There is a “new” drug out on the streets – and it is legal. If you hear your teen-age sons and daughters – or their friends – talking about salvia or Maria Pastora, they are not referring to your border plants or a new friend. They are talking about a “new” drug that is becoming increasingly popular among teens and young adults and which, at this time, is completely legal in most countries and most U.S. states.
Salvia, or salvia divinorum, is a perennial herb in the mint family, native to areas of the Sierra Mazateca region of Oaxaca, Mexico. There are many types of salvia – ranging from common sage used in most kitchens to the pink and green border foliage sold in many nurseries. However, this particular one, salvia divinorum, has one particular purpose – to create a hallucinogenic “high” that many claim to be “spiritual.”
Originally, this plant was used by the Mazateca Indians for ritual divination and healing. However, it is now widely advertised on the internet as a legal alternative to such hallucinogens as ketamine, mescaline, peyote, and even LSD. In fact, the hallucinogenic chemical in salvia, salvinorin-A, is purported to be a close chemical formation to the active ingredient in LSD.
The concentration of salvinorin-A is located in the leaves and stem of the plant. While salvia can be steeped in a tea or chewed, it is most commonly smoked. When chewed, the drug takes effect in about 5-10 minutes. When smoked, it takes effect in about 30 seconds and lasts for up to 30 minutes. During this time, common hallucinations include out-of-body experiences and the ability to fly. So-called spiritualists claim to use the drug to aid in the accomplishment of astral projection or to gain access to an ultimate Divine entity. Often referred to by these individuals as Diviner’s Sage, the drug induces visions and “prophetic” dreams. Users experience a loss of reality or over-lapping realities, causing a judgment to be severely impaired. Physically, users experience incoordination, dizziness and slurred speech.
Beyond the obvious concerns that most parents will have when they read the above information on salvia is the fact that salvia is touted as “NOT a recreational drug in the way that other drugs like alcohol and marijuana are used. It is definitely NOT a party drug. But can be the best inner party. Salvia is best used by those wishing to explore deep meditative states, spiritual realms, mysticism, the nature of consciousness and reality, or even the possibilities of shamanistic healing.” For confused teens seeking anything to help them “solve” their problems, this must sound like a miracle solution. Most of the internet sites that sell salvia divinorum use some form of the mystical, religious, spiritual message to draw in users.
Above all else, what frightens this parent the most is that more people have not realized the danger of salvia divinorum. There are only a handful of countries in which salvia divinorum have been placed under regulatory control. These include Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Estoria, Finland, Italy, Spain and Sweden. Within the U.S., only Louisiana has made the plant, its possession and use illegal. Delaware, Missouri, Tennessee and Oklahoma have placed it under regulator control. In the rest of the nation, the plant and its use are completely legal.
What can we do? Well, first let me tell you that any of us who band together to urge lawmakers to make salvia illegal will meet with strong opposition. You will not research long before you run into avid supporters of the drug who believe staunchly that it should remain legal. They claim that it is “harmless”, they claim that it is a “spiritual experience. But what none of them can answer is how it can be harmless when it so drastically alters the brain’s chemistry during use.
I strongly urge all parents to write their state representatives and urge them to develop, present and pass legislation to make salvia illegal in all fifty U.S. states. Talk to your PTSO, scout troop leaders, and the other moms at MOM and the baby gym. Actively solicit support for the movement to make salvia illegal. Create and/or sign petitions to show our lawmakers and law enforcement that we support them as in the effort to keep our children safe. Most of all, educate yourself and your children. No matter the fate of this drug, communication is key in keeping our children accurately informed.