Hallucinogenic drug on sale over counter

A POWERFUL hallucinogenic drug which has been linked to teenage suicides in America can be bought over the counter in a town centre shop.

A POWERFUL hallucinogenic drug which has been linked to teenage suicides in America can be bought over the counter in a town centre shop.

The Evening Star bought the psychoactive herb called Salvia divinorum from The Purple Shop in Fonnereau Road.

The drug - which was used in shamanistic rituals in Mexico - is said to provoke uncontrollable laughter and evoke childhood memories.

Although it is legal to buy, there is increasing concern in both America and the UK about it. However the shop manager Kai Boyne said the business does not sell anything illegal and that they are responsible about who they sell to.

But Simon Aalders, co-ordinator of Suffolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team, said there are significant dangers in using salvia.

He said: “I think if The Purple Shop is going to sell these things then I hope they are telling people how to look after themselves.

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“These drugs are not toys. They are strong powerful drugs. There are significant dangers around it, particularly for teenagers developing. If these plants are used to induce visions then it will make you feel and hear things that are not there and if you are not in a position to handle that then that puts you at risk if you are susceptible to mental health problems or depression.

“If you are not prepared and are emotionally vulnerable then it can be an extremely unpleasant experience and nothing you have ever done can prepare you for it.”

A backlash is growing in America against salvia after the mother of a 17-year-old student, Brett Chidester, blamed it for the suicide of her son.

The government in this country last month asked an independent body to look into the “legal-highs” market and pay close attention to the side-effects of salvia.

Ms Boyne, manager of The Purple Shop, said: “We do not sell anything that is illegal and when we do sell products that alter how you behave we have very strict rules in place about who buys it.

“We understand that we have a responsibility and it is not given to under-age people. We have the salvia in a very discreet cabinet and a sign that if you are under 21 you will be asked for ID. There are lots of different strengths and we only sell the lowest four. On the market now you can get x60 and we refuse to sell that.”

A spokesman for the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) - the independent body which advises the government on drugs - said: “The ACMD recognises the proliferation of substances marketed as legal highs and plan to set up a working group with the aim of providing advice to government. The legal highs working group will consider plant products such as Salvia divinorum in their advice.”

Do you think there should be an investigation into what drugs are sold legally in the UK? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email starnews@eveningstar.co.uk

Salvia factfile:

n Salvia is derived from the American plant Salvia divinorum, a member of the mint family.

n It was used by the Aztecs to alter consciousness.

n It can be bought at varying strengths - the Evening Star paid �9.95 for a gram of the lowest strength.

n It is purchased dried for smoking or as a herbal remedy under its botanical name.

n Users say that after effects can include an increased feeling of insight, an improved mood, calmness and an enhanced connection with nature.

n Some users have warned about its affects and said it is not a pleasurable experience.

IT is not the first time the Purple Shop has hit the headlines. In 2003 they were highlighted by The Evening Star for selling magic mushrooms.

Although the drugs were legal to sell in their natural state and not prepared in any way, drugs experts said that the effects could be just as worrying as unlawful drugs.

However Lyndsay Thomas, the shop owner at the time said the drugs were perfectly safe. She said: “Everything we sell is perfectly legal. The mushrooms we sell have not been prepared in any way so are perfectly legal.

“We only sell them to people aged over 18 and are very strict on ID.”

She added that the drugs were perfectly safe and just a bit of harmless fun.