Mexican tripping weed might be legal but a Rotorua woman is adamant she won't be trying it again.
The 18-year-old student who did not wish to be named, endured several harrowing minutes of hallucinatory sensations after smoking a drug she bought legally over the counter in a Rotorua shop.
She wasn't prepared for what followed.
"This was freaky. I was so scared, I had the feeling my skin was being pulled away from my bones and I couldn't move, I just sat there," she said.
The woman's experience has prompted a warning from a seller of the herb that care should be taken when using it.
The drug salvia divinorum (also known as Mexican tripping weed) is imported from Mexico and has long been used by Mexican Indians for its psychedelic effects in ancient rituals.
An expert has said it can cause hallucinations and flashbacks similar to those displayed by sufferers of post traumatic stress syndrome.
"I thought I was going to die ... it only lasted for a few minutes but I won't touch it again that's for sure," the student said.
The owner of Skin Graft in Rotorua, David Young, said he's been selling salvia for about 12 years.
He said he had never had any negative feedback from his customers, but agreed it was a powerful drug and people should adhere to safety instructions on the packet.
"People say to me, is it really that powerful? ... I tell them it sure is, you need to be somewhere safe when you use it, like under a tree or at home with friends."
Mr Young said all the staff had tried it so they're able to give customers an inkling of what they might experience.
"It comes in different strengths so we always recommend that first time users start with the low strength."
In 2001, the New Zealand Herald reported that an Auckland supplier had removed salvia from the shelves saying it was "too out there" and "too many young people were buying it".
Ministry of Health media adviser Emily Barrett said the ministry was aware salvia divinorum was controlled in some countries, such as Australia, Finland and Italy.
"The ministry will continue to monitor any developments in terms of the plant's legal status or health effects.
"If any problems arise in the future the matter will be referred to the Expert Advisory Committee on Drugs for consideration," she said.
"To date, no reports have been received from other agencies such as the police or hospital emergency departments to suggest such a situation exists."
Other teenagers spoken to by the Daily Post said they too had experienced "freaky hallucinations" after smoking the drug.
One who did not wish to be named, said beams of light were shooting out from her body, connecting her with friends sitting nearby.
"It was like we were all connected and they knew we were, but I don't think they did.
"And I know someone who tried to climb the wall and then started banging her head against it."
Senior Sergeant Dennis Murphy of the Rotorua police had not heard of the drug but thought it was "concerning".
Rotorua Hospital's duty manager Patti Ranson said people who did not know much about the legal drugs they were taking should stay away from them.
"Why would you want to if that's how it makes you feel?" -- additional reporting Waiariki journalism student RONGO BIDDLE
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