How Freedom Dies: Salvia Divinorum

Posted: October 6th, 2009 | Filed under: drugs, hallucinogens, media bias, Salvia divinorum | 20 Comments »

Salvia Divinorum and Freedom

The above story of Salvia divinorum demonstrates how anecdotal evidence is bizarrely abused to create and foster the war on drugs. In modern America’s narcophobic climate one death out of millions of users can cause all adult users to be deemed criminals worthy of prosecution and incarceration.

Salvia is a particularly astonishing case because the “salvia death” of Brett Chidester that is paraded by the media and politicians is on such shaky ground:

1. His family admits he had some depression issues. His cousin, Danielle Chidester, wrote in a March 30, 2006 blog comment:

While it is true that he used to not be as happy as he was before he died, he completely changed his life around. He told me how he was so glad that he was finally happy. (swanksalot)

2. There is no evidence he was on salvia when he died. (DuLac) Because of the incapacitating effects of salvia it is unlikely he would have had the ability to take the actions he did. (He set up a tent in a garage and lit a grill inside of it to asphyxiate himself.)

3. The written passages which several media outlets, e.g. USA Today, have called a suicide note were not a suicide note at all. They are snippets from material written well before his death and read like this one:

Salvia allows us to give up our senses and wander in the interdimensional time and space. Also, and this is probably hard for most to accept, our existence in general is pointless. We earthly humans are nothing. (Doward)

4. The death certificate which the media refers to as listing salvia as a contributory cause of death initially did not mention salvia at all. It was three months after his death (and a day after the passage of Delaware’s “Brett’s Law”) that a Delaware medical examiner revised the death certificate. She refused to comment on the change. (Chalmers, 5/6/06) For more on the drug politics behind autopsies go to this post.

5. In an interview shortly after Brett’s death Kathleen admitted the basis of her salvia indictment was merely a “gut feeling.”

We just won’t have any answers, and we have to learn to accept that. But my gut feeling is it was the salvia. It’s the only thing that can explain it. (Chalmers, 2/26/06)

Due to Kathleen Chidester’s efforts, in places like Florida people like her son can now face up to five years in prison for possession of Salvia divinorum.

Oddly enough, despite believing Brett was put on earth to have salvia criminalized (Chidester), Kathleen doubts Brett would approve, “I don’t think Brett would want to be known for a law like that, but I think of it as an honor.” (Chalmers, 3/23/06)

Sidebar: Ingesting high amounts of caffeine, e.g. No-Doz, can lead to hallucinations and even death.

Rays of Sanity: California and Maine only criminalized salvia for minors.

Asinine Sensationalistic Headlines:

“Deadly Dangers of a Street Legal High” – Todd Quinones, CBS 3 Philadelphia, 30 Nov. 2006.

“New Legal Herb May Do More Damage Than LSD” – Devine, Josh, ABC12 (WJRT, MI) 19 Feb. 2007. (The only damage LSD has been found to cause is precipitating mental illness in those already predisposed to mental illness.)

“Salvia: Legal but Lethal” – Anderson Cooper, CNN, 13 Apr. 2006.

Quotes of Note:

If you’re that retarded to go ahead and try to defend the drug then you deserve whatever the hell happens to you. (swanksalot)

Danielle Chidester in one of her many comments on a blog entry written by a “dumbass” (her word) questioning salvia’s link to Brett’s death.

Three days after he died, some friend of his named Mike shared “fond memories” of Brett on MySpace; mentioning how Brett stole alcohol from his job on a regular basis. He also talked about Brett driving drunk and puking out of the window after they had gotten hammered on Absinthe. (swanksalot)

AssaultedReason responding to Danielle and comparing/contrasting alcohol/salvia treatment in his own comment. (This MySpace page is apparently no longer available.)

Links of Note:

Kathleen Chidester’s blog, “Brett Chidester – Stolen Angel.”
Kathleen Chidester interviewed on ABC’s Nightline.
Legal Status of Salvia by Country and State on Wikipedia.

