “A Review of PiHKAL”

  1. Grant says:

    Yes, it is a must read for any psychonaut! I also enjoyed TiHKAL, Tryptamines i Have Known And Loved. also by Shulgin.

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