It goes by many names: Salvia divinorum, Diviner's Sage, Maria Pastora and Sally-D. But, whatever you call it, this hallucinogenic herb from the mint family, used by Mexico's Mazatec Indians for centuries, is fast becoming a "drug of concern" for the Drug Enforcement Administration and many states across the country - which may actually serve to make the drug more popular.
"A lot of kids think because it's not illegal it makes it alright," DEA salvia expert Rogene Waite says, but "nothing could be further from the truth." She told me the drug can cause "dizziness, tremors, cardiovascular collapse," along with psychological side effects, such as "suicidal and homicidal tendencies."
While no deaths resulting from toxicity have been confirmed, salvia was implicated in a Delaware teen's suicide a couple years ago, and DEA spokesperson Steve Robertson told me his agency "gets calls all the time" from concerned parents.
Perhaps in response to those concerns, eight states have already placed restrictions on salvia, and several others are considering a ban, according to the Associated Press. Yesterday, Florida state Rep. Mary Brandenburg introduced a bill that would classify salvia and its extract as a controlled substance with no approved use, like marijuana. Possession would be considered a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
But some think this approach is counter-intuitive. Rick Doblin of the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies says that the publicity will likely increase use of the drug. Since Nebraska introduced a bill to ban Salvia by this summer, sales of the drug have reportedly been booming. Whether that's because of government fear mongering or internet availability or both, it's hard to say. But this won't be the last Salvia article you read.