With the shooting in Tucson, AZ, that left 6 dead and 14 injured, the public has been scrambling to try and get a handle on the accused – Jared Loughner. One of the background tidbits that has recently come to light is that Mr. Loughner used salvia, a legal herb which causes hallucinations and altered perceptions.
According to a NY Times report, statements made by Loughner closely parallel a worldview caused by the drug. Among these are a feeling that reality is nothing but a dream and other symptoms that mimic psychosis.
Whether these reports will be validated is unknown. There is no mention of Loughner using the drug on the day of the killings. Friends have told a tale of multiple drug use, including salvia, which may cause a permanent alteration in thinking. “Mr. Loughner, 22, was at one point a frequent user of the plant, also known as diviner’s sage, which he began smoking while in high school during a time in which he was also experimenting with marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms and other drugs, according to friends. Mental health professionals warn that drug use can both aggravate and mask the onset of mental illness.”
Although currently legal in many states, this incident might be the push it takes to get legislation passed against the herb. It is currently offered for sale online and touted as “releasing inner spiritual energy” or providing transcendental experiences. One popular way to abuse the herb is to smoke it and post a video showing the effects on YouTube.
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Like many other, still legal “highs,” the expectation is that states will continue to ban substances as they make their way into the news. About half the states in the U.S. do so now. The DEA is also looking into banning salvia by putting it in the same category as LSD and psilocybin.
Expect to hear more about this if and when Mr. Loughner comes to trial. It’s just too good to pass up for a defense attorney to show how a legal substance might have made his client’s innate psychosis more aggressive and led to the attack. A type of “twinkie” defense. The lack of valid research on the herb only makes that more attractive as an excuse.