Salvia divinorum

Have you ever heard of Salvia divinorum? I hadn't until this morning. There's a brief article about it in The Daily Tarheel, the student newspaper here at UNC.

Salvia divinorum is a hallucinogenic drug that's legal in most states and available in head shops The article even identifies the two locations here in Chapel Hill that carry it. Scary stuff, especially if you have college age kids. I'll have to forward the article to my brother and his wife.

The active ingredient in it is Salvinorin-A, C23H28O8, which is available from chemical supply houses though I suspect it's regulated to some degree. The drug was characterized recently by Bryan Roth, a pharmacology professor here at UNC, back in 2002 in an article in PNAS. According to him, the only affect Salvia has is on the kappa opiate receptor in the brain. The psychoactive mechanism for this was identified by Daniel Siebert back in the 1990s.

The drug was originally derived from a plant that is a member of the sage genus and the Lamiaceae family (mint). It's been used as a hallucinogen by the Mazatec shamans and is only naturally found in Oaxaca, Mexico though I suspect most of it is chemically synthesized now.

While it's currently legal, that's probably just due to its recent "official" discovery by researchers. No doubt it'll soon be illegal as the slow wheels of justice grind away. According to the article in The Tarheel, a gram costs $80 and most users don't find the experience pleasant.

An article in Wikipedia is more optimistic though I suspect it might have been written by Siebert who promotes the drug via several books and many speaking engagements.

It's a puzzle to me why anyone would use a drug like this. It makes me think that the kids just have too much money--to burn 80 bucks just to have a novel experience.

Most of the people that read this blog are parents. What do you think of a student newspaper printing an article which for all practical purposes is a instructional on how to get and use a drug (albeit a legal one)?


Nancy said…
As a parent I hate to read stuff like this. Someone is going to get in a lot of trouble using it. Esp, since they believe its legal.

It did not sound like a very pleasant high.

I would like to think it is too expensive for kids, but they seem to have a lot of available cash.

I wonder if what is being sold at the store is stronger than what the Mayans used. Being that it is chemically prepared now.

Just one more thing for me to discuss w. my kids.
No_Newz said…
As a parent I look at it as information. If mine were away in college, I'd keep track of the universities goings on through the school paper. If I saw an article like that one, I'd talk to them about it like I would any drug. Even if it weren't in the school paper, I'm sure they could find that information on the internet.
Darren said…
It's not a drug, and is not meant to be used AS a drug. It's for people who practice meditation, and anyone who uses it recreationally is a fool. Your kids are more likely to die of binge-drinking that to ever even try this stuff. Mostly shamans, witches and herbalists use it - and only for psychological analysis of their dreams and meditations. It does not give a "buzz" (which is what college kids are looking for - a recreational drug they can get "high" off of), but instead forces them into self-examination of their motives and of their choices. If you believe what the media and the government says about it, you are being a sheep. Why not find out for yourself instead? I am a shaman and can tell you anything you need to know as I know the experiences this herb causes.
utenzi said…
Darren does have a point. Most of the info out there says that Salvinorin-A is used for Shaman type spirit journeys. Of course that doesn't mean the average college student will use it that way. But does that mean it should be illegal just because some kids abuse it?
tiff said…
If a substance was illegal because people use it to get high, then alcohol would be outlawed. Also tobacco.

I would think that there are other more readily available highs out there for college kids. However, more readily available LEGAL ones would be hard to find.

Eh - I grew up in the "beer for 18-year-olds" generation and got a lot of that thrill-seeking behavior out with a 6-pack of Busch. 3 bucks and I was done for the night.
Utopia said…
Our children, especially the young adults, need honest information and discussion. As No_Newz eluded starts a conversation and research that needs to happen at our indiviual/family level. Folks like Darren are a critical part of that conversation; the herb should not necessarily be demonized, but recognized for the positive aspects that surely exist. After all, even the worst of us has some positive effect on our world.
utenzi said…
That sounds like druggie talk to me, Utopia. Herb indeed! Next you'll be talking about marijuana legalization or other crazy talk like that.

Alcohol has been illegal, Tiff. That experiment was deemed a failure but I suspect no more people were circumventing prohibition than are currently using banned substances now. Should we legalize them as a result? I'd say no but then again, I don't use anything that's illegal. Those that do might have a different answer.
mariamusic said…
Throughout history humans have used drugs as a soon or quick healer I suppose. The reason people use them I think is that they make them feel good a kind of reinforcement. Similar to taking medicine to take the headache away I think.

The problem is when the behavior, drug taking, becomes a habit hard to break when people grow dependent on them that is.
kenju said…
It is reprehensible, Dave. As soon as some student gets some of that and has a problem, dies, or causes harm to others, UNC powers will be decrying it (as well they should now!)
Teresa said…
The article doesn't bother me. There are a lot of things out there that I don't know about... I'd rather have heard about it. However, it's just one of many temptations that our children will be faced with. I think that by the time they head to college, a parent should have instilled the message of the evil of drugs and they know that legal drugs aren't any better than illegal ones when used improperly.

You have to trust and our kids have to make their own choices and mistakes.
netchick said…
As much as I don't like some material I find online, I don't believe in censoring content. Where do we draw the line? Other than blatently illegal material, I think that it's everyone's own responsibility to act like an adult and filter accordingly.
Michelle said…
If cigarettes & alcohol were "discovered" today they'd be banned. The point is, as parents, we need to have open communication with our kids. Being an apporachable parent, and providing the CORRECT information about ALL drugs and their potential dangers to our kids.
Anonymous said…
I assume the purpose of the college newspaper is to inform so it depends largely on the tone of the article and whether it promotes it as a recreational drug.
rennratt said…
Articles like this have been showing up in college papers for years.

It is proof that students continue to show the finger to authority, while saying things like "It's LEGAL!" and "You don't know what it's like!".

Things won't change until someone dies or ends up brain damaged. Then there will be legislation, organization - and classification.

As a result, those that use this for religious purposes will chance breaking the law in order to practice their beliefs. Sadly, it's the same old - same old.
Pearl said…
Isn't that funny. Just ran across the red flower last night. Not literally. Apparently it's used in South America for a quick intense high that only lasts about 15 minutes.
srp said…
UNC is a state school and as such funded and underwritten by a lot of tax money. As a parent of a student, I would be livid that the newspaper would run this "how to" for the kids. A majority of freshmen are very impressionable, it is their first time away from home and as many of their grades show, they get sucked in to the party atmosphere. Unfortunately, as children get older their mistakes get bigger and in college, one mistake can alter your life forever. But, they still haven't matured enough to realize this.

So, this school would get no donations from me. They would get letters to the President and to the editor of the local newspaper.

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