Thursday, April 13, 2006
Herb induces hallucinations, proposed laws
When I told people we were doing a story on Salvia Divinorum, most said to me that they had no idea what I was talking about. And that is one of the major points of this story.

Salvia Divinorum is considered the world's most potent "natural" hallucinogen. It has been used for hundreds of years by indigenous people in Mexico, but very little is scientifically known about it. And that may be one of the reasons that it is completely legal to use and buy in 48 of the 50 United States.

The herb is sold on the internet and in many smoke shops. It is smoked or chewed and can make people feel they are in another place and time. It is not yet used by a lot of youth in this country, but its use is increasing, which brings us to the tragedy that recently unfolded.

Brett Chidester, a 17-year-old Delaware high school senior, committed suicide this past January. His parents knew he had experimented with salvia and asked him to stop. He said it was legal, but he would discontinue using it. But his parents now believe his depression was worsened by the salvia, and they believe it contributed to his death.

A Delaware state senator took notice and sponsored legislation to criminalize its use and distribution. The state senate has passed the bill; the state house is expected to follow suit. The bill is expected to pass. If it does, Delaware will join Missouri and Louisiana as the only states to criminalize the herb.

Advocates for salvia use say it should be regulated, not criminalized. They say it should only be used by adults, and when responsibly smoked or chewed, it can be used as a meditative tool. In addition, some users say it relieves depression. But all acknowledge it can cause serious hallucinations.

So why is it still easily attainable in the great majority of the country?

Well, it's not because politicians are against criminalizing it. The answer is more basic. Most lawmakers and even law enforcement officials know little or absolutely nothing about it. Efforts like Delaware's are likely to lead to many more states looking at criminalizing Salvia Divinorum.

Brett Chidester's parents are broken up about the loss of their only child, but they see Delaware's proposed law as his legacy. The name of the legislation, by the way, is Brett's law.
Posted By Gary Tuchman, CNN Correspondent: 9:52 AM ET
  53 Comments
this is pretty stupid, in all fairness... anything that leans towards mind expansion (or as you put it, "being in another time and place") is immediately criminalized.
Salvia has killed far fewer people than alcohol, cigarettes, ham and even stupidity. Since we love easy answers in this country, we'll eat our ham while drinking our scotch and smoking a stogey, all while insinuating that a possible link (correlatory does not equal a firm logical tie) between a mindexpanding drug and a death in a blue moon are good cause to ban the substance?
Incredibly stupid. Shouldn't you be off alarming us about something, or accepting leaked information?
Posted By Anonymous Reverened Manny, New York, NY : 10:14 AM ET
Here is a thought to consider... today I possess a plant material called Salvia Divinorum and I'm not a criminal but tomorrow I could possess the same plant and be considered a dangerous criminal who needs to go to jail. The only thing that has changed is the vengefulness of man against his fellow man.

Salvia, like most hallucinogens, is not a drug of abuse and is self limiting. It is certainly not a "recreational" thing to do and the effects are intense and short lived.

Used under proper set and setting (ie. by adults with a trusted and sober partner present, in a private place) Salvia poses little harm that one who uses it.

Also, remember... this is supposedly the Land of Liberty.. if government can outlaw one plant they can outlaw any plant. If some poor kid smoked Rose petals and killed himself would that justify a criminal prohibition of roses?
Posted By Anonymous Brian, Austin TX : 10:36 AM ET
I first heard about this on my morning news. There was a gentleman on who actually said that because this is natural, it should be legal. What!?! So is cocaine, marajuana, mushrooms, and list goes on. I think this should deffinately be illegal. In our Walmart you can buy the plants growing in pots! What a GREAT mother's day gift. This is NOT something most mom's would want in their homes.
Posted By Anonymous Nichole - Appleton, Wisconsin : 10:43 AM ET
Well now the kids will be more informed! Sometimes the media hurts more than helps. I believe in free speech but sometimes I think we are irresponsible with it. I pray my child does not read this.
Posted By Anonymous Kim, Kernersville NC : 10:54 AM ET
I have used salvia, as well as acid and mushrooms. Acid and mushrooms did not scare me or "freak me out." I tried salvia that a friend had given me, only smoking two hits in pipe, and had one of the most horrifying experiences of my life. I did not know who or what I was and had the very real feeling of being physically folded from head to toe. I had to walk around the house for a few minutes to piece together clues to who and what I was. I like to do hallucinagens, but I will never do salvia as long as I live.
Posted By Anonymous Jack, Toledo, Ohio : 11:03 AM ET
It's tragic that these people lost their only son; I feel for them.
BUT connecting the use of the drug to the suicide of a 17-year-old boy is sketchy at best and smells of being more PR spin than a real reason for what the boy did.
Many teens kill themselves with no help from any drugs, many teens on all manner of drug never even think of hurting themselves. I�m sure a lot of different things came together to lead this boy to his end.
The only real difference here is now we have two parents; puffy-eyed and snot-nosed, crying on TV about how the boogieman of the week killed their son, and a state senator gets reelected come November
Posted By Anonymous Chris; Champaign,IL : 11:05 AM ET
As a father of young children myself, I feel for the parents' loss. I can only imagine their heartbreak.

