Pubdate: Wed, 02 Jan 2008
Source: Topeka Capital-Journal (KS)
Copyright: 2008 The Topeka Capital-Journal
Author: Mike Hall
Bookmark: (Hallucinogens)


When Smoked, Plant Induces 15-Minute Hallucinogenic State

An old hallucinogenic drug is growing in popularity  with young 
people and causing concerns for health and  law enforcement officials.

And in Kansas, as in most states, it's perfectly legal  to sell it, 
buy it or ingest it.

In fact, the main concern of law and health officials  is that so 
little is known about the drug and how it  works.

It's called salvia divinorum.

Some Native Americans have been using it in spiritual  ceremonies for 
hundreds of years. It is native to  certain areas of the Sierra 
Mazateca region of Oaxaca,  Mexico.

The leaves of the plant originally were chewed but are  more often 
smoked these days. They contain a chemical  that produces a brief but 
intense hallucinogenic state  that often lasts only 15 minutes or less.

Jeff Brandau, special agent in charge for the Kansas  Bureau of 
Investigation, said his agency doesn't have  any information about 
the extent of use of the drug in  Kansas. That's because is isn't 
illegal to sell it and  no law enforcement agencies are reporting it 
being sold.

He said he did receive a few phone calls from the  Lawrence area a 
few weeks ago from people seeking  information after a news story 
described the drug. He  said he has no firsthand knowledge, but has 
been told  there are some "head shops" in Lawrence selling it.

Dr. Eric Voth, a Topeka physician specializing in  internal and 
addictive medicine, said he is concerned  because there are no 
comprehensive studies of the  drug's short-term and long-term affects 
on the human  body, especially the brain.

A person ingesting it has no idea how much his or her  body can tolerate.

Voth has special expertise in the drug culture because  of his 
membership (and now chairmanship) in the  Institute of Global Drug 
Policy, a Florida-based think  tank that studies the issues and 
advises Congress and  other governments and organizations.

He said salvia seems to be attacting "cult" users, and  he hopes the 
trend will fade away.

Salvia isn't classified as a controlled substance by  the U.S. Drug 
Enforcement Agency. There are places in  the United States where it 
can be purchased off a store  shelf. It can also be ordered through 
the Internet.

Brandau said the signs parents should watch for that  their children 
may be using salvia are the same as for  other mind-altering 
substances. If a parent finds an  unknown leafy substance, he or she 
should ask what it  is and where the child got it.

Other signs include changes in mood or behavior such as 
uncontrollable laughter.

It appears only one death has been attributed to use of  the drug, 
and everyone involved seems familiar with  that story.

A coroner concluded that the use of salvia was a factor  in the 
suicide of 16-year-old Brett Chidester in  Delaware. His mother, 
Kathy Chidester, told a CBS  reporter that Brett's mood became darker 
after starting  to use salvia.

"He'd say, 'Mom, it's legal. There's nothing wrong with  it. If it 
was bad it wouldn't be legal,' " she said.

The sale of salvia has been banned in some states, but  so far the 
federal government has declined to outlaw or  regulate it.

A check of the Drug Enforcement Agency Web site shows  little in the 
way of information about salvia that is  useful to the layman.

The Web site displays a DEA bulletin from June 2003 in  which an 
article written from the National Drug  Intelligence Center has been 

"The long-term effects of Salvia divinorum abuse are  unknown, as 
medical studies undertaken to examine the  drug's physiological 
effects have focused only on  short-term effects," the article 
stated. "However,  information provided by abusers indicates that the 
negative long-term effects of Salvia divinorum may be  similar to 
those produced by other hallucinogens such  as LSD including 
depression and schizophrenia.

"Some abusers also indicate that long-term abuse can  cause ... 
'flashbacks.' Some others report that the  drug caused them to become 
introverted and sometimes  unable to communicate clearly."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom