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  1. chillinwill
    Purple blossoms of midnight salvia and stems of blue chiquita salvia adorn the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden at the White House and thousands of other back yards.

    The common garden flowers, which belong to the mint family, have a lesser-known hallucinogenic cousin. It's called salvia divinorum, or salvia for short, and it is the subject of controversy over whether it should be classified as an illegal drug. Fourteen states have made it illegal or regulated its use. Proposed legislation in several other states died.

    Packets of dried salvia leaves cost $20 to $40, depending on the amount and potency, in head shops, holistic centers and online stores.

    Salvia entered the mainstream in the late 1990s, due to its widespread availability, media attention and recreational use among young adults.

    When salvia is smoked or chewed, the Mexican native herb produces a short but intense psychoactive high, on par with that of synthetic hallucinogens. Like its cultural cousin, marijuana, salvia may have medical uses.

    "There is a lot of promising evidence that some work on this drug could lead to medications for a variety of disorders," said Matthew W. Johnson, a substance-abuse researcher at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

    The Drug Enforcement Administration, which recently listed salvia as a drug of concern, is working with the Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate the substance for possible placement on the federal controlled-substance schedule.

    "Once it's on a Schedule I list, it will make it nearly impossible to be researched for medicinal purposes," said Naomi Long, Washington office director of the Drug Policy Alliance Network, which promotes drug policies grounded in science, health and human rights.

    Under the Controlled Substances Act, Schedule I drugs have high potential for abuse, no approved medical use and a lack of accepted safety.

    "Until that is complete, we cannot say what schedule it would be in; however, Schedule I is for drugs with no legitimate medical purpose," DEA spokeswoman Barbara Wetherell said. "At this time, it would appear that it doesn't have one."

    Early research has found that salvia may treat Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, dementia, pain and substance abuse.

    Johnson said premature scheduling may deter or slow development of medical uses, similar to marijuana's footsteps, because of legal barriers and limited resources. The DEA does not recognize medical uses for marijuana, although 14 states do.

    "Pharmaceutical companies are not likely to invest money in a drug or the modification of a drug that is already scheduled," Johnson said.

    Toxicity and addiction among users is low, according to a report Johnson presented to the Maryland General Assembly, which did not regulate salvia.

    "You compare it to something like alcohol, and there is no comparison in terms of the demonstrated harm that can be caused," Johnson said.

    The psychedelic herb severely impairs motor skills, alters sensory perception and creates vivid hallucinations for five to 30 minutes, Johnson said, but there is little evidence of public risk.

    "This drug is so short-acting that there's not much time for someone to cause themselves problems, and that might be why we really haven't seen any emergency-department entries regarding this drug," Johnson said.

    According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health report, an estimated 1.8 million people have used salvia in their lifetimes, 750,000 of them in the last year.

    According to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System, seizures grew from one in 2004 to 70 in 2008. Through June, there were 34 this year.

    The Drug Abuse Warning Network, part of HHS, reported no emergency-room visits attributable to salvia from 2004 to 2006. Over those three years, the network reported 192,000 emergency-room visits linked to marijuana use.

    By JUSTIN ANTHONY MONAREZ
    November 19, 2009
    Scripps News
    http://www.scrippsnews.com/node/49142

Comments

  1. chillinwill
    Hallucinogenic Salvia May Also Have Medical Use, Causing Controversy

    Salvia divinorum, a cousin of the common garden flower, is a strong hallucinogenic substance. Some say it should be made illegal, while others argue it may have medical uses and should remain legal so research can be done.

    Washington, D.C. - infoZine - Purple blossoms of midnight salvia and stems of blue chiquita salvia adorn the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden at the White House and thousands of other backyards.

    The common garden flowers have a lesser-known hallucinogenic cousin. It's called salvia divinorum, or salvia for short, and it is the subject of controversy over whether it should be classified as an illegal drug. A few state and local governments have made it illegal or restricted its use.

    About 2 miles from the White House garden, at B&K News Stand in the bar-strewn Adams Morgan neighborhood, packets of dried salvia leaves cost from $20 to $40, depending on the amount and potency.

    Salvia is a genus in the mint family. When salvia is smoked or chewed, the Mexican native herb produces a short but intense psychoactive high, on par with that of synthetic hallucinogens. Like its cultural cousin, marijuana, salvia may have medical uses.