However, responsible adults should have the liberty to safety possess and use psychoactive substances (such as salvia divinorum) in accordance with their worldviews so long as they don't infringe on the personal or property rights of others.

Must everything deemed as "abusable" be outlawed in this country?

The government is outlawing so many "potential" causes of harm that we, the people, are losing our precious liberties right and left.

Entheogens (such as peyote, salvia divinorum, and others) have been the regular sacraments of indigenous peoples for many thousands of years. Used responsibly, they enable the participant to catalyze the enlightened mindset so often sought after in rigorous eastern religious rites.

Instead of outlawing entheogens, and everything else around us, why don't we just let responsible citizens live in freedom and engage in responsible acts? We have a "drinking age" in America -- why can't we have an "entheogen age"?

All of these laws being enacted to "protect" us are systematically robbing us of personal liberty.
Posted By Anonymous Sean Bultman, Indianapolis, IN : 11:20 AM ET
While of course the suicide of Brett Chidester is tragic, I think his death is being used to exaggerate the risks of salvia divinorum.

The effects of the drug when smoked last only 5-10 minutes. Drugs like LSD and mescaline last 8-10 hours, so comparing salvia to other hallucinogens is generally unfounded. Salvia is also considered to be completely non-toxic (other than the dangers of smoke inhalation). No one has ever died from a salvia overdose. Some news articles will say that it can trigger mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, but salvia-induced mental illness is pretty much unheard of in the medical community, even though salvia has been available online for at least eight years and has been used by thousands and thousands of people worldwide.

The vast majority of people who try salvia find the experience unpleasant and choose to not use it more than once. It produces no euphoria and has absolutely no addictive potential. I believe salvia could actually be considered an effective way to discourage drug use. Someone who uses salvia and finds it unpleasant (as most users do) would probably be less inclined to try other hallucinogens.

As for salvia causing depression, there is plenty of evidence that salvia is actually an effective anti-depressant. There have been case reports published in medical journals where salvia has successfully relieved depression in patients who have failed traditional drug therapy. There is also research currently being conducted to see if the active chemicals in the plant can be used to produce new antidepressants that may be more effective and cause less side effects than any currently available drugs.

