Legal hallucinogen causes controversy, hallucinations

“My sense of feel could be visualized as flourishes of primary colors out of the darkness, coupled with an uncontrolled tingling,” an anonymous Ames High student said, recalling an experience with the legal hallucinogen salvia divinorum. Salvia divinorum is a legal, powerful psychoactive herb that is rooted in Oaxaca, Mexico and has been used by native people since ancient times. It was not until the 1990s that the actual psychoactive mechanism in the drug was isolated. To achieve the hallucinogenic effects, the leaves of the plant, or preferably an extract varying in potency, are smoked. The hallucinogenic effects of the plant last for about 10-15 minutes and vary in intensity. So what’s 10-15 minutes of your life? “A lot,” says Denise Denton, a senior lecturer at Iowa State and a prevention specialist with a master’s degree in counseling. “Some see it as no big deal, 10-15 minutes, but it’s a hallucinogen. What we see is reality, and a hallucinogen alters what we see, our reality. Its job is to distort perceptions; it puts you in a dangerous spot,” Denton said. The Internet has been a large aid to the popularity and distribution of salvia, since ordering can be achieved with only a credit card and a street address. “It’s not hard to find at all,” an Ames High student said. “If you’re willing to look, it’s right there on the Internet.” Though not illegal on the federal level, numerous state legislatures have recently tried to put salvia on a list of schedule 1 drugs. Salvia has been banned in Delaware, Louisiana, Missouri, most recently Virginia just last month, and is rapidly being made illegal in many others. Similar legislation was introduced in the Iowa senate early last year, but it has yet to pass. Though some would see the addition of salvia to a list of schedule 1 drugs such as LSD and heroin, as “harsh,” as an Ames High student put it, others see it as a welcome addition to the family. “It’s not an apples to apples comparison of the drugs; they’re put on the list because they have no valid medical use and their potential for abuse is high,” Denton said. Although salvia may offer a new perspective on the world and existence for several minutes if you’re lucky, few will find what some media sources have called “the new pot.” Many have found disillusion instead. “Overall the experience wasn’t very pleasant. Some people might find a possible use, but it would be a small niche. It‘s not a very social drug,” an Ames High student said “It’s legal, but I’d much rather illegally smoke weed every day.”