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Here's why we're doing a story that explains a new drug

By Todd Franko (Contact)

Published August 3, 2008

There's an interesting story on today's A1 about Salvia Divinorum, an herb -- Mexican sage to be exact -- that causes an effect on the body that can be likened to various illegal drugs.

But salvia is not an illegal plant. In fact, you can buy it in Boardman today if you wanted to.

“I’ll be the first to say it’s not the safest thing,” said Tony Marino, owner of A.R.M. Cigar Co., a Boardman store that carries the herb.

Two questions likely come to a reader's mind about this story:

1) What the heck is salvia divinorum? We asked the same question in the newsroom. Mind you, we in the newsroom wouldn't be accused of being the hippest people on the planet. But we're also not closeted introverts unaware of society's change. Most of us were saying "salvia div ... what?"

2) Why the heck would The Vindy do a story that is basically an invite for people, especially kids, to go use this? I'm guessing we'll take several phone calls Sunday and Monday, and get a few emails or posted comments.

It's fair to say that we've given folks an invite to something they possibly did not know about -- something that people charged with protecting us would rather people not know about. But you could argue we do that in many of our stories. Example: When the two idiots rammed their car into a KFC manager's car in order to rob him, I'm sure there were a handful of thugs who read that and thought "Now that's an idea I could try."

But the other reality of reporting certain stories and details is the desire to make the community more aware of the dangers that exist in our society.

We spent some time discussing the impact of this salvia story, and how to play it in our paper. There was talk of playing it down a bit, but that evoked debate of are we doing our job to bring appropriate prominence to things that can affect your life?

Our newspaper friends in Canton did a salvia story recently, and they had a similar concern about how to play it. They felt it was important to bring bigger awareness to the issue, and they played it on A1 about the same as we have it today. They took three reader complaint calls.

We have a great story today by Ashley Luthern, and I think Valley readers have a chance to become more informed about a danger to their children and grandchildren.

Let me know what you think.


1drjm(4 comments)posted 7 years, 10 months ago

Salvia divinorum has tremendous potential for the development of a wide variety of valuable medications. The most promising of these include safe non-addictive analgesics, antidepressants, short-acting anesthetics, and drugs to treat disorders characterized by alterations in perception, including schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease, chronic depression, and bipolar disorder. Studies show Salvia divinorum’s mechanism is actually "aversive"—the opposite of addictive. There are numerous case reports in which people testify to the effectiveness of this herb for managing pain. There are also many psychotherapists who have used this herb in their practice and are impressed with its effectiveness as a psychotherapeutic tool. It has even been used to successfully treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

A case report in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology describes a patient that obtained relief from chronic depression by using Salvia divinorum (Hanes, 2001). Many accounts can be found online of people who have recovered from serious, life-threatening depression with the help of this herb. It is especially interesting that these people are able to obtain persistent relief from their depression after only a few treatments. Quite unlike the continuous medication regime required with conventional antidepressants such as Prozac—which in most cases only offer symptomatic relief from depression—Salvia divinorum often produces long-lasting clinical

There are many popular misconceptions about Salvia divinorum. Many of these misconceptions have their origin in a few sensationalistic articles that have appeared in the popular press, and others derive from the absurd advertising claims of unethical herb vendors who deliberately exaggerate the effects of Salvia divinorum in an effort to increase sales.

The fact is that the effects of Salvia divinorum are not appealing to recreational drug users. The majority of people who try it find that they do not enjoy its effects and do not continue using it. People who use it medicinally take it infrequently. It is not euphoric or stimulating. It is not a social drug. Since it increases self-awareness, it is useless as an escapist drug. It is most useful as a natural medicinal herb.

Salvia divinorum is a relatively obscure medicinal herb with no potential for abusel. It does not present a risk to public health or safety. Criminalizing it would only create a problem where one did not previously exist. The regulation of herbal medicines is a matter handled by the FDA, not the Controlled Substances Act. There is no reasonable justification for making Salvia divinorum a controlled substance. Placing it in schedule I would deprive people of a safe natural medicinal herb, and hamper promising medical research.

Schedule I is intended for substances that have a high potential for abuse, a lack of accepted safety, and no currently accepted medical use. Salvia divinorum does not meet any of these criteria.

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2George412(161 comments)posted 7 years, 10 months ago

It is, as you've pointed out Todd, the job of a newspaper to report the news, even if some idiot is going to respond with "Cool, I'm going to go to that cigar store and buy it."

That said, I'm guessing the kids already knew about salvia. Now the parents know too. We shouldn't be so fearful of information.

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3debraweaver(30 comments)posted 7 years, 10 months ago

I don't have a problem with reporting on the substance, although I do see that many will want to run right out and buy it. My concern is that the state of Ohio is going to waste taxpayer dollars on the substance. Laws against substances cost money. If a new law is passed, we will pay to have it enforced, and then we will pay for correctional services in the event that jail time or probation is involved. I won't even mention our already clogged court systems. Haven't we learned our lesson regarding the drug war yet. It isn't working! Furthermore, haven't we already done enough to insure that our youth will have contact with the criminal justice system. And although the good citizens of Ohio always think that it is going to be someone elses bad child that gets in trouble, I have news for them, it can just as easily be their own child. I think that our representatives are already engaged in the irrational thought process that says making a substance illegal will make them look tough on drugs and crime, and therefore eguate into votes. I beg them to rethink this and consider the unintended consequences of their actions. As one police officer stated in the article, the substance isn't illegal now and we have plenty of laws on the books to arrest people for disturbing the peace and driving while intoxicated. In the state of Ohio, if one drives under the influence of certain perscription drugs one can be arrested for OVI. I beg our representatives to rethink this legislation. It is a waste of time, and resources to even consider it.

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