The Latest Way for Teens to Get High Legally

Many of you may have heard about (or seen the video clip of) 18-year-old Miley Cyrus giggling and behaving disoriented after smoking salvia. Salvia is a powerful and legal hallucinogenic herb that goes by the street names ‘divine sage,’ ‘magic mint,’ ‘ska maria pastora,’ or ‘sally d.’ This herb, which is a member of the sage family, is widely available on the Internet and in some tobacco shops and herbal stores. It is marketed as a safe way to produce a high, but in fact, the herb induces an intense, dreamlike experience and no studies have been performed to determine its side effects or long-term consequences. Because it is legal and easily accessible, it is quickly gaining popularity among teens.

Health care and law enforcement officials described Salvia as an organic hallucinogen as potent as LSD, although the “high” only lasts for several minutes to an hour. Salvia Divinorum is currently legal in every country but Australia.  The Australian government banned Salvia effective as of June 2002. Legislation to make it a controlled substance in the United States has failed twice in Congress; however, some states have passed various regulations on the substance. Defenders of salvia note that the herb is a common garden plant and does appear to have medicinal qualities that are currently being researched. Critics suggest regulating salvia in the same way as alcohol so that teen access is limited.

To use salvia, teens can chew the fresh leaves, drink the extracted juices, or smoke the dried leaves as a joint. It can be consumed in water pipes or vaporized and inhaled. Typically, teens seem to be using the herb in groups, such as at parties. Adverse physical effects may include incoordination, dizziness and slurred speech. There are no studies that have researched the long time effect of its use on the body. We do not know yet if it’s physically addictive, but clearly it can become psychologically addictive.

Salvia has made inroads in the teen population, according to the latest “Monitoring the Future Survey,” released Dec. 14 by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan. In its 2009 survey, the researchers found that 5.7% of 12th-graders said they have used salvia in the 12 previous months. This year, 3.7% of 10th-graders and 1.7% of eighth-graders admitted to using salvia at least once.

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