I feel sympathy for Brett's parents and family, but it seems like they are trying to blame salvia for his death in order to make sense of why he killed himself. There were most likely many, many factors involved.
Even if salvia is what triggered his suicidal thoughts, I don't believe one case is enough to warrant banning the plant. It's not exactly a popular drug, but nonetheless it has been used by probably hundreds of thousands of people in the last few years, and the vast majority of these users haven't had any problems with it.
Posted By Anonymous eric b, seattle wa. : 11:25 AM ET
as a mother of two teenagers, Imy heart goes out to these parents whose 17 yr old son committed suicide. However, I cannot help but assert my scepticism with regards reporting in the news in so hasy a fashion..that Salvia is to blame. Many teens experience depression for many different reasons. I think for a newspaper report to place immediate blame or to report a direct coorelation between "Salvia" and this child's death is not only misleading but also a catalyst for undue fear and angst -which every parent who has teens - knows firsthand is hard enough these days with meth..war..heroin..abuse...gambling...etc.etc. so prevalent and far more serious to keep on top of....
Furthermore..the world in which we all live in is rather stressful and bleak at best..war..internet pornography/pedophiles...divorce..domestic abuse..peer pressure..pressures related to transistionong from teenhood to man/womanhood..etc.
So...to immediately focus upon Salvia n and of itself as a precursor for pending suicide in teens;to report the usage of such may lead to depression deep enough to end one's life is false and worsely..ignores the importance of several seperate issues.
Meaning, I was drawn to this story for the simple fact that my daughter several years back -at age 13-had openly spoken of this such "herb". I dismissed such rantings as being overrated and more of a "scam"...much like a "placebo" type substance toted as "groovy" by hippies and vegetarians...headshops out to make a dollar....(just as was the case back when I was a teen back in the 70's..when kids were fooled into believing that "spanish Fly"-sold by the bottle in a headshop downtown -really had the magical ability-legally-to bring on sexual prowess and a great natural high.....
To read upon waking this morning...that this such substance..(herb) --for which my daughter carried on about years ago- led to a boy's death alarmed me. But upon reading further it became clear that this boy's death was NOT due to his ingesting lethal doses of Salvia..but instead was due to his suffering from depression..as his own handwritten note proclaimed-
My point here is that Salvia does need to be researched and reported so that parents ,kids and educators alike become informed and made aware of what it is and how it may or may not influence one's behaviors...brain chemistry, etc.
Given the fact that this boy was a straight A student who made the decision to stop ingesting this herb-and in fact openly communicating with his parents regarding such a decision to use and then to stop using it-
This in and of itself leads me to question-without harsh judgement-whether or not this boy began experimenting-openly-with such a "legal and safe" herb for the sole purpose of seeking relief and respite from normal teenaged angst...or perhaps sadder still...did so as a way of "crying out for help"...(perhaps he had no other means to express or admitt his despondency for fear of disapointing others..Or perhaps like so many men in our society, he was unable to express his feelings -because to do so would be "unmanly" and unworthy.
I believe that articles regarding both herbal salvia usage and articles focusing upon awareness of teen suicide -esp. that affecting young males -should be seperated and responsibly researched and reported. To lump one with the other in a sensationalistic, fear-provoking fashion does more harm than good.
Educate our youth and parents ;teach them to see the signs that ofton times go unnoticed until its too late. It is too easy to place blame on outside factors ...when in reality, denial and complacency have in the end led to such sorrowful endings.
Posted By Anonymous Janemarie;Aptos.Ca.95001 : 11:26 AM ET
why don't we go straight to the heart of the matter and outlaw the brain chemicals that bind to the receptors that cause psychedelic effects. That way, governments could arrest anyone who undergoes mind expanding experiences (or anyone else for that matter).

This is utterly ludicrous. A teen commits suicide and the parents lay the blame on an herb that was and is properly used in a sacred setting. Let's also outlaw fire because some kids play with matches and manage to burn some houses down.
Posted By Anonymous Bob, Marlborough, MA : 11:50 AM ET
As a proponent for marijuana legalization (and salvia is also in marijuana), and one of the MANY people I know who smoke this...I am dismayed at the "reefer madness" sensationalism. There are so many different strains of marijuana/salvia and they have proven to be less harmful than alcohol (legal), and it helps with depression. If someone had overdosed on the substance itself I would be very concerned. But to make a loose connectio between suicide and this...perhaps he was using it because it helped his depression, not caused it. And don't get me started on manufactured anti-depressants (proved to cause suicidal ideation, and still sold). KEEP IT LEGAL!
Posted By Anonymous Sarah shaw, Charlotte, NC : 11:55 AM ET
This is fairly hypocritical. There isn't enough information about salvia because there hasn't been enough scientific research yet it has already been accepted that salvia caused this person to kill himself.
Posted By Anonymous Chandler Kansas City, Mo. : 11:56 AM ET
This is as stupid as outlawing marijuana. This country's government have a problem with any substance that expands the mind and can be grown by just about anyone. Let's outlaw political parties before we outlaw a plant.

