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Teen use of drug 'Salvia divinorum,' as seen on YouTube, raises alarms

Parents and state lawmakers ratchet up pressure to outlaw the hallucinogenic herb.

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Concern about Salvia divinorum, a shamanistic herb from Mexico that some US teenagers are using to get a hallucinogenic high, not only is spurring parents to have heart-to-heart talks with kids, but also has led some states to outlaw it.

A concentrated leaf compound that's usually smoked in water pipes, Salvia divinorum – known as "Sally D" or "magic mint" on the streets – causes users to briefly lose their grip on reality. Some 3,500 video clips of teens experimenting with the drug have popped up on YouTube, driving up its popularity even as vendors, aware of efforts to ban it, are basically throwing going-out-of-business sales.

The highly concentrated compound made from a kind of mint plant remains legal in all but eight states, available in smoke shops and even gas station mini-marts. It can also be obtained via the Internet. Its easy availability and disorienting properties come as a surprise to parents and many lawmakers, who are asking why the US government has not yet outlawed its sale.

Yet salvia's unusual chemistry, nontoxicity, and potential research benefits have made the compound a cause célèbre among some researchers and spiritualists who say prohibition is the wrong tack for a substance whose effects are so uncomfortable that few people try it more than once or twice.

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