|Photograph by Matt Kelly and Eddie Rodriguez.
Also referred to as “Magic Mint” and “Sally D”, salvia is a hallucinogenic plant that has been smoked for religious purposes by the Mazatec Indians for centuries. Legal in most states, relatively cheap and easy to get, it has become increasingly popular with high school and college students over the past few years. Though there are mixed reports as to whether the substance is addictive, long term effects and consequences of the drug can be serious.
Last year, one student was hospitalized at RIT due to an incident involving salvia. The student was intoxicated, but acting unusual even for a weekend evening. After someone reported the incident, Public Safety picked up the student, who was coatless, shoeless, and unaware that he was outside. The student was taken to a hospital and monitored over night. He was released, but was charged with underage drinking and endangering behavior.
Dawn Soufleris, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, expressed her concerns with salvia. “My biggest fears are that someone will wander into the nature preserve and won’t be found until it’s too late.” Students under the influence of drugs or alcohol have also been known to wander out onto Jefferson Road or be found lying down in the roads on campus, noted Soufleris. One other fear she has is that someone might fall out of one of the windows in the dorms because they imagine that they can fly.
Considering that “magic mint” is still legal, RIT has few options for disciplinary action when students are in possession of salvia. If salvia is found on a student, he or she will be referred to an educational program about the substance. If they are caught using it, they will be held accountable for “endangering behavior.” According to Soufleris, it is generally difficult to pinpoint salvia usage and popularity among students at this time. There have been many rumors and reports of its growing popularity on campus, specifically in Park Point.
There hasn’t been much research done on salvia and its effects. There have been reports on a variety of interactions with alcohol, prescriptions or illegal drugs. Hallucinations can range from pleasant visions to horrific nightmares. So far 13 states have laws prohibiting its sale or possession. There is a bill to ban salvia in New York State that is currently under review, but it has been pushed off the priority list due to the state of the economy and other government issues. Soufleris fears that salvia will have to be a cause of death or serious injury in New York before it is dealt with. “It’s really like playing with fire — you’re going to get burned.”