It is unfortunate that a young man's life was cut short, but lets get real, there were obviously some underlying problems in the boys life and for the parents to blame it on the salvia is silly. Try looking at yourselves. People in this country have a hard time accepting responsibility for just about everything that effects them. It's about time people take reponsibility for themselves and their actions, or lack there of...
Posted By Anonymous Adam- Millersville, MD : 11:57 AM ET
Thank you for writing this. Someone very close to me tried this once and had a very strange, scary experience with it (he described it almost as an out of body experience). So we sat down and researched salvia and it's effects, and came to find out that there are very specific instructions on how to take salvia properly. One of the most emphasized points was to BE CAREFUL with it--that is, do not take it under a social setting, do not take too much, and do not take under circumstances where one may be under emotional stress. Additionally, we found it was advised to take in the company of one trusted sober person, who can make sure nothing happens to the person who ingested it (much like a designated driver). Like alcohol, this is not something for use by minors or even older teenagers, nor should it be used by someone who hasn't researched it and doesn't understand and respect the potency of the plant. Approached with moderation, I feel salvia can be an eye opening experience which can safely remain legal, but one that should be saved for adult use and under intimate settings with a person you trust (i.e. NOT A PARTY). If I were a parent of a teenager, I would be scared too.
Posted By Anonymous Kathleen, Baltimore, MD : 12:00 PM ET
It stuns me that booze and cigarettes cause so much death and suffering and remain on the corner grocery shelf. The most "convincing" ad on t.v. says that buying pot supports terrorists. If it were legalized, it wouldn't have to be bought by terrorists. But because the government can't tax a drug that people can grow in a flower pot it must be criminalized.
Posted By Anonymous Nick, Champaign IL : 12:00 PM ET
Beware of laws with peoples' names attached to them.
Posted By Anonymous Jesse Berry, Little Rock, AR : 12:02 PM ET
Connecting drug use to suicide is pretty disingenuous. My drug use had nothing to do with the availability of drugs. I grew up in a small rural Iowa town and we could get our hands on pretty much anything, anytime. Drug use has more to say about the hope and aspirations and in the case of the 17yro, parenting. Blaming others for ones failures is a primary feature of the American psyche. Enough is enough. Stop the puritanical purge. Be responsible for your behavior and admit your mistakes. It's as simple and tough as that.
Posted By Anonymous M. D. Malin, Boone, Iowa : 12:05 PM ET
These situations really irritate me. Lots of things require proper judgement and just b/c some irresponsible individual, often a teenager, chooses to ignore that responsibilty, doesn't mean it should be banned for everyone. I do however believe in stricter regulations. The thing about some of these situations is that they may be unfamiliar or unpopular to the masses so they get very little support when the decision is made to ban them. Not only that, but those responsible for banning often no very little about what it is they are banning. An example besides Salvia, DMT, ketemine, peyote, or ayahuasca(all of these are stronger but different in my opinion than the salvia) would be exotic or venomous animals which I've dealt with. The ironic thing is that we have such harmful habits that are ingrained into our society and depended on by many such as guns, alcohol, fast food, and smoking that kill thousands every year and remain legal. Smoking onlone kills over 420,000 people a year. I don't know the individual in this case personally so I'll try not to assume any details. I do however think that salvia may not have been the only factor that led to this suicide or the biggest. It should be researched prior to use and someone should probably have a friend around to chaperone at least the first time they do this if not the first several times just like driving an automobile. But to take a natural herb that has been used for hundreds years and ban it with little or research, b/c it may be linked a single suicide is jumping a gun a little bit. I will finish by saying I can understand that there may be many perspectives on this issue especially that of the parents, that I respect and to some degree agree with. However, from my own personal experiences this is where I stand.
Posted By Anonymous Ian Charlotte NC : 12:10 PM ET
Sure he was not playing Judas Priest record backwards or upset by his D&D character dying.
Posted By Anonymous Mr Crump, Richmond, VA : 12:12 PM ET
Yes, I must agree with all those who would like to criminalize naturally occurring plants. I think we should all be infantilized to the point of allowing the government to treat us all as irresponsible children. We should aslo depend on the government to raise our children for us. I foresee a puritanistic utopia run by corporate greed. Feh. Corpoate media--tools!
Posted By Anonymous Dr. Brown, Sioux City, IA : 12:13 PM ET
Salvia divornum is easily cultivated and obtainable. It is so obscure and hard to use that using resources to legislate or criminalize it would be a waste.

In our prohibitionist society (save for the "sanctioned" drugs) a lot of people would like to say what we can or cannot ingest. Criminalizing it would put it in the same catagory as marijuana.

