Sunday, June 17, 2007

RE: SALVIA DIVINORUM hits the Wall Street Journal

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: Precarious333
Date: Jun 16, 2007 3:36 PM

A Drug Lures Teens, Legislators, Scientists
June 1, 2007, 5:08 pm

State legislators are rushing to ban or control a hallucinogenic leaf popular among teenagers, but also fascinating to biochemists. Known variously as “Magic Mint,” “Sally D” and salvia divinorum, the sage-like plant has caught on over the past decade, thanks to the potent visions it gives as well as its legal status in many states. It can be bought easily over a host of Web sites. The reason it passes through federal drug laws is also the reason it has become interesting to biochemists, reports GQ’s Christopher Ketcham (no link available).

LSD and “magic” mushrooms are controlled under a blanket federal ban on any hallucinogen that has an effect on serotonin—a hormone in the brain. Salvia divinorum, alone among hallucinogens, doesn’t. Scientists hadn’t known precisely how salvia divinorum had its effect until 2002, when it was discovered it works by mimicking the actions of a chemical in the body called dynorphin, which means salvia divinorum might be used to “modulate everything from pain response to tissue healing to appetite and mood.”

Recent research has suggested dynorphin plays a role in the onset of schizophrenia and dementia. High levels of dynorphins have also been shown to counteract cocaine addiction. “Pharmaceutical companies have long been interested in substances that mimic or block the actions of dynorphin,” says Dr. Bruce Cohen, who is studying the properties of the leaf’s active chemical, known as salvinorin A. Promisingly, salvinorin A acts on only one kind of receptor in the brain, whereas most drugs of its kind tend to act on several receptors, leading to side effects. Mexico’s Mazatecs have long used the leaf in religious ceremonies but also use it to treat stomach ailments and rheumatism.

However, the drug’s popularity among teenagers and a salvia-related stabbing in 2006 have led to an accelerating drive in many states to ban or control it. Delaware legislators made the drug illegal following the death of teenager Brett Chidester last year. Louisiana was the first state to criminalize the drug’s use.

— Robin Moroney

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