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A Legal High - ithacajournal.com

By Alfa, Aug 2, 2004 | | |
  1. Alfa
    A Legal High - ithacajournal.com


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    Drug for sale locally; effects sketchy


    DIANA LAMATTINA


    Journal Staff


    IRINA PERESS/Journal Staff


    Arden Russo-Perry, owner of Jabberwock on The Commons, holds a packet of salvia and a water pipe, which is used to smoke salvia, in her store.


    Cheaper than marijuana, stronger than LSD, as fast-acting as crackcocaine, and legally available to minors on The Commons.


    Salvia divinorum, commonly referred to as salvia.


    It's a perennial herb in the mint family that can cause short but intense hallucinations when the leaves are dried and smoked. Originally used for meditative purposes by the Mazatec Indians of Mexico, salvia has recently become popular in local shops for about $20 or $30 a gram.


    As a legal substance, use is hard to track. Local drug counselors find that most salvia use is by curious teenagers and people in substance abuse rehabilitation looking for a high that won't show up on a drug test.


    Although the flowering plant grows naturally in the southwest and is a common garden plant, law enforcement and scientists know little about its effects on the body when used as a hallucinogen. As awareness of its presence in the counterculture community grows, so does concern about its psychedelic properties and its availability to youths.


    Signs in the windows of Jabberwock and 3-D Light on The Commons draw curious passersby. Arden Russo-Perry, owner of Jabberwock, said most people come in and ask what it is because they never heard of it before.


    "It's a diviner's sage, and it's supposed to give you insight," Russo-Perry said. "It's unpredictable where you will go with the journey."


    Using information gathered through the Internet and through personal experiences, Russo-Perry explained that after inhaling salvia smoke, users usually experience a high that lasts about five to 15 minutes. Salvia, which comes in different potencies based on how it's processed, is estimated to have about 10 "experiences" per gram. If using only a light dose, a user may feel disorientated or begin to laugh a lot, Russo-Perry said. If using a stronger potency, a users may feel as if they are floating over their body or hallucinating, Russo-Perry said.


    "Salvia allows one to have inner explorations in a way like acid (LSD), but even stronger," Russo-Perry said. "It's pretty amazing that it's legal and marijuana is not, because it's obviously 10 times stronger. I've had people tell me that it was more intense than any other drug they ever took."


    The altered awareness from salvia should be used to provide an awareness of the inner subconscious, said Daniel Siebert, a botanist who maintains sagewisdom.org -- an Internet site that contains information about and sells salvia. Siebert described the experience with salvia as a waking dream, unique from other hallucinations.


    "It's an aide to self-observation," Siebert said. "It creates more of an introspective awareness. It makes the user more aware of thoughts and feelings."


    During the "experience" some users begin to think that they're inanimate objects -- such as a painting or a leaf, Russo-Perry said. Others feel as though they're somewhere else or see people or things that aren't actually there, Russo-Perry said.


    "It makes stuff digital for a while," said Allan Lawrence, a man in his early 20s waiting on The Commons with friends earlier this month, many of whom said they have used the drug.


    Siebert's Web site warns that salvia is not recommended for parties, because it usually makes the user more introverted. The site also recommends that salvia be used in a dark, silent room to fully experience the altered state of awareness. Two warnings on the site allude to the strength of salvia: Do not drive under the influence of salvia and have someone keep an eye on you while you're under the influence.


    "Some people have a fear of the response," Russo-Perry said. "When they're in it they think they're never going to come out of it."


    "Toad," a 20-year-old who frequents The Commons, explained that it was unlike other hallucinatory drugs because instead of slowing increasing to the ultimate "high," salvia immediately reached the highest level of a state of altered awareness.


    "It's this boom and you're there -- like a plateau," Toad said. "It's not something that someone that never did anything else should try."


    After approximately five to 15 minutes in the altered state of awareness, a user will begin to enter "a glow period," which is said to last between a half-hour and two hours. Russo-Perry described it like you "just did something good."


    Despite the hallucinogenic properties, Siebert said that salvia is not likely to have broad appeal. Many people try salvia, which is not physiologically addictive, purely out of curiosity and do not return to buy more, Siebert said.


    "Maybe about 20 percent come back a second time. After a certain amount only 10 or 15 percent like to keep trying it," Russo-Perry said. "I've never heard of anyone taking it daily."


    Siebert agrees.


    "Most people try it and are disappointed. Most people find the experience kind of confusing," Siebert said. "It's never going to become a popular drug."


    Although use of salvia began to spread mainly on the West Coast in the late 1990s, police departments throughout the country are scrambling to become more informed about the legal substance. According to interviews, salvia has been around Ithaca for about the past year and a half.


    "We haven't seen it," said Lt. Patrick Garey of the New York State Community Narcotics Enforcement Team. "We have no experiences with it at this point. No one has reported problems with it."