1. Mike Chalmers, “Legal High New Worry for Parents,” News Journal (DE), 26 Feb. 2006. LINK
2. Mike Chalmers, “Proposal Would Outlaw Hallucinogenic Salvia,” News Journal (DE), 23 Mar. 2006. LINK
3. Mike Chalmers, “Salvia’s Banned, But Now the Tough Part,” News Journal (DE), 6 Mar. 2006. LINK
4. Kathleen Chidester, “Brett’s Mom Forever,” Brett Chidester – Stolen Angel (blog), ret. 5 Oct. 2009. LINK
5. Jamie Doward & Oliver Shah, “Legal Highs,” Guardian, 26 Apr. 2009. LINK
6. J. Freedom DuLac, “Hallucinogenic Herb Under Legislative Eye,” Washington Post, 30 Sep. 2009. LINK
7. “Suicide: Facts at a Glance,” CDC, Summer 2009. LINK
8. swanksalot, “Mindless Drug Propaganda,” B12 Solipsism (blog), 26 Feb 2006. LINK

20 Comments on “How Freedom Dies: Salvia Divinorum”

  1. 1 Stephen R. said at 2:52 pm on October 7th, 2009:

    Get your facts straight. There have been numerous deaths related to Salvia. Where have you been, living under a rock, or just continuously getting stoned???

  2. 2 Administrator said at 9:53 pm on October 7th, 2009:

    Oh really, Stephen? Name them.

    I don’t doubt that somewhere in the world at some point someone has died of salvia. Adverse reactions to prescribed drugs kill roughly 75,000 Americans a year. Water overdoses have claimed lives in recent years as well.

    I understand that all the kids taking salvia and acting like idiots on YouTube might scare you Stephen. Just remember that compared to many of life’s activities taking salvia responsibly is remarkably safe.

    Using hot tap water kills roughly 50 Americans a year. Maybe the law should require everybody to live stone sober under a rock. Perhaps then Americans will finally be safe.

  3. 3 Crawford Tillinghast said at 2:34 am on October 8th, 2009:

    The hysterical and predictable manner in which my own home state outlawed SD was actually rather amusing.

    It reminded me of that line from the first Die Hard movie: “They got the universal terrorist playbook, and they’re running it step by step!”

  4. 4 Danielle said at 2:54 pm on October 14th, 2009:

    It would be interesting to know where you got your facts from because I am the real Danielle Chidester, and I have no idea who “swanksalot” is. It is not me nor are those my comments so I would appreciate you not misquoting me and checking your sources. You don’t deserve to voice your opinion if the content supporting it is false. At the end of the day, comic or no comic, salvia is a drug that is extremely dangerous. I love my cousin and find comfort in knowing that from this tragedy the lives of many people will be saved.

  5. 5 M said at 7:17 pm on October 14th, 2009:

    Danielle, I appreciate that you are fighting passionately for what you believe in. However, I haven’t seen the facts you’ve presented yet, since this is the first I’ve heard of your crusade.

    I would be immensely grateful if you would engage in some kind of dialogue with me, if you find the time, perhaps via email? I just want the truth.

  6. 6 Administrator said at 9:18 pm on October 14th, 2009:

    Danielle, I show you exactly where I get my facts. You may not know swanksalot, but on his blog a person identifying herself as Danielle Chidester made lengthy and passionate comments about Brett. This person mentioned personal details that I find difficult to believe were made by an impostor. The link to the blog post (and the comments) is in my sources, but here it is again: LINK.

    Kathleen Chidester alluded to depression issues in an early interview but seems to have polished her comments as her campaign has progressed. For example, on her blog she sticks to the line that Brett was never “treated” for depression and even goes so far as to say he “enjoyed” having divorced parents.

    Danielle, please tell the public the truth:

    (1) Did Brett Chidester ever struggle with unhappiness or depression?