And how easy is it to get marijuana?
Posted By Anonymous Jonathan Simmons, Eugene, OR : 12:13 PM ET
Thanks for reporting on this... now I'm going to give it a try. Nothing like word of mouth to get the buisness booming. The kid had problems - suicide is a personal choice and not influenced by drugs or even music.
Posted By Anonymous Mike Monty, Palo Alto, CA : 12:15 PM ET
So we should criminalize something because of one "maybe"? Yeah, and marijuana induces breast growth in males. If it's not dangerous, why prohibit it? We allow legalized killing of babies but don't get high in any way...
Posted By Anonymous Phil Hersey, Carson City NV : 12:15 PM ET
Way more teenagers kill themselves because of the fascist, superficial, materialistic, bullying atmosphere of most American high schools, yet that is considered a totally normal and acceptable part of society in mainstream America...not that that could or should in any way be "outlawed" but to many people it is not even an issue to be addressed. As long as you're doing a series on the problems of America's educational system, perhaps you should look at that...(I haven't been able to watch it all, so sorry if you already have and I missed it.)
Posted By Anonymous Linda, NY : 12:35 PM ET
This kind of sensationalist coverage is maddening and an example of why people are so cynical about the media. There is no evidence that salvia caused this poor kid to kill himself, other than the wild speculation of two grieving parents looking for anything other than themselves to blame.
Posted By Anonymous Jesse, Dallas, TX : 12:40 PM ET
i don'tknow if salvia had a role inthe death of this youngster but lets keepin mind salvia is a drug and can cause damage in our society..beleive me it can.....
Posted By Anonymous john, quebec,canada : 12:42 PM ET
It sounds like the parents' lack of parenting is the reason for the death of this child, and NOT the plant. Personal responsibilty,people... look into it.

I like the Reverend's comment about ham, cigarettes, booze, etc. There has to be a level of responsibility for these things! Sure, the child's death was tragic... but are we ready to blame it on a glorified fern? Please.

My mother uses this plant in our front yard for landscaping... and, it's very pretty. Is she a criminal?
Posted By Anonymous Shelton, Houston, TX : 12:42 PM ET
This is a tragic loss and my prayers go out the family of this young man.

I agree legislation is a good start, but kids are resourceful. Not to sound like a cheesy "just say no" ad, but it's important that we continue to teach kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

Information is not dangerous, but not giving kids the tools they need to make an informed decision is.
Posted By Anonymous Lori, Missoula, MT : 12:48 PM ET
I would like to comment further on the post by Eric in Seattle. Like him, I've smoked salvia, but unlike him, I've done it more than once. The first experience can be extremely unpleasant. Once in a great while you can have another unpleasant experience, but for the most part if you know what to expect from it, you can have some wonderfully eye opening experiences. As for the teen who committed suicide, depressed teens are more likely to turn to drugs than any of them, instead of the other way around. It is highly likely that if you were depressed before using drugs, you will continue to be depressed afterward, with no effect on your demeanor caused by the drug taken. The same can be said for marijuana. We need to get a hold on the methamphetamine problem in America, which IS KILLING PEOPLE, and if not killing them, permanently damaging their brains, making liars and theives out of otherwise curious individuals. Before the government makes any more laws, it needs to enforce the ones that it's already legislated.
Posted By Anonymous Mort, Eldorado, IL : 12:51 PM ET
Before anyone tries to smoke "Salvia" they've bought at Walmart...
Salvia is the sage genus which includes sage (the cooking herb), ornamental sage (weird looking leaves, used for landscaping and available at Walmart), and Salvia divinorum (the drug). All are quite different.
Posted By Anonymous John Jacksonville, FL : 1:11 PM ET
This was a ridiculous piece of emotional disinformation.

In a free society, citizens should be able to use their bodies as they desire. If there is ANY research which shows that salvia is a dangerous substance, it would have been reported in this piece.

Instead, the cold-hearted reporter uses a parent's search for the meaning behind their son's tragic suicide as a way to get an emotional rise out of viewers. It is time for this country to be governed by rational thought based on FACTS, not emotional responses to tradgedies.

If you want to do a piece on what is really causing harm to this country, do a piece on the fact that Congress is trying to limit the power of the FDA to regulate unhealthy food additives, that we KNOW cause cancer and other diseases. Or the fact that benzene levels in soda have risen to DANGEROUS levels, verified by independant reports, but the FDA will not release to the public their own investigation into benzene.

Or do a report on the thousands of harmful synthetic drugs pushed out by the pharmaceutical industry. My Aunt is crippled for life because of a legal drug perscribed by her doctor. My friend has to go to rehab for doctor perscribed pain killers.

