Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Scientists mine YouTube to study effects of Salvia divinorum

by Maggie Koerth-Baker at 4:20 PM April 20, 2010


I can't say the thought ever occurred to me, but apparently enough people think it's a good idea to get high, film themselves and post the results to YouTube that psychologists at San Diego State University were able to use the crowd-created video archive to do one of the first studies of the drug's behavioral impacts.

Why study how people act when they're high on Salvia? Despite carrying a lot of the same cultural trappings as pot, Salvia is actually pretty unique, from a chemical standpoint. In fact, that was part of why it was legal in so much of the U.S. for so long—the chemical structure wasn't close enough to any already-outlawed drugs to be automatically covered as an analog under the same bans. Not surprisingly, Salvia's effects on the human brain are also very different, and science doesn't know much about those effects, says Mind Hacks' Vaughan Bell.

Pharmacologically, it is fascinating as it seems to have its major effect on kappa opioid receptors. These are not the same opioid receptors that drugs like heroin and morphine work on, so the effects are very different, but it is a completely different mechanism to virtually all other hallucinogenic drugs (only ibogaine is known to have a similar effect on the brain).

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