    (2) Was there a suicide note? If so why has Kathleen not made it public, instead choosing to reveal selected tidbits from his previous writings?

    If Kathleen’s lawsuit against the salvia company goes to trial, she will learn that being examined by a defense attorney under oath is different from feeding journalists and politicians the “killer drug” story they crave. Maybe then the whole truth will come out.

  7. 7 LazyPanda said at 1:50 am on November 4th, 2009:

    Just want to say how interesting this whole site is… Thank you for all the interesting facts as well admin. Personally, I can’t believe some of the people who give different things a bad name. The media giving them more power bothers me as well. Thank you for setting things straight!

  8. 8 Nakano Hitori said at 11:52 am on November 4th, 2009:

    Hey I have met so many people on salvia. It is not that bad of a drug, heck I do it every weekend when I have the money, Did it when I was in school and it didn’t mess with me any. And if your depressed going into a trip you end up up having a bad trip. Drugs like that feed on your mental state of mind even your subconscious state of being. If the mother is going to blame anyone it best be herself and her childrearing skills. Not having that communication with her child like that, if she had him treated for whatever mental illness that plagued him, he might be here today, but like everyone today always looking for some way to skip the blame of something they did and blame the closest thing, how repulsive. If you disagree i would like to hear your arguments I know my way through drugs and and I am a little experienced on suicide and the reasons for it. So come at me with your anti-salvia protests.

  9. 9 Administrator said at 4:10 pm on November 5th, 2009:

    LazyPanda, I appreciate your kind words.

  10. 10 smoke plus smoking blend said at 11:58 am on December 10th, 2009:

    If you want to try the effectiveness of Salvia extracts, you’d better try from the lowest concentration before moving to the higher concentration strength.

  11. 11 Brett O said at 2:06 am on December 26th, 2009:

    Your post is brilliant, I have tried salvia several times and I believe there’s no legitimacy to Brett’s mother’s claims about how it drove her son to suicide. I hope her campaign fails, there does not seem to be a major push to make salvia illegal in most states.

  12. 12 salvia effects said at 1:09 am on January 4th, 2010:

    I am extremely interested to reading this.
    thank you for the post.
    keep going on.

  13. 13 Teresa said at 10:13 pm on March 14th, 2010:


    Just stumbled on your site. Love it. I myself am a Public Defender. I spend more time with the guys that are persecuted (oh yeah they call it prosecuted) for using drugs than any other “criminal” cases. People who really need my efforts are short changed because of the insane hysteria surrounding drug use.

    I will keep reading!

  14. 14 k2 spice said at 11:24 pm on July 23rd, 2010:

    Our government flips out over plants, yet it seems they are perfectly fine with the FDA approving all sorts of toxins for use in our food. Go figure…

  15. 15 static said at 10:31 pm on July 29th, 2010:

    I’d just like to say, as far as man knows it is impossible to overdose on salvia. It is also non-addictive because it doesn’t make you feel good. The worst that can happen directly from taking too much is blacking out and forgetting the last 20 minutes. Otherwise the only risks are dropping your lighter and starting a fire or running around into the street or off a high ledge. For this reason a sitter is required. Irresponsible people can make any drug look bad and they have been doing so with alcohol for centuries. That should not infringe on the rights of responsible people.

  16. 16 nisha said at 3:43 pm on September 30th, 2010:

    i think you should put some points on that whay should salvia drug shoud baneed cause some people think you should baneed some people think it shpudnt be baneed

  17. 17 Bryan Brusseau said at 1:52 am on December 16th, 2010:

    A rather celebrated Biochemist ( Phd.) turned me on to Salvia Divinorum for the first time, years ago.

    He is, well, quite fastidious, responsible, and DOES HIS RESEARCH as organic toxicity is concerned.

    His sheer IQ stuns me frequently.

    As does this plant… ( stun ).