CNN should be ashamed.
Posted By Anonymous DK, Eugene, Oregon : 1:14 PM ET
This is nothing short of irresponsible use of the media! As in the time of Hearst and "reefer madness" the media is being used to further the agendas of a few, directly impacting the many. Yes, I feel badly for Brett's parents. I also feel badly for the many parents who lost children to suicide caused by commonly prescribed substances. Legalize marajuana, leave salvia alone and let us make our own decisions.
Posted By Anonymous Anne, Charlotte NC : 1:15 PM ET
Why is that this salvia is immediately condemned and outlawed, yet when a teen kills himself or herself while on other medication (presribed by a doctor for instance) there is no rush to ban and make it illegal? What are we saying to society at large? Is it okay for synthetic drugs to cause harm, but when it's derived from nature (and not understood by most) that we must make it illegal?
Posted By Anonymous Chris, Washington, D.C. : 2:01 PM ET
Then our wonderful goverment needs to outlaw alcohol too. It is easily attanable and teens and 20 years old die at an alarming rate in colleges from it use. Oh waitthe goverment is scared of the alcohol companys as they have very deep pockets and they would hate to have them put their money on another horse. Reefer maddness all over again.
Posted By Anonymous Mike, Aurora Co. : 2:04 PM ET
One person - out of tens or hundreds of thousands of those who have used salvia divinorum - committed suicide after having recently ingested the plant. A young man who was already depressed and at risk for suicide before he ever even heard of salvia divinorum. This is supposed to be a sound logical basis for concluding that the plant causes suicide? This is patently absurd. The young man also probably brushed his teeth that morning. Does toothbrushing cause suicide?

A single anecdote does not constitute a sound basis for passing a law that would allow thousands of people to be thrown in prison. How many thousands of people have committed suicide while under the influence of alcohol? I would bet that there is at least one every day. Who's up for another round of prohibition?

Meanwhile, Salvia Divinorum is not habit forming and apparantly far less harmful than alcohol. Let's just admit that this controversy is not really about science, medicine or good policy. Rather, it is a knee-jerk reaction against the notion that some people might be spending 30 minutes thinking differently from the rest of us.

If the plant remains available, there is no scientific evidence that it poses a major risk to people's lives. However, if you ban it then you have a 100% guarantee that otherwise law-abiding people are going to be thrown in prison and have their lives ruined. In this case it is obvious that the real harm will come from government, not a plant.
Posted By Anonymous Jackson Landers, Charlottesville, VA : 2:06 PM ET
This is precisely what is WRONG with Amerika.

One case, probably unstable previously vs. one million uses and now its a problem. Standard Operating Procedure.

Where is the personal responsibility for our actions? Do, indeed, the needs of the few (unstable, illiterate, and unenlightened) stifle the freedom of spirit of the many (stable, literate and enlightened)?

Our history says yes.


But this does nothing to curb the reality of those that dance to their own drummer in their own head in their own space in their own time for their own purpose (without in any way significantly affecting anyone NOT wanting to be affected).
Posted By Anonymous Fubi Quantz, Lhasa, California : 2:11 PM ET
Correlation does not equal causation. Therefore it can not be said that salvia use resulted in this child's death.
What I find most interesting about this issue is that instead of talking about depression and its effect on American society, we want to criminalize something that nobody knows about.
This isnt a drug issue, this is a health issue.
Posted By Anonymous William, Long Beach, CA : 2:28 PM ET
When I came here I thought I was going to be the only one criticizing the reporting.

Thanks to every body who posted they great thoughts.
Posted By Anonymous Tim, Huntington Beach , CA : 2:31 PM ET
hmm... a new way for people to explore their minds??? We better illigalize it and fill the rest of our jails with these criminals!

