Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oh Miley. Salvia in the News

Oh Miley, Miley. Hannah Montana is in the news again, but not for racy pictures. This time it's a video that was leaked with Miley Cyrus smoking something that looks suspiciously like marijuana. That could be a problem since marijuana is illegal but then she is a celebrity and that tends not to matter much, but wait! What is this? Miley says it's not marijuana but Salvia. Oh well, than that's ok.

So what is Salvia? Salvia divinorum is a plant native to Oaxaca Mexico and used by Mezatac Shamans to facilitate shamanic visions. Traditionally the fresh leaves are chewed or used in a tincture and produce effects that appear to be somewhat of a cross between LSD and marijuana though shorter lasting and more mild than either. Interestingly the Mezatac people view Salvia as the Virgin Mary incarnate and begin the ritual with an invocation to Mary, St Peter and the Holy Trinity.

Obviously Miley was not trying for shamanic visions and I'm pretty sure there was no invocation involved which brings us to use in the US. In the US Salvia is sold dried in packets and is typically smoked. It's legal in all 50 states and although the media has waged campaigns against the herb, emergency rooms and medical professionals have not reported cases that suggest any health concerns and police have not been reporting it as a factor in public order offenses.

I would hazard a guess and say that the reason there really hasn't been any problem with the herb is that the effects are very short lasting. The peak effect is within 1 minute of smoking with a high last 5 minutes, the subject's return to baseline occurs within 15-20 minutes. The two most commonly reported effects are "Increased insight" and "Improved Mood" which may also play a factor. When compared to something like LSD where effects last 8-12 hours that is a huge difference.

So back to Miley. Is the illegal potential the problem or the fact that she's a Disney star getting high the problem? If the former than Salvia saves the day, if the latter than I don't see Miley making the situation any better for herself. I suppose it's a matter of perspective. Why is alcohol legal and marijuana not? Both are impairing yet one is legal and the other is not. Should Salvia be illegal just because it seems to have mood altering effects? I'm not convinced.

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