    The Ithaca Police Department and the Groton Police Department also stated they had only been informed about salvia in the last few weeks and have not yet encountered it.


    "We have no idea of the scope of usage," said Lt. Tim Williams of the Ithaca Police Department.


    Within the past year, some students stated they have experimented with salvia, said Deb Lewis, alcohol projects coordinator at Cornell University.


    "It seems to be low key," Lewis said. "Some students -- the ones more inclined to experiment with other substances -- seem to know about it."


    The fact that salvia is legal seems to attract some students, Lewis said. However, making a substance illegal only acts as a deterrent to a certain point, Lewis said making a reference to the number of underage college students who drink alcohol.


    Richard Anderson, an alcohol and substance abuse counselor at Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services, said he has primarily seen adolescents experimenting with salvia. Also, because salvia does not show up on drug tests, people who are under recovery for substance abuse have been known to rely on salvia to create a "high," Anderson said.


    "That's a concern. Instead of abstinence or treatment, someone may use it to get a buzz and get away with it," Anderson said. "They may try it for a little while, and then may go back to something else. It can lead to other things."


    Anderson acknowledged that like many other drugs, salvia is subject to cycles of popularity.


    "It's growing in popularity," Anderson said. "It's definitely on the upward trend."


    Journal staff reporter Adam Wilson contributed to this report.


    Contact: dlamattina@ithaca.gannett.com


    Originally published Saturday, July 31, 2004


    Copyright (c)2004 The Ithaca Journal. All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. Alfa
    Salvia sparks curiosity



    DIANA LAMATTINA
    Journal Staff
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    As curiosity draws people to salvia for its hallucinogenic qualities, law enforcement and doctors struggle with the lack of information about what it does to the human body.


    "The reason why there hasn't been much done on it is that very few Americans use it," said John H. Halpern, associate director of substance abuse research in the Biological Psychiatry


    Laboratory at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate. "It was known about 30 years ago. It's been found to have a psychoactive substance in it, but it is not physiologically addictive."


    The manner in which salvia interacts with the brain remains unclear, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center.


    Salvia divinorum, commonly referred to as salvia, is legally sold in the form of dried leaves or an extract which can create short but intense hallucinations when smoked or ingested. Although salvia has been used for meditative and healing purposes for hundreds of years by the Mazatec Indians of Mexico, little is known about how salvia affects the body.


    The psychoactive substance in salvia, Salvinorin A, is distinct from other hallucinogenic agents in that it does not affect the same receptors in the brain, Halpern said. The drug is not believed to have any direct toxicity to the brain, Halpern said.


    "It would be very unlikely for someone to experience lasting damage from one or two uses," Halpern said. "But, this is not something to play with. Most people who try it say it's not pleasant and wouldn't use it again."


    Halpern also said salvia use by people in their teens or early 20s may aggravate tendencies toward schizophrenia and mental illnesses.


    Like other substances that are smoked, salvia does cause irritation and some damage to the lungs, said Richard Anderson, an alcohol and substance abuse counselor at Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services. At high doses, salvia can cause unconsciousness and short-term memory loss, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center.


    Although the Mazatec Indians used salvia in healing ceremonies, there is no accepted medical use for salvia, according to the center and Halpern. In healing or religious ceremonies, the Mazatec Indians reportedly chewed on fresh salvia leaves to induce spiritual visions, said Daniel Siebert, a botanist, who maintains sagewisdom.org -- a Internet site that contains information about and sells salvia.


    "Now, it isn't being used with the greatest respect and care. Any kid with a dollar can get it," Halpern said.


    Robert Harris, a registered pharmacist at Cayuga Medical Center, said there have been no reports of patients coming in with overdoses from salvia, and added that it cannot be detected by drug tests.


    A concern with the unregulated sale of salvia, as with other substances of the kind, is that buyers do not know for sure what they are buying, Harris said. Salvia, for example, may be mixed with pesticides or insecticides and other substances to add weight, Harris said.


    "There's a false sense of security that if it's legal it must be safe," Harris said. "That's cause for concern."


    Sales of salvia are not regulated at either the federal or state level. Unlike alcohol or tobacco, there are no age restrictions on who can buy salvia. As an independent store, owner of Jabberwock Arden Russo-Perry said she refuses to sell salvia to minors.


    In 2002, legislation proposed by Californian Congressman Joseph Baca to add Salvinorin A to the list of the Federal Controlled Substances Act failed to pass through the committee. There have not been attempts to reintroduce such a bill.


    Saliva remains legal in the United States, though Australia passed a law in 2002 banning the sale, use or possession of salvia, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center.


    Attempts to ban salvia anger advocates -- like Siebert -- who claim that its unique qualities limit the widespread usage or abuse of saliva.


    "People are too quick to lump all the drugs together," Siebert said. "There's a certain amount of blanket anti-drug hysteria."