Sadly, it will happen.
Posted By Anonymous Nate Missoula MT : 2:32 PM ET
The story that ran on AC360 was a good story, but it failed in a strong way. It called Salvia "the most potent natural drug." While this is true, i have taken acid, mushrooms and mescaline, and none of them even compared to Salvia. Salvia is the strongest hallucinogen, natural or man-made, i have ever taken or anyone I know has taken. And for everyone that is saying that the drug didn't cause his death, you're right, he did it. But anyone who has taken any hallucinogen knows if you take too much, discovering the "meaning of life" could happen, and killing yourself to reach that meaning isn't so far fetched...
Posted By Anonymous Will, Denton, TX : 2:43 PM ET
Salvia, I had never heard of it until now. Thanks for the introduction. I will stop at the smoke shop on my way home.
Posted By Anonymous Jon, Chicago IL : 2:43 PM ET
Lets see...
Salvia divinorum is:
Not addictive.
Not toxic.
Not "fun" or "recreational".
Not a party drug.
Most people only use it once or twice.
You can't die from it.
Widely considered to be an anti-depressant.
Effects last a matter of minutes.
Not proven to cause any psychological damage.
Is not associated with criminal or anti-social activity.

For those who think it should be illegal, I'd like to see just one valid logical argument for banning the plant.
And saying that the plant MIGHT have contributed to the suicide of ONE teenager is not even close to a valid argument.

For those of you that say it should be illegal because the effects are sometimes scary or whatever... The first time I went on a rollercoaster, I was utterly terrified and cried the whole time and for at least 10 minutes afterwards. Does that mean we should ban rollercoasters?

I think the real reason the government wants to ban it is because it can expand your mind, allowing you to view reality in different ways. Our corporate run government does not want people to expand their minds. They want docile, predictable, easily manipulated robots who will buy their products, fight their wars, and do what they're told without questioning or resisting.

Sorry for the rant, but with what's going on in the world today, salvia divinorum is about the last thing anybody should be worrying about.
Posted By Anonymous Lance, Madison Wisconsin : 2:49 PM ET
Another tragic suicide, a young life cut horribly short, grieving parents agonizing for understanding and grasping for reasons. Ask any gay man what that boy might be referring to in his note when he says "it has taken me 17 years to figure it out" and you'll hear a different conclusion than the one his parents and you have drawn. It did not take him 17 years to figure out that he was addicted to salvia, as your reporting seems to imply. That doesn't make sense in even the most forced way, except perhaps to grieving parents looking for an answer they can accept. It does, however, comply with the common experience of gay people, coming to terms with their orientation, alone and feeling rejected by a society that is not willing to assist them in any way in their self-discovery.

I am not saying that the young man was gay. I am saying it is a far more likely explanation for his suicide than the one his parents have latched onto and you have propagated to the world. Why not tell the world the story of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of gay adolescent suicides and how they can be prevented, rather than waste your time on such leaps of logic as this story presents?
Posted By Anonymous Frank J, San Francisco, CA : 2:51 PM ET
Whether there was a direct link to this drug and the boy's suicide is beside the point. Anything that causes effects like that can't be good for you. And using cigs and alcohol as an example doesn't work, either. Just because something else isn't good for you and people use it, doesn't make it okay for you to use it.

Good Lord, I suppose you'd all go jump off a building if someone told you you'd get a rush off of it.

What is wrong with you people? You feel depressed or your life seems dull and boring, so you think it's okay to take a drug that causes hallucinations that are so bad you have no idea who you are or what you're doing??

My life has never been that boring. If yours is, using a drug isn't going to solve your problems.

What a society we live in. Things aren't exactly like you want them? Just pop a pill or smoke something, and it all goes away.

Get real.
Posted By Anonymous Linda E., Kansas : 2:58 PM ET
Salvia and other plants of it's nature should be relegated to their original use - that of adult, informed shamanistic experience. You need guidance and proper respect for it, just like you do alchohol.

These experiences are valid for insight and spiritual wisdom, just like you can often get higher answers from paying attention to your dreams at night. (which aren't illegal - yet)

That is why I think knee jerk reactions such as those from the state of Delaware and the lady from Kansas who posted are inappropriate and full of ignorant, judgmental language. "Oh, it's like LSD? Then it should be banned!"

No, it's not like LSD - did you also know that it is a study of intense, medical research such as in TREATING depression, curing drug addiction, (ironic - isn't it?) and Alzheimer's Disease?

If you ban it, it will make it impossible to benefit from any drug derivatives of the plant that are synthesized. So let's punish all of the people out there who could really find hope and better lives, all because of a misguided reaction to the tragic death of a child which in all likelihood was due to a dozen other factors which had nothing to do with Salvia.

On that point, I don't think it should be sold to minors, or marketed as a "party drug". At worst, treat it like tobacco, which is legal in all states, regulated, and incidentally, kills FAR more people in one week than Salvia ever will in the history of mankind.

