Pubdate: Fri, 10 Mar 2017
Source: Expositor, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Brantford Expositor
Author: Susan Gamble
Page: A1


Use of hallucinogenic drug has recently sent at least three people to

The first signs of a problem were sounds of retching from her
15-year-old son's bedroom and a thump.

Sandra and her boyfriend got up from their seats in the living room
and ran to the Brantford teen's bedroom to find him having a seizure.

"He was convulsing and twisting in a grotesque way," says Sandra, who
asked that her real name not be used.

"His hands, fingers and toes were curled in a way I didn't know they
could bend and he just kept throwing up. Then a froth started bubbling
out of his mouth."

Sandra called 911. While waiting for paramedics, her first aid
training kicked in and she held her son in the recovery position,
trying to keep him from aspirating.

"The whole episode lasted about 10 minutes," she says. "By the time
the ambulance arrived, he was coming around but he had no memory of
what happened." The boy had just arrived home, gone to his room and
taken his first dose of salvia, a type of sage belonging to the mint
family, The drug is growing in popularity as a marijuana substitute.
It contains psychoactive ingredients that affect a person's mood,
behaviour and perception, police say.

Police and paramedics speculated that the salvia used by Sandra's son
might have been laced with another drug but toxicology tests showed
that wasn't the case.

"He had heard salvia can cause hallucinations but he didn't think it
was that dangerous because you can buy it at the store," says Sandra.

A friend of the teen bought the drug, known as salvia divinorum, at a
local variety store, which has since removed salvia from its inventory.

"We decided we don't sell it anymore," said a store

"People came in and told me there's a problem with it. But you can buy
it at any variety store in Brantford."

Salvia is illegal to traffic, possess for the purpose of trafficking,
import, export, or produce, but it is not illegal to possess.

Brantford police last month issued a public warning about the dangers
of salvia use.

They say that Sandra's son is one of at least three people to have had
recent nasty reactions to salvia.

Const. Nat Laing says that a 17-year-old boy was found having a
seizure near a plaza on Shellard Lane on Feb. 22, the same day that
Sandra's son had his seizure. Both boys were taken to Brantford
General Hospital.

About a week later, a 23 year-old man was taken to hospital after
having seizures.

"There may be others. A lot of times people don't want to disclose to
police what they've taken."

Laing said that store owners selling salvia need to be aware they
could be charged with trafficking.

"There's a lot of chatter about this drug so our street crimes unit
officers are randomly going to stores to make sure it's not on the
shelves and to educate the owners."

Laing said she's unaware of any deaths attributed to salvia but there
have been reports of injuries when people had seizures and one report
of someone who jumped out of a window.

"You lose control. It's a strong and quick effect."

Her advice is to avoid the drug. But someone who plans to use salvia
should ensure they are not alone, she said.

"If you're alone, there's no one to call 911. Having someone there
could save your life."

According to a 2015 provincial survey, Brant area students have a
significantly higher chance of using salvia than others in the province.

Ruth Gratton, the manager of infectious diseases at the Brant County
Health Unit, said that two per cent of Grade 7 to 12 students in
Ontario used salvia whereas 5.1 per cent of Brant students admitted to
using the drug. "A concern we have is that many drugs, including
plant-based ones, could contain other very lethal drugs like fentanyl."

The health unit urges a harm reduction strategy that includes not
using a drug alone, knowing the drug, knowing the supplier and
carrying a naloxone kit, which reverses the effects of an overdose.

Since her son's incident, Sandra has tried to educate herself on
salvia. She said that she wants to see it banned in Canada - as it is
in some U.S. states.

"We have post-traumatic stress from this," she said.

"For the first week after it happened, I would burst into tears
remembering the image of my son and the way he looked during the seizure.

"To think it's out there and children think it's safe is so
frightening. They can buy it with their chips and pop and think they
won't even get in trouble because it's legal."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt