Indiana's Legal High: Regulating Substance Faces Long Road

Family Says Salvia Contributed To Son's Suicide

Indiana is beginning to consider regulating an herb that provides an LSD-like high and is readily available in smoke shops and over the Internet, but any restrictions likely wouldn't take effect for some time.

Salvia divinorum sends users into a psychedelic world of hallucinations for a short time. Seven states currently regulate the herb, but Indiana is not among them, 6News' Todd Wallace reported.

Numerous instances of young adults appearing to have a good time as they get high off salvia are posted on YouTube, but it also has a dark side.

Kathy and Dennis Chidester's 17-year-old son, Brett, killed himself last year.

"I think that he had smoked salvia to such an extent that something happened in his brain. I think he just snapped," Kathy Chidester said.

Brett was found in their home's garage.

"Right away, I felt his body was cold, and so I called 911 and said, 'My son's committed suicide,'" Dennis Chidester said.

Kathy Chidester recalled that about six months earlier, she had found her straight "A" student experimenting with something she had never heard of -- salvia divinorum.

"He said, 'Mom, it's legal. There's nothing wrong with it. I can get it, and there's no problem with it,'" she said.

Brett's mom and dad said they believe salvia changed their boy and the way he saw the world. A suicide note Brett left behind offers little solace for the family.

"He wrote, 'How can I go on living after I knew the secret of life? It's taken me 17 years, but I figured it out. I can't tell it to you here, of course,'" Kathy Chidester said.

Brett's family said they hope their pain will lead to laws against salvia. In their home state of Delaware, it's called "Brett's Law."

Salvia is banned in Delaware, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The most recent regulation is in Illinois -- it takes effect Jan. 1.

Maine's salvia law restricts the substance. Lawmakers there treat salvia more like tobacco, prohibiting sale to anyone under age 18.

Marty Allain, executive director of the Indiana State Board of Pharmacy, oversees the state's controlled substances list. While Indiana currently has no law regulating salvia, the board is investigating because of 6News' report.

"It's a long road to making something a scheduled drug, but that road has to start somewhere," Allain said.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has been considering regulating salvia for more than five years. Part of the process includes looking for any legitimate medicinal uses or long-term dangers.

Scientific research is limited regarding the effects of salvia on users.

"If their brain is developing and you put some sort of psychedelic substance into their brain, you have no idea what the long-term effects are going to be," said Rachelle Gardner, Fairbanks Adolescent Services director.

The prospect of using salvia to treat illnesses is something that has some scientists excited. It is one of the few chemicals that act on a part of the brain called kappa opioid receptors.

Drug companies could investigate salvia's usefulness to treat some mental illnesses, drug abuse and other brain disorders.

Research is one reason scientists want to make sure any restrictions would still allow them to have access to salvia.

"If it has benefits to people, then we're all for that," said Kathy Chidester. "But to just have it used randomly here and there by kids ... I'm just totally against that."

Stores 6News spoke to in Indiana said they sell salvia only to people age 18 and older, and most stores said they would support a measure making that restriction law.

Any changes in Indiana's rules would have to go through the Legislature.

More Info: DEA 'Drug Of Concern National Institute On Drug Abuse Medical Research by Dr. Bryan Roth: 1 | 2

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