In a video interview today with ABC, a high school friend of the alleged gunman behind the Arizona shooting massacre said that Jared Loughner had used salvia. Zach Osler spoke with Ashleigh Banfield and described how Jared Loughner had changed into someone he now describes as “looking like a monster.” Jared Loughner is accused of opening fire on Saturday, January 8, 2011 at a Tucson, Arizona public rally shooting Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head at point blank range and wounding 13 others; six people died.
Represented by Judy Clarke, a death penalty expert who represented Susan Smith and the Unabomber, there is no doubt that Clarke will go for an insanity defense. It doesn’t appear it will be hard to do. Reports from Loughner’s friends and former teachers lay the foundation for someone mentally disturbed. Could Jared Loughner’s salvia use have triggered or exasperated an underlying case of schizophrenia?
Salvia Divinorum is a drug, legal in some states, and is a hallucinogen. Though proponents of the herb that is either smoked, chewed, inhaled, or its juice drunk believe salvia is safe, the National Institute on Drug Abuse NIDA says otherwise.
The NIDA says about Salvia, “People who abuse salvia generally experience hallucinations or “psychotomimetic” episodes (a transient experience that mimics a psychosis).
Subjective effects have been described as intense but short-lived, appearing in less than 1 minute and lasting less than 30 minutes. They include psychedelic-like changes in visual perception, mood and body sensations, emotional swings, feelings of detachment, and importantly, a highly modified perception of external reality and the self, leading to a decreased ability to interact with one's surroundings.
This last effect has prompted concern about the dangers of driving under the influence of salvinorin. The long-term effects of Salvia abuse have not been investigated systematically.”
In the book, “100 Questions and Answers about Schizophrenia: Painful Minds” by Lynn E Delsi, a section of the book discusses whether drug use causes schizophrenia or if those who are schizophrenic tend to use drugs more frequently. In chapter 73, Lynn Delis asks which comes first, drug use or schizophrenia. The answer is that no one knows, and it may be that those with a genetic predisposition to developing schizophrenia will experiment with drugs in order to alleviate symptoms.
Lynn Delis says, “Drug use has been associated with an earlier age of onset of schizophrenia and with a poorer outcome and is particularly relevant to males with the illness, as males tend to abuse drugs significantly more than females.”
In chapter 74, Delsi speaks of a link between the development of schizophrenia and marijuana. She writes, “It would not be advisable for people already diagnosed with schizophrenia to use marijuana.”
It is too early to tell whether Jared Loughner has schizophrenia and if so, whether drug use attributed to the disease. What we do know is that judging from accounts from friends, teachers and neighbors, there was a drastic change in Jared Loughner’s appearance and behavior that transpired in the past two years. Reports also indicate that he exhibited many symptoms associated with schizophrenia.
Those who are dealing with behavioral or mental health issues should avoid illegal drug use and seek help from a professional who will determine whether or not prescription drugs should be used to treat the condition.
Jared Loughner has not released a formal statement since facing five federal counts for murder and attempted murder. Some of Loughner’s MySpace posts have been published online and indicate strong delusions and disorganized thinking.
January 12th, 2011 6:14 pm ET
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