So does alcohol, BTW, so GET REAL as far as true risk assessment is concerned instead of going off on some emotional tangent.
Posted By Anonymous Tech Shaman Ft. Worth TX : 3:43 PM ET
This is completely, totally ludicrous.

If anything, DARE should make a salvia experience mandatory for all high school kids (hey, it would be draconian enough for them) because it's so damn terrifying that it's likely to put them off all drugs forever and ever.

I'm getting so fed up with this sort of self-serving crap from our government.

How many people die from tobacco and alcohol use every year?
Posted By Anonymous Maria Pastora, Mazatlan, MX : 3:45 PM ET
Im amazed at the postings on this subject! Sean in Indiana thinks as long as only "responsible adults" use it its ok. Exactly how do you keep it in the hands of only those so-called responsible adults? By the way, taking hallucinogenics doesnt sound very responsible or very adult to me but then thats just my opinion. Ian thinks that things requiring "proper judgment" shouldnt be banned just because irresponsible people,often a teenager chooses to ignore that responsibilty. Teenagers in a lot of cases are by their very nature and ages often "irresponsible and lacking in proper judgment...what a news flash this is!
Posted By Anonymous L Collins FLorida : 4:02 PM ET
For the people finding "salvia" at Wal-mart: what you're probably finding is Salvia officinalis (common sage; the same stuff you use for cooking), Salvia apiana (another common herb), or something like Salvia nemorosa (a common decorative garden perennial). None of these forms of salvia have the properties of Salvia divinorum, and can all be marketed as "Salvia."
Posted By Anonymous Meg, Chicago, IL : 4:35 PM ET
By the way, taking hallucinogenics doesnt sound very responsible or very adult to me but then thats just my opinion.

You are of course entitled to your opinion, but we don't outlaw things in this country simply because they aren't responsible or adult-like. Many adults eat too much candy, which is not responsible nor adult-linke in my opinion. If someone eats too much candy, becomes obese and depressed, and decides to committed suicide, should be ban the candy?

In this country we try to keep alcohol and tobacco out of the hands of children by making it illegal to give it to them. This same exact concept could be applied to Salvia.
Posted By Anonymous Andrew, San Jose, CA : 5:09 PM ET
For some irresponsible kid doing something he should not of been doing and dying, we all must pay the punishment. Is this right? Notice the majority of the people who have died from a salvia related incedent were minors/young adults. As with any drug, risks are valid. Because some 17 year old statistic wants to be an idiot, it should not be illegal for mentally stable adults.

Drug use is a choice, if you can't handle drugs. DON'T DO THEM! SIMPLE AS THAT. Know yourself before doing an intense pyschoactive people.
Posted By Anonymous John Annon Sarasota Florida : 5:09 PM ET
There's a lot of sentiment here to the effect that the government doesn't want you to expand your mind, for fear of a 60's-style hippy uprising. This sounds a little tin-foil to me. The reality is that most of the general population is deathly afraid of productive consciousness alteration- if it isn't blissful and numbing like alcohol, it might shake their narrow little world view. The reason the government wants to take away our natural freedoms is because so many of us don't really want freedom, and the people in office just want to stay in office.
Posted By Anonymous Olaf, Storrs, CT : 7:31 PM ET
Salvia, acid, mushrooms, rhino semen, DMT and the likes are all very dangerous psychadelic drugs. While I disagree with scheduling these drugs as illegal with no positive or medical uses, I do firmly believe that they MUST be regulated highly by the government. The use of these drugs by the world's youth can be very problematic. The use of psychadelic drugs by people whose brains have not fully developed can cause life-long psychological problems, and in certain cases, can lead to their death via suicide or other causes. I used psychadelic drugs heavily many years ago, and I am still feeling the effects today. A bit too much of the "high-hat," as they like to say. Freedom or liberty do not give you the right to harm yourself or others.
Posted By Anonymous A. Aucoin, PA : 8:24 PM ET
so, apparently the old workhorse still applies-- it is not in the interest of those who wish to remain indefinitely in power to have an informed public, because once they realize how badly they're getting screwed, an informed public would topple the power-mongers in righteous outrage...

any respect i may have still had for cnn just dissipated entirely. way to hype some lopsided scare tactics, guys.
shame on you.
Posted By Anonymous j. h. geers, cleveland, oh : 3:55 PM ET
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