The recent viral video footage of Miley Cyrus smoking salvia from a bong prompted several people to ask: what is salvia?


Alleged Arizona gunman Jared Lee Loughner also experimented with the drug, according to a high school friend.


Even so, most non-teenagers have probably never heard of this psychedelic plant.


It is, however, attracting increasing attention from legislators and law enforcement officials interested in possibly outlawing the hallucinogen.


The plant’s scientific name is Salvia divinorum and its active ingredient is called salvinorin A.


According to the February 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Report, an estimated 1.8 million people aged 12 or older had tried salvia divinorum in their lifetime


There is no federal ban on salvia. As of October 2009, 14 states have begun regulating it. Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Virginia, Ohio and Nebraska put salvia or salvinorin A on the list of schedule I drugs covered by state law. California, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina and Tennessee passed legislation restricting distribution of the plant.


The herb is native to Oaxaca, Mexico where it continues to be used by the Mazatec people during shamanistic rituals.


It is often smoked (obviously this is Miley’s preference) or it can be chewed.


Users say they experience the drug’s psychedelic effects almost immediately. The effects typically last about 30 minutes.


It’s been considered a fringe drug for some time among teenagers. It can be bought on the Internet and users often post videos of themselves under the influence of salvia on YouTube.


While the drug has attracted some negative media coverage over the years, salvia is reported to have very low toxicity and very little addictive potential.


According to a recent story by NPR, a small study by medical researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine found that salvinorin A “packs a punch that can mess with your mind, but probably won't hurt your body.”


So, while Miley may have been babbling incoherently on the video and she certainly shouldn’t ever try to operate a motor vehicle while under its influence, salvia probably won't have any long-term effects on the pop singer.


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