    "There is a lot of promising evidence that some work on this drug could lead to medications for a variety of disorders," said Matthew W. Johnson, a substance abuse researcher at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

    Legislators and Drug Enforcement Administration officials have been reviewing information about salvia and debating whether to regulate it like drugs such as marijuana or LSD. Salvia entered mainstream culture in the last two decades through its widespread availability, media attention and recreational use among young adults.

    The DEA recently listed salvia as a drug of concern. In 2007, the DEA, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services, began evaluating the substance for possible placement on the federal controlled substance schedule.

    Researchers are afraid that could stunt pharmacological studies, said Naomi Long, the Washington office director of the Drug Policy Alliance Network, which promotes drug policies grounded in science, health and human rights.

    "Once it's on a Schedule I list, it'll make it nearly impossible to be researched for medicinal purposes," Long said.

    Under the Controlled Substances Act, Schedule I drugs have high potential for abuse, no approved medical use and a lack of accepted safety. The DEA analyzes the drug based on eight factors, outlined in the Controlled Substances Act.

    "Until that is complete, we cannot say what schedule it would be in; however, Schedule I is for drugs with no legitimate medical purpose," DEA spokeswoman Barbara Wetherell said. "At this time, it would appear that it doesn't have one."

    Salvia and its active constituent, salvinorin A, are not approved for medical use in the U.S. because research on the under-the-radar drug is still in its infancy, Long said.

    Based on early research, salvia could help treat Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, dementia, pain and substance abuse.

    Johnson said premature scheduling, similar to marijuana's path, may deter or slow development of medical uses. The DEA does not recognize an approved medical use for marijuana, although 14 states do.

    "If we criminalize salvia, and the research ended up being very positive in terms of what disease it could address, then we would have to go through the exact same battle," Long said.

    Johnson said researching a scheduled drug is harder because federal resources are limited and more barriers surface.

    For, example, the University of Mississippi runs the only government-approved pot farm. Few institutions, including JHU, are granted funds from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health to conduct federal research into controlled substances.

    "Pharmaceutical companies are not likely to invest money in a drug or the modification of a drug that is already scheduled," Johnson said.

    Toxicity and addiction among users is low, according a report Johnson presented to the Maryland General Assembly.

    "The evidence of harm that has come from this drug is very, very, very small," Johnson said. "You compare it to something like alcohol, and there is no comparison in terms of the demonstrated harm that can be caused."

    The psychedelic herb impairs motor skills, alters sensory perception and produces unearthly experiences and vivid hallucinations for five to 30 minutes.

    Although it causes severe impairment, there is little evidence of public risk, Johnson said.

    "This drug is so short acting that there's not much time for someone to cause themselves problems, and that might be why we really haven't seen any emergency department entries regarding this drug," Johnson said.

    Despite salvia's buzz in the media and online, it is still relatively unknown compared to other controlled substances. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 1.8 million people have used salvia in their lifetimes, 750,000 of them in the last year.

    According to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System, seizures grew from one in 2004 to 70 in 2008 at the state and local level. Through June, there were 34.

    The Drug Abuse Warning Network, part of HHS, reported no emergency room visits attributable to salvia from 2004 to 2006. Over those three years, DAWN reported 192,000 emergency room visits linked to marijuana use.

    Fourteen states regulate salvia and salvinorin A. Proposed legislation in several other states died.

    "A lot of states are fearful of contradicting the [federal] government. So far, it's only been a state and local initiative, so if they want to change it, as of now, there would be no federal interference or regulation to bump up against," said Matthew Gever, policy associate for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

    Ocean City, Md., a popular beach resort, outlawed salvia in August after state legislation failed.

    "I think it was more of a proactive measure," said Jessica King, public affairs specialist for the Ocean City Police Department. "There was no rule that prevented even a 12-year-old from buying salvia on the boardwalk."

    The city had three incidents connected to salvia before it was made illegal. One arrest and three citations have been reported since the ban.

    "This isn't anything that we are embellishing. It is what it is," said Michael Levy, public affairs officer for the Ocean City Police Department.


    By Justin Anthony Monarez
    November 23, 2009
    Info Zine
    http://www.infozine.com/news/stories/op/storiesView/sid/38774/
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