    The regulation of salvia could unleash a series of legal problems, said Michael Benjamin Casaus, a Ph. D. candidate in plant biology, who specializes in Ethnobotany of the Tarahumara Indians of the Sierra Madre Occidental, Mexico. Other plants in the mint family have similar compounds which could also induce hallucinations if smoked, Casaus said.


    "It's in the the mint family, and other mints could possibly have similar psychoactive effects," said Casaus. "It opens up a Pandora's box for regulation."


    At this time, there is no timetable for a decision on salvia by the Drug Enforcement Administration, said Rusty Payne, public affairs official at the Washington Bureau of the DEA.


    "It's currently under review by medical and science professionals to determine whether it should be classified," Payne said. "Just because a drug has not been classified doesn't mean it's healthy or safe. There are legal drugs of concern and salvia is one of them."


    The only city in the United States known to have a local ordinance limiting the sale of salvia is St. Peters, Mo., according to Sgt. David Kuppler of the St. Peters Police Department. According to the ordinance, sale or distribution of Salvia Divinorum in any variation to anyone 17-years-old or younger is banned within the city limits. The ordinance states that if a violation is discovered, fees ranging from $25 to $250 can be imposed.


    "St. Peters is a proactive city. We're not afraid to step up," Kuppler said. "It's as much as the law would allow us to do. We modeled it against the tobacco regulations."


    Since the law was implemented in 2002, one shop that stayed open mostly through selling salvia to minors went out of business, Kuppler said. Otherwise, the shops that sell salvia have not caused a problem, Kuppler said.


    The law does not cover two common aspects of salvia distribution, according to Kuppler. On private property that is not open to the public, it remains legal for minors be given salvia, and minors can still buy salvia off the Internet.


    "The idea of it is to make sure parents have more a chance of being informed if youths have access to it," Kuppler said. </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
  2. Alfa
    Limited knowledge of drug makes warnings difficult



    DIANA LAMATTINA
    Journal Staff
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    ITHACA -- Publicity surrounding salvia, its legal status and accessibility can have two effects on the popularity of a substance that seems to attract the experimenters.


    "It may spark curiosity of people who may want to experience it and it may spark awareness in teachers, mentors and parents," said Richard Anderson, an alcohol and substance abuse counselor at Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services.


    Salvia divinorum, known as salvia -- which can cause short, but intense hallucinations -- is not regulated by the federal, state or city government and is legally and currently being sold by the gram at local shops.


    Salvia's legal status and unknown effects can make for a difficult discussion when talking to youths about it.


    "I would like to see money spent on educating kids about what it is and how dangerous it can be," said John H. Halpern, associate director of substance abuse research in the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory at McLean Hospital, a Harvard Medical School affiliate. "Certainly, the kids that try it aren't prepared for it."


    David Halpert, Ithaca High School Parent Teacher Association co-president, said he hadn't heard of salvia, but he would approach discussions with his kids about it as he would about any other drug or substance.


    "They should know what our philosophy on it is," Halpert said. "I don't think that whether or not something is legal should make a difference. Alcohol and tobacco are legal too, and those are harmful as well."


    As a matter of prevention, adults are encouraged to open the lines of communication with children and teens, said Anderson. He suggested the conversation include discussion about how use of salvia may lead to experimenting with other substances and how to deflect peer pressure.


    "The question to ask is why is someone drawn to mind or mood altering substances." </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
  3. wizard warior
    sounds likle a cheap grass alternatvie, cool were can u get it.isit legal in amsterdam?
  4. Pinkavvy
    it's legal in the u.s. for now... however, it's not a weed substitute at all. it's not anything weed, or any other drug for that matter. It is intense vision inducing drug that is very powerful and life-altering.
  5. OneDiaDem
    I agree. Do not smoke some thinking your in for a mellow buzz. This is some powerful mojo, and if treated lightly could seriously damage your psych. You literally go to another astral plane of existance, and sometimes it feels as tho you will not return. This in no way can be compared to weed. Its like mushrooms in the 10th power.
  6. psyko_tripper
    It's one of my favorites!<img border="0" src= "smileys/smiley15.gif">
  7. Pinkavvy
    in an salvia induced vision, i was digested for million lifetimes by the chaos goddess eris ... or perhaps is was sally, the salvia goddess? anyway, it was no where near a fun or recreational experience or anything like grass
  8. sterckxke
    is is certainly NOT a weed alternative!!


    But if you want to try it make sure you have a good sitter next to you,and dont smoke much.
    start with a low dose (like any other drug)


    and yes you can buy it legally in the netherlands,belgium,US,...



    in the netherlands:go to a smartshop
  9. wizard warior
    so it is the real Wacky weed uh!,,. sounds okay maybe could be too intense like tho,i just wish they would hurry up and legaize weed so you can just buy it in the dam shops like fags and booze damm these government officals!!
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