Miley Cyrus' salvia episode a wakeup call - Newsday

Miley Cyrus' salvia episode a wakeup call

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Beth Whitehouse Newsday columnist Beth Whitehouse

Beth Whitehouse writes about children and families.

I'm suddenly hearing about salvia after Miley Cyrus was smoking it from a bong in an Internet video posted earlier this month. What is it? Do I have to worry about my kids using it?


Salvia divinorum is an herb native to Mexico that has hallucinogenic properties and has been used by Indian healers. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration lists it among "drugs and chemicals of concern," but it's not illegal in the United States, and people here use it as a recreational substance. While potentially powerful, salvia is thought to be nonaddictive. Nicknames include "Sally D" and "Magic Mint," and it can be purchased online and at "head shops" for chewing or smoking.

Salvia has been banned in at least 15 states. Since the Miley video, State Sen. John Flanagan, a Republican from Suffolk County, has called for a renewed effort to make sale or possession of salvia result in a $500 civil penalty in New York State. "This to me is an example of how we can get ahead of a problem instead of reacting to it," Flanagan says. Suffolk County in 2008 passed legislation banning the sale and possession in Suffolk.

"We haven't seen a lot of salvia use, but since the release of the video, we've begun to hear that use of salvia has picked up," says Jeffrey Reynolds, executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency. Parents should make sure children understand that just because salvia might be legal doesn't mean it isn't dangerous, Reynolds and Flanagan both say.

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