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Miley Cyrus Smoking Salvia

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

As you know, I always try to stay abreast of new stories and pop culture trends that might affect my patients (as well as my own family). One recent event caught my eye. The video of Miley Cyrus allegedly smoking salvia has been viewed by many. Prior to this I had not heard very much about salvia. As it turns out, I should have.

It seems that this plant (a member of the mint family) is a well-known naturally occurring hallucinogen.  Salvia is actually the most potent naturally occurring hallucinogen (LSD is a synthetic hallucinogen) and has become quite a sensation among the adolescent crowd who often post videos of themselves after smoking or ingesting salvia.

It is in this manner that adolescents became aware of the effects of salvia and realized that it is easy to obtain either on line or in smoke shops. Over the last several years as salvia has gained more attention, it has been banned from being sold in 20 states in the U.S. with even more states considering legislation.  That does not seem to prevent its sale on line as a Google search listed pages of sites with salvia for sale.

The effects of salvia typically occur almost immediately after smoking the herb, and typically last about 5 – 8 minutes. It is common to see speech and coordination problems, along with a feeling of giddiness and disorientation.  Salvia activates opioid receptors in the brain which causes the differing hallucinogenic symptoms.  It has the potential to be both physically and psychologically addictive, especially in the adolescent population who are dealing with multiple issues during their maturation. For a teen who is sad, depressed or anxious, the use of salvia may become a way to mask their problems rather than dealing with their issues.

While a teen’s first encounter with salvia may be a ”one time” exposure at a party, the easy availability of this plant on line may make it more appealing for repetitive use.  Salvia may also be chewed or consumed in a liquid, as well as inhaling herb.  The latest “Monitoring the Future Survey” which ask teens about their recent drug use did not show an increase in salvia use among 12th graders, but it did show that 1.7% of eighth graders had admitted to using salvia at least once.

The concern is that these numbers may rise and the DEA has labeled salvia a “drug of concern”.  With the YouTube video of Miley Cyrus using salvia, there are now even younger kids aware of the plant and its effects.  Children as young as 10-12 years are reporting salvia usage.  I have asked many of my pre-teen and adolescent patients about salvia, and while most deny usage they all seemed to “know” what salvia was and how they could get it.

So, yet another discussion for parents to have with their children. This also brings home the necessity of monitoring not only what your children watch on line but what they buy. Salvia appears to be pretty cheap and is easily purchased with a PayPal account.

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