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MAPS Bulletin Summer 2014: Research Edition
 
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October 21, 2011

What The Hell is This Drug Salvia?

By: John Stapleton IV

Back Page Magazine

Backpage Magazine explores everything about Salvia divinorum in a new article. Salvia’s legal nature and extremely intense effects make it a very controversial subject. Rick Doblin of MAPS advocates research into its safety and effects, though he suggests, “Very few people would be going to salvia if they had alternatives.”


Originally appearing here.

Herbal medicine practitioners have always locked horns with what the ruling class deems “safe for society,” and advocates of natural drugs have lobbied the same justification since the dawn of man:  It’s natural!

Opponents, contrarily, have always had the burden of proof, manufacturing any and every excuse fathomable to keep people less reliant on things they can grow in their back yards, and more reliant on things concocted in labs and sold at a premium.

The most current and gleaming target in the crosshairs for proponents and opponents alike, is salvia divinorum – SALVIA.

=WHAT IS SALVIA?

Salvia DivinorumI’ll save you the Wikipedia search — salvia is an herbal relative of the mint family that has been used in traditional Mexican medicinal practices since the beginning of time.

Salvia also however is a hallucinogen that recently gained the attention of the nation.  It has somehow slipped under the careful nose of the DEA and is one of the hottest legal drugs for young people to experiment with, surpassing “Patron Challenge, ” Cinnamon Challenge, and “Homemade FourLoko” as YouTube’s gold standard for frat boy video submissions.

LEGALITIES

Like marijuana in its heyday, this plant’s celebrity has concerned mothers and politicians hysterically passing legislation and anti-salvia laws as if the drug was actually causing any damage.  The irony, of course, being that despite the deluge of salvia guinea pigs flooding the internet, hospitals haven’t reported so much as a trickle of salvia-induced residents.  Neither have jails.  Which begs the question:

What kind of affect does a drug have to have to necessitate laws against its use?

And so salvia sits as the bow on the rope — this generation’s gauge in the tug of war between herbal medicine and law enforcement — on the front lines of the war against drugs:  It is simultaneously

  the target of the fastest-growing movement to pass legislation against legal drugs
  the central cause of the anti-establishment movement to protect recreational drugs from being banned first, examined later.

In the last year, counties in 15 states have passed salvia bans, most of which without ever analyzing the drug itself, and relying instead on the old stand-by:

“It’s a drug.  People act weird on it.  It should be banned.”

Those jurisdictions which have taken the time to find legitimate cause in their hysteria have discovered that scientific conclusions fall into two categories:  It does nothing, or it does nothing, but might some day.

EFFECTS

As a drug, studies have shown, it’s relatively harmless, including no discernible lasting effects and a quick, potent high that creates paralyzing tension as opposed to brazen recklessness.  This inability to physically do much of anything while on the drug, combined with the brevity of its symptoms, may account for its scarcity within emergency rooms.

As Reason.com writer John Sullum summarized, “a hospital trip takes longer than a salvia trip.” 

THE OLD “GATEWAY” ARGUMENT

The other conclusion is that the seemingly harmless drug may not be physiologically dangerous, but allowing any hallucinogenic substance to be freely consumed could lead a person to explore truly dangerous drugs.  Despite the fact that this conclusion assumes that people in general have no self control whatsoever, this “gateway drug” argument has been largely silenced by consumers and scientists alike, with consumers explaining that, because salvia renders its users mentally debilitated, it isn’t a social drug that would gain momentum at parties like alcohol, pot or even mushrooms.

Miley Cyrus Salvia BongSalvia became even more newsworthy when Miley Cyrus was caught smoking it in a video.

Even advocates for maintaining the legality of salvia concede that it isn’t a very pleasant experience.  Rick Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, says, “Very few people would be going to salvia if they had alternatives.”

So salvia is a drug that doesn’t last long, leaves a terrible impression, and causes little if any physiological side affects.  It cannot be linked to criminal activity, nor medical toxicity, nor civil disruptivity.  To cap it all off, no one really likes it.

And while it’s perfectly natural to wonder why, then, any citizen would be stupid enough to try it, what seems to be of greater consequence is why any government body would waste our time and money trying to punish someone for being an idiot — aren’t there actual dangers facing society?  Politicians aren’t trying to prevent an epidemic, or violence, or social anarchy.  They’re trying to prevent harmless fun “just in case it stops being harmless.”

(read the rest here)


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