Thursday, September 11, 2008

Popularity of a Hallucinogen May Thwart Its Medical Uses

Salvia divinorum is perhaps the most powerful hallucinogen ever discovered and most likely first introduced to Americans through the novels of Carlos Castaneda.

This drug works differently than other hallucinogens, which may make it very useful for treating a variety of mental illnesses, but as street use rockets upward, the drug may soon be illegal, even for research.
In 2002, Dr. Bryan L. Roth, now of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, discovered that Salvinorin A, perhaps uniquely, stimulates a single receptor in the brain, the kappa opioid receptor. LSD, by comparison, stimulates about 50 receptors. Dr. Roth said Salvinorin A was the strongest hallucinogen gram for gram found in nature.

Though Salvinorin A, because of its debilitating effects, is unlikely to become a pharmaceutical agent itself, its chemistry may enable the discovery of valuable derivatives. “If we can find a drug that blocks salvia’s effects, there’s good evidence it could treat brain disorders including depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, maybe even H.I.V.,” Dr. Roth said.

Many scientists believe salvia should be regulated like alcohol or tobacco, but worry that criminalization would encumber their research before it bears fruit.

“We have this incredible new compound, the first in its class; it absolutely has potential medical use, and here we’re talking about throttling it because some people get intoxicated on it,” said Dr. John Mendelson, a pharmacologist at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute who, with federal financing, is studying salvia’s impact on humans. “It couldn’t be more foolish from a business point of view.”

Unfortunately, dumbass kids are messing with this stuff and doing dumbass things like trying to drive a car while being essentially incapacitated. Then they post the videos on YouTube.

Here's a video of one dude doing some salvia:



This guy had a good trip, not everyone has so much fun. Salvia can be incredibly intense and many people never do it again after a first trip.

Here is some good info on the effects of salvia use:
Psychedelic experiences are necessarily somewhat subjective and variations in reported effects are to be expected. Aside from individual reported experiences there has been a limited amount of published work summarising the effects. D.M. Turner’s book “Salvinorin—The Psychedelic Essence of Salvia Divinorum” quotes Daniel Siebert’s summarisation, mentioning that the effects may include:[37]

An example of salvia-inspired Visionary art
An example of salvia-inspired Visionary art
  • Uncontrollable laughter
  • Past memories, such as revisiting places from childhood memory
  • Sensations of motion, or being pulled or twisted by forces
  • Visions of membranes, films and various two-dimensional surfaces
  • Merging with or becoming objects
  • Overlapping realities, such as the perception of being in several locations at once

A survey of salvia users found that 38% described the effects as unique. 23% said the effects were like yoga, meditation or trance.[38]

Media reporters rarely venture to take salvia themselves, but one firsthand journalistic account has been published in the UK science magazine New Scientist:

the salvia took me on a consciousness-expanding journey unlike any other I have ever experienced. My body felt disconnected from ‘me’ and objects and people appeared cartoonish, surreal and marvellous. Then, as suddenly as it had began, it was over. The visions vanished and I was back in my bedroom. I spoke to my ‘sitter’—the friend who was watching over me, as recommended on the packaging—but my mouth was awkward and clumsy. When I attempted to stand my coordination was off. Within a couple of minutes, however, I was fine and clear-headed, though dripping with sweat. The whole experience had lasted less than 5 minutes.

Gaia 2006-09-29 (UK Media)

There have been few books published on the subject. One notable example is Dale Pendell’s work “Phamako/Poeia—Plants Powers, Poisons, and Herbcraft”, which won the 1996 Firecracker Alternative Book Award[39] and has a chapter dedicated to Salvia divinorum. It includes some experience accounts:

It’s very intense, I call it a reality stutter, or a reality strobing. I think that having been a test pilot, and flying in that unforgiving environment with only two feet between our wingtips, helped to prepare me for this kind of exploration.

Pendell 1995

Some have written extensive prose and/or poetry about their experiences.[40][41] Some describe their visions pictorially, and there exist examples of visionary art which claim to be salvia-inspired. Others claim musical inspiration from the plant: examples are the songs “Salvia divinorum” by 1200 Micrograms, "Salvia" by Deepwater Sunshine, and "Flight 77" by Paul Dereas.[41]

Cautionary notes

Dale Pendell expresses some concerns about the use of highly concentrated forms of salvia. In its natural form salvia is more balanced and benevolent, and quite strong enough, he argues. High strength extracts on the other hand can show “a more precipitous, and more terrifying, face” and many who try it this way may never wish to repeat the experience.[42]

The “Salvia divinorum User’s Guide” hosted on Daniel Siebert’s website recommends having a sitter present if you are new to salvia, are experimenting with a stronger form, or are using a more effective method of ingestion than you have before.

An experienced salvia user who is chewing a quid, may often choose to do it alone, and may be quite safe in doing so. But having a pleasant, sensible, sober sitter is an absolute must if you are trying vaporization, smoking high doses of extract-enhanced leaves, or using pure salvinorin.

Salvia divinorum User’s Guide

The guide points out that the effects of salvia are generally quite different from those of alcohol; but, like alcohol, it impairs coordination. One should never attempt to drive under its influence.

It also emphasizes that salvia is not a party drug.

Hopefully, any legislation involving this drug will be regulatory and not criminalizing. But that's wishful thinking in this political climate. In the meantime, hopefully some good research can get done into how this drug works and how to harness its power for healing.


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