Legal Issues Surrounding Salvia Use
The increasingly widespread use of salvia divinorum as a hallucinogenic drug among many teens and young adults around the world has sparked a public controversy over regulation of the now popular plant. Salvia divinorum is also known as Diviner’s Sage or Ska Pastora. It has roots in ancient Aztec culture, and is known as a substance that was commonly used throughout history by southwestern Native American tribes, Shamans, and medicine men. In early times, the plant was used to induce “visions” and provide insight.
Today, many argue that salvia is being abused, and the frightening depictions of what happens when someone uses salvia have caused alarm in some parents and public officials. The use of salvia is a popular topic of conversation in the media and among lawmakers. However, doctors urge that there has been little scientific proof of any real health risk or danger concerning the use of salvia.
The effects of salvia are often intense, but typically only last for an average of eight minutes. These hallucinogenic properties are best achieved by smoking the leaves of the plant. Although the leaves and extracts of salvia have been ingested for centuries, it is now known that the psychoactive compounds of the plant cannot be absorbed in this manner.
In 2010, a number of popular videos surfaced on YouTube that attracted a great deal of public attention. These videos depicted teens and young adults smoking salvia and “taking a salvia trip.” Scientists at San Diego State University used the videos as part of drug-behavioral research, and found very little risk associated with the use of salvia. However, some parents who viewed the videos online were terrified at the site of teenagers acting “out of their mind.”
There have been at least two isolated incidents that have prompted public concern over the use of salvia as a drug. There has been one reported incident of psychosis following long-term use of salvia, but medical experts agree that this incident probably had more to do with a predisposition to schizophrenia than the plant itself. In 2002, 17 year old Brett Chidester committed suicide after experimenting with salvia. In this case, Chidester’s mother believed that her son had done more than just “experimented” with the drug. She blames salvia for her son’s death. Following this incident, she petitioned the Delaware state legislature and managed to get salvia banned in the state.
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