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Police are keeping a wary eye on a legal drug sold in local stores that is gaining popularity among teens looking to experience intense hallucinations.
Salvia divinorum is a plant in the sage family that has been compared to magic mushrooms or mescaline, and is used in Mexico by some healers for spiritual reasons. However, police and Health Canada are concerned about teenagers trying to buy the drug for the intense hallucinations it produces when smoked or chewed.
Const. Jason Lefebvre, who is an Edmonton school resource officer, says he plans to provide more information about salvia to students when classes resume in the fall. "I have talked to students in my school who have tried it," he said. "They've shared some of their experiences, they said it was disorienting. They didn't say it was very much fun. "The drug is very common, easy to get. And it's not illegal. So it seems natural that a lot of younger people are interested and curious about it and want to try it."
Stores that sell the plant in the city say a lot of younger people have been looking for salvia. "I see a lot of young people," Colin Rogucki, who co-owns Shell Shock, which sells drug paraphernalia, said. "We turn down a lot of kids all the time. They're trying to get some salvia to smoke." "At our store we only sell to 18 [and over], but I know there's a bunch of stores around the city that will sell to anyone. And we have it at 18 because it's a powerful psychedelic and most kids aren't prepared for what can happen."
Health Canada says there are no known cases of people becoming addicted to salvia, or of there being adverse health effects. The RCMP on Vancouver Island say they know of one case where a salvia user ended up in hospital. "We don't know what the side effects are, long-term, of this drug," Lefebvre said. "Scientists don't know what part of the brain it's affecting. They don't know a lot about it. So playing with a healthy mind in a developing adolescent is a dangerous thing."
Rogucki says its popularity is growing through word of mouth. He thinks the drug's intensity makes it potentially dangerous for kids. "I think it should be regulated because a lot of the people who are doing it are kids, who aren't really experienced in what they're doing. They don't take warnings. They can do it on a bridge and something bad can happen," said Rogucki, who hands out a warning sheet to people buying salvia, advising them to make sure someone in the group is sober. "Whereas someone who is more experienced will know to do it at home, do it with friends, be somewhere where you're watched.
Not somewhere you're trying to hide out from your parents, where you can get into trouble." Katie, 17, who has done the drug five times since first trying it in Grade 9, says it's an intense experience that had her thinking she'd turned into a pumpkin.
i hate those old fuckers in office.... i can hear them now " oh god Martha its terrible.... kids are smoking this plant and sitting around staring at the walls... we HAVE to stop them from having fun at all costs"........ F'ing assholes. i wish i could ban coffee and watch all the old bastards freak out.