The truth about smoking salvia - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

The truth about smoking salvia

Like marijuana, salvia is an herb - but this plant packs a hallucinogenic punch as potent as LSD when smoked or ingested. We investigated the terrifying side effects this powerful plant is having on users.

Salvia divinorum looks harmless enough. It's a member of the mint family and there's a good chance some of your neighbors are growing it in their gardens right now.

But strange things can happen when salvia leaves are dried and then smoked. There are YouTube videos posted that show teenagers shortly after smoking salvia. One shows a young man stumbling around and then he jumps out of a window - right through the glass!

It's this kind of bizarre behavior that led researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to study salvia and how it affects the brain.

Psycho pharmacologist Matthew Johnson told us that salvia appears to produce more intense hallucinations than those caused by LSD. He says that many first-time users don't realize just how severe its effects can be. 

Sometimes people are having psychological experiences that they wouldn't choose to put themselves in. 

Dr. Johnson says some salvia users report having a psychedelic crisis or "bad trip" during which they become extremely anxious or terrified. They may feel claustrophobic or perhaps believing they are trapped inside a desk drawer. 

According to Dr. Johnson, this disconnection with reality does not typically happen with other hallucinogens. 

Angela Aiello is a psychotherapist who treats kids with drug problems.  

"A lot of kids experiment with drugs without really, really understanding what is going to happen to them as a result of taking the drug," says Aiello.

They take it because their friends are taking it. They take it because it's a fun experience to be involved in. But they take it without understanding what the dangers can be that are inherent in taking a hallucinogenic. 

Aiello says everybody's body chemistry is different, so it's impossible to predict how someone will react after using salvia.  

"You may experience a good trip," says Aiello. "But there is a very, very good chance you will experience a bad trip and you will be in an environment where you could potentially hurt yourself."

Aiello says if you discover your son or daughter is using salvia, it's important not to over-react.

Aiello says, "Approach the child rationally and sanely, and you're going to get a lot farther if you do things in a calm, yet authoritative, voice. Rather than blaming them or throwing extreme punishments at them, it is important to discover why they're using it. Why it's necessary for them to feel like they have to check out of reality."

Good advice! Because no parent wants their child to go on a bad trip and never come back.

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