California kids legally can tune in, turn on, and freak out these days on Salvia divinorum, a potent, mind-altering drug that is readily available but targeted for a crackdown by police and legislators, says the Sacramento Bee. Typically smoked or chewed, salvia has become increasingly known on the Internet through sales on eBay and through YouTube videos of users tripping with it. The drug is produced from a Mexican plant used by Mazatec Indians for healing and ritual prophecy. Users have reported effects ranging from relaxation and sensual pleasure to out-of-body experiences and frightening hallucinations. “This is the first really new illicit drug in a long time,” said Dr. John Mendelson, a researcher at California Pacific Medical Center.
Kathy Chidester of Delaware is pushing to outlaw salvia nationwide after her 17-year-old son Brett Chidester committed suicide two years ago – a death that a medical examiner ruled stemmed, in part, from the teen’s use of the drug. The National Institute on Drug Abuse callls salvia’s effects “intense but short-lived,” beginning less than a minute after consumption and lasting less than 30 minutes. Salvia is not approved for medical use. Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Spain and Sweden have restricted sale or use of the drug, as have some U.S. states, including Delaware, Missouri, and Louisiana. The Drug Enforcement Administration lists salvia as a “drug of concern” and is evaluating it – addressing issues ranging from potential abuse to medicinal possibilities – to determine if it should be banned like marijuana and LSD. “Just because something isn’t currently a controlled substance doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous,” said a DEA spokeswoman.