    It is dangerous. I do not recommend it. I have done a LOT of it. It has an inverse tolerance, meaning: it takes less and less to blow your consciousness to the edge of an extreme awareness of the Allness.

    It is an entheogen, not a toy. It should be allowed to contemplative adults, not to Disney kids.

    It is an instrument, and a gateway. A Shaman’s tool.


    The shock of the visceral immersion in an unvarnished vision of the infinite absolute, and eternal reality, can shift your sense of context, and scale in a very disturbing way.

    Sure, it’s a subjective view, purely mine… ( or IS it ? )

    The 40X, in the purple box. Brutal.

    Never do this alone. -NEVER.

    If you have not experienced relatively “milder” psychedelics such as mushrooms, LSD, or real ecstasy…

    Or, have not been doing meditation for, maybe, a long-long time…

    this stuff will leave you shell-shocked.

    It pulls the mask off of the illusion.

    Just be careful.



  18. 18 Nordsmetal said at 5:45 am on October 5th, 2011:

    Salvia should be legal, one suicide, when only in US 1.8 million people tryed .. it is nothing, much more people commit suicide when they are at normal mental state :D … and i have not spoke about alcohol, smoking, and other much more addictive, and dangerous things ..

  19. 19 David said at 11:28 am on March 21st, 2015:

    I suffered depression for several years; I tried counseling and prescribed drugs(given by my psychiatrist), but nothing helped much. I had to take a year off in the middle of my college education because I simply did not have the energy to leave my room, even to take my finals – I even failed a physical education (gym) class. The only thing that helped me was Salvia, it was quite remarkable, as soon as I smoked it the depression just dissipated. That viscous cycle that feeds on itself was broken as soon as the Salvia took effect. I did not experience the hallucinations that most people talk about, perhaps the dosage I used was too low for that. Furthermore I did not want to become dependent on it so I only used Salvia three times, but that was all it took to bring me back from the edge. Today I am about to graduate with a doctorate in Optometry and I firmly believe that if I had not used Salvia I would not be here today. What happened to Brett is tragic but I believe that Salvia was his escape from his depression not the cause of it.

  20. 20 Just a Guy said at 3:56 am on May 30th, 2015:

    This is total nonsense. Salvia Divinorum, while perhaps not appropriate for minors, is neither addictive nor harmful IMO. I have taken it on about two dozen occasions, and despite having possessed a very large bag of it at one time (about 15 years ago), never once felt the slightest bit compelled or overly tempted to use it “against my will,” as it were. Although I found its effects unique and interesting, I believe I actually grew tired of using it and eventually gave it all away about halfway through consuming it, already having shared it with many others during the use of “my half” of the bag. Almost every report that you can find of its use is a positive one, and actually I have never heard of anyone having a bad trip on it, only very weird ones maybe, but not unpleasant, unless it was a massive overdose (and even water can kill you if you drink too much of it too quickly), but Salvia’s effects are so incredibly short-lived (about 15 minutes, tops, if smoked) that it hardly matters anyway, even in the worst of hypothetical scenarios. I’m sorry to hear of this kid’s suicide, but my educated guess is that he had other, major psychological problems (re: divorced parents possibly) that he was unable to deal with on his own and that he wasn’t getting help with from anyone else, and that’s probably what did him in. As I mentioned, I have had about two dozen personal experiences with S. Divinorum and, if anything, it helped to take my mind off of my problems by demonstrating how much perception shapes our realities, if by briefly distorting mine significantly. IMO the world would be a better place if more people gained some insight into this phenomenon. “All due to a mind-altering drug” indeed…sounds like desperation to scapegoat this powerful plant ally for their family’s problems. Give it a rest, Chidesters; your son’s problems did not come from Salvia Divinorum. Your bringing the drug inquisition down on your fellow Delawarians is not going to bring your son back, nor save anyone from this imaginary bogeyman you have dreamt up for yourselves.

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