Questioning salvia

Salvia divinorum, or seer’s sage, is a hallucinogenic herb that has raised some eyebrows as of late. While still legal in Oregon, it is currently banned in 15 states and several countries.

Salvia divinorum, or seer’s sage, is a hallucinogenic herb that has raised some eyebrows as of late. While still legal in Oregon, it is currently banned in 15 states and several countries. Currently, the FDA has classified it as a poisonous plant. Side effects of salvia use include uncontrollable laughter, the sensation of blending into one’s surroundings and the feeling of existing in multiple places or dimensions at once.

Initially, salvia was used by native tribes in Mexico during religious ceremonies. They smoked and chewed the leaf of the plant in order to experience its effects. Salvia can be found in the United States in its plant form and the dried leaves can be purchased in bulk. More commonly, the plant is sold in various purified extracts, which are smoked, and are significantly more potent.

But before you run off to the store to grab some 60X and rip away, know that there are some downsides to salvia use.

A major complaint from many salvia users is that their first experience or “trip” is so intense and frightening that they never want to do it again.

“It seems like the vast majority of people who smoke it had [that] experience and say they don’t want to do it again. It’s…not what they are looking for,” said Dr. Bryan Roth, a professor of pharmacology at the University of North Carolina. “The hopeful thing about it is that emergency rooms are not inundated with people coming in with bad salvia reactions.”

Anti-salvia advocates have also attempted to link the product to a handful of violent crimes. After the suicide of Brett Chidester, a 17-year-old boy whose experience with salvia apparently made him realize that life was “pointless,” Delaware passed Brett’s Law, a bill banning salvia. The bill was mainly fueled by Brett’s parents, who adamantly believed that salvia was the main cause of his death. Salvia was also linked to Arizona shooter Jared Loughner, who was described by his friends as a regular user.

In both examples, some have drawn the conclusion that without salvia, neither of the teens would have done what they did. With further research, this could possibly prove to be a reasonable hypothesis. As far as current research is concerned, a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine study has found no harmful short-term effects from smoking salvia.

The debate surrounding salvia’s legality has recently been sparked again due to a YouTube video in which pop star Miley Cyrus appears to be smoking salvia with friends. The majority of the video depicts Cyrus giggling and rambling. YouTube is inundated with videos of people smoking salvia, most prominently posted by a user named “letsGOtoCLASS,” in which he attempts to conduct everyday tasks such as gardening, writing and driving under the influence of salvia. For the most part, the videos are silly and innocuous.

The main argument in favor of banning salvia is that it should be done in order to “protect our children.” This is perfectly reasonable. Kids who are under the age of 18 should not have access to these products. In this case, legislation should be passed in order to control the trafficking of the drug to minors, and should punish those who sell and provide salvia for minors—much like alcohol laws. Instead of banning the product altogether, we should punish those who use it irresponsibly.

Salvia, like any substance, is something to be handled carefully. Alcohol—the number-one abused substance in the United States—seems to have been put on the back burner as the social pariah. Instead, we seem to be moving toward newer drugs, ones we know little about, out of our fear of the unknown.

Until we know more about the long-term effects of salvia, we should relax and let folks have their fun. Like any substance, it should be handled responsibly and reasonably. Hallucinogens are powerful substances capable of altering one’s perception of the world, and have been known to cause serious problems with those who are predisposed to mental or psychological issues.

When used responsibly, salvia can be an interesting, enlightening and eye-opening substance. So if you are going to choose to use it, do so in a safe and healthy environment and while in a positive state of mind. Treat it as you would alcohol. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to do silly or potentially unhealthy things to your body, regardless of its legal status. Either way, like it or not, people will still do salvia.

Therefore, instead of wasting taxpayer money by punishing and arresting those who use a drug we have not fully researched, we should allow it to remain legal until we obtain hard evidence that its effects can be harmful or lethal.

Until then, those who want to spend their time giggling or horrified should be able to do so—it seems the worst they can do right now is annoy the hell out of their friends. ?