Concern about Salvia divinorum, a shamanistic herb from Mexico that some US teenagers are using to get a hallucinogenic high, is spurring parents to have heart-to-heart talks with kids and leading some states to outlaw it, reports the Christian Science Monitor. A concentrated leaf compound that’s usually smoked in water pipes, Salvia divinorum – known as “Sally D” or “magic mint” – causes users to briefly lose their grip on reality. Some 3,500 video clips of teens experimenting with the drug have popped up on YouTube, driving up its popularity even as vendors, aware of efforts to ban it, are basically throwing going-out-of-business sales.
The highly concentrated compound made from a kind of mint plant remains legal in all but eight states, available in smoke shops and even gas station mini-marts. It can also be obtained via the Internet. Its easy availability and disorienting properties come as a surprise to parents and many lawmakers, who are asking why the US government has not yet outlawed its sale. Yet salvia’s unusual chemistry, nontoxicity and potential research benefits have made the compound a cause célèbre among some researchers and spiritualists who say prohibition is the wrong tack for the substance. The US Drug Enforcement Administration lists salvia as a “drug of concern” – the first step in classifying a drug as a controlled substance.