CTV Vs Salvia
March 9, 2013 in Health
This week the CTV aired a blatant propaganda piece about the plant known as Salvia Divinorum. Relying on emotional manipulation over fact, the CTV had no problem airing the teary eyed testimony of a Delaware woman whose son committed suicide well on Salvia, though failing to make a concrete connection. Also featured in the interview was the testimony of a young woman who harmed herself well on Salvia, the woman’s mother and a Toronto police officer. The interviewees are appropriately anti-Salvia for the CTV, who goes out of its why to make stores selling Salvia callous to the risks involved in using any hallucinogen, the Federal Health Minister who looks clueless (the CTV ambushes her at a photo op and begins asking questions about an obscure plant most Canadians have never heard of so big surprise when she doesn’t answer well), and a snippet of a response from Health Canada that reads like a form letter sent by some bureaucrat in Ottawa. Not featured is anyone who can explain why Salvia is legal in Canada, nor did the CTV bother to interview any of the people who have been researching the potential medical applications of Salvia. It took me all of 5 minutes on a search engine to find the names of several researchers who have worked with Salvia, and about 10 minutes to acquire their work contact information and verify that they were indeed legitimate researchers. On the potential benefits of Salvia I give you the following excerpts from articles…
(Bryan L)Roth(National Institute on Mental Health Psychoactive Screening Program) bought a specimen in 2000 and quickly discovered a unique quality: Unlike other drugs, Salvia targets just one receptor in the brain. Since then “a small army” of researchers have begun looking into Salvia’s potential medical benefits, Roth said.
“We think that drugs derived from the active ingredient could be useful for a range of diseases: Alzheimer’s, depression, schizophrenia, chronic pain and even AIDS or HIV,” he said.
So far there have been no human studies on Salvia’s effects, he said, and only a few patents for pharmaceuticals based on the herb. The DEA, though, has listed it as a drug of concern and is considering classifying Salvia as a Schedule I drug, akin to LSD or marijuana.
Roth and other scientists worry that would restrict further research. Instead, many in his field advocate making it illegal to possess or sell, but still easily available for scientific research.
Thomas Prisinzano, an assistant professor of medicinal and natural products chemistry at the University of Iowa, said salvia may help doctors treat cocaine addicts.
He is doing trials on rats to test Salvinorin A, the active ingredient in salvia divinorum leaves, as a remedy to cocaine and methamphetamine addiction. The research is funded by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“You can give a rat free access to cocaine, give them free access to Salvinorin A, and they stop taking cocaine,” Prisinzano said, explaining that the goal of his project is to change the structure of the Salvinorin A molecule to retain its anti-addictive properties, while eliminating the hallucinogenic effects.
The use of plant substances for the treatment of depression has a long history in herbal medicine, and herbs such as St John’s Wort are now well recognised treatments for this condition (Linde et al., 1996). Given also that there is an extensive literature supporting the use of psychedelic agents in psychiatric conditions, including depression (see Riedlinger & Riedlinger, 1994 for a review), it would not be surprising that herbs demonstrating short-acting and unique psychoactivity, such as Salvia divinorum, may find some application in this broad interface between such disciplines as psychiatry, psychopharmacology and herbal medicine.
Though many politicians have the plant on their not-in-my-jurisdiction lists, there is no scientific data to suggest the plant’s active ingredient, Salvinorin A, has any long-term effects. Some researchers studying the plant —which may prove useful in treating mental illness — are worried that bans may make their work more difficult. They say the herb doesn’t appear to be addictive or toxic.
The unusual properties of salvinorin A intrigue scientists. Psychiatric researcher Bruce Cohen and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School have been developing analogues of salvinorin A and studying their possible mood-modulating properties. The team’s work with salvinorin A in animals suggests “that a drug that would block kappa opioid receptors might be an antidepressant drug—probably a nonaddictive one—or a mood stabilizer for patients with bipolar disorder,” Cohen remarks. By activating the kappa opioid receptors, drugs such as salvinorin A could reduce dependence on stimulants and the mood-elevating and mood-rewarding effects of cocaine. Because salvinorin A can produce distortions of thinking and perception, researchers speculate that blocking the receptors might alleviate some symptoms of psychoses and dissociative disorders.
Some investigators, including the team at Harvard, believe that modified forms of salvinorin A could bolster its medicinal value. Tom Prisinzano, a medicinal chemist at the University of Kansas, points out that some chemical transformations of salvinorin A have different pharmacological abilities—such as a longer-lasting action or an enhanced ability to bind to receptors—and no hallucinogenic properties. Modifying its novel structure, he says, “could potentially treat a number of different central nervous system disorders.”
Am I to believe that the CTV could not find this information? Am I to believe that the CTV’s research staff is this negligent or is there another agenda here? Certainly teary eyed mothers make for better television than researchers talking about chemical compounds, and it’s certainly true that the sale of Salvia should be regulated (i.e. not sold to anyone under the age of majority), but the CTV goes out of its way to paint Salvia as a hitherto invisible threat to the lives of Canada’s children. Again I’ll admit that the OMG our children are in danger but I’d ask the CTV what are the actual numbers of deaths or injuries related to Salvia use as opposed to say alcohol in the short term and say tobacco products in the long term. For a piece that should have been designed to enlighten viewers to what exactly Salvia is, by focusing exclusively on the damage done by irresponsible use and neglecting the potential beneficial applications one can only conclude that the CTV is seeking an outright ban on Salvia which would make research into the potential medical applications of Salvia extremely difficult if not impossible. One wonders why the CTV would want to endanger the potential good that could come from Salvia by airing this piece. What was the CTV’s agenda here? Is this simply a short sighted quest for ratings? Who produced the story, and why? Who edited the segment, who green lit the segment, again why? The CTV has a good deal of explaining to do, I ask you to join me in calling for the CTV to explain why the aired the segment, why choose emotional manipulation over fact, and what they hoped to accomplish. Demand that the CTV tell the whole story and let the researchers explain the potential benefits of Salvia. Until then CTV must be considered a questionable source of information not to be trusted unless one can personally verify their facts.
Originally posted at