David Presti

Your Brain on Drugs: Five Questions for David Presti

More than 550 Berkeley students take your course Drugs and the Brain every year. What do you hope your students take away from the class?

Respect for the power of drugs, and specifically that all drugs are poisons as well as medicines. This is embedded in the ancient Greek word pharmakon. The origin of our words pharmacy, pharmaceutical, and pharmacology, it means both medicine and poison. While the ancients appreciated this dual property of drugs, it is often overlooked, even forgotten, in contemporary society.

From the Spring 2017 Virtue and Vice issue of California.

Marriage Is Driving Some to Drugs And It May Not Be a Bad Thing

Writer Ayelet Waldman was teaching a class on drug policy reform at UC Berkeley when she and her husband, the popular novelist Michael Chabon, decided that MDMA, the illegal party drug fueling those all-night raves, might also be a medicine that could save their marriage. They got the idea after Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin, the psychedelic chemist and so-called “godfather of ecstasy,” spoke to her class. 

Goodbye to the Godfather of Psychedelics: Shulgin Now “Tripping in the Cosmos”

Update: The federal government has just given special permission to a team of Marin County therapists to study whether the party drug Molly or Ecstasy—both street names for the illegal psychoactive drug MDMA—is able to reduce anxiety in people with life-threatening illnesses. (Experts caution that much of the contraban sold as Ecstasy now is mixed with other dangerous substances.) The new willingness to investigative MDMA’s therapeutic potential would have been welcome news to the man credited with synthesizing it for psychiatric use in the 1970s: Alexander Shulgin, who held a Ph.D.

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