Salvia: Letter to CBC's The Current

I write a number of letters to the editor, to newspapers, magazines and radio, and as many never see the light of day, what better strategy than to blog their efforts at public discourse? This letter discusses a recent reportage (25 October 2006) on the herbal, medicinal and meditative herb Salvia, as heard on the CBC's radio news program, The Current. _tV


dear the Current:

I dream of a world in which the law is no longer governed by a system that condemns all explorations of the mind and body as "abuse" of a "substance."

I dream of a world in which "pleasure" is every bit as legitimate a reason to live and explore and experience as all the "reasons" of science and medicine.

If we are to interrogate and possibly demonize and restrict yet another of the world's plants, should we not at least ask: why is it that "medicinal use" of substances is "legitimate" only for corporate drugs?

Who decides what is "legitimate"? Who condemns "pleasure"?

Surely, if we are to question the rather harmless yet profoundly meditative effects of the organic plant salvia, we must question all of these "legitimate" motives of corporations. Surely we must question the reasons for financing and profiting from drugs with well known side-effects such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft -- only to name a few. [1] Surely we must question drugs that tranquilizer the problem, have side effects including suicide in children and teens, and often have no better effect than a placebo.[2] Surely we must question why anti-depressants, tranquilizers, sleeping and prescription pain pills are prescribed as quick and easy solutions, often before psychotherapy, the work of meditation and the work of thinking. Surely we must question the relation between such drugs and prevailing media -- these perfect "TV drugs." Surely we must question the effects of a population under the effects of what is often characterized as a dull, zombie-like "happiness"?

Wellbutrin, Lexapro, Celexa -- can we not ask if such drugs turn their users into sleepwalkers in this world? Why is it that women use twice as many anti-depressants as men? That fully five million Canadians, or 20.8% of the population, are under the influence of prescription pain pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, anti-depressants, diet pills, and stimulants? [3]

I dream of alternatives, not condemnations, repressions, restrictions: that some, perhaps many, would benefit from exploring the many organic and chemical "substances" the world has long offered us and that may teach us a thing or two about our minds and bodies. [4]

I dream of a world in which fear is no longer the condition under which the exploration of "psychoactive substances" takes place. I dream of a world in which questions can be posed and explored by everyone without fear of the law.


tobias c. van Veen
Doctoral candidate, Philosophy & Communication Studies, McGill University

[1] "Time for openness on antidepressants"

[2] "Are Antidepressants the Superior Treatment?"

"Antidepressant Study Seen to Back Expert"

"Antidepressant efficacy overrated," Healthfacts, Nov, 1992

[3] Canada's Alcohol and Other Drugs Survey (1995)

[4] See research through the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

posted. Wed - October 25, 2006 @ 06:08 PM           |