I would consider myself someone who has, generally speaking, test-driven quite a few drugs. On the better end of the spectrum is my eternal favorite, LSD, which is my own private portal to heaven. And then there are the drugs I’d prefer to forget, like when I would crush up cough drops and get strung out on them in the 8th grade. The brain damage I suffered as a result was only probably slightly worse than all the weed I’ve smoked since. But, more than any other form of torture I’ve put my body through, the absolute worst drug to ever run rampant through this poor human vessel was due to the influence of Miley Cyrus—kind of.
In 2010, a video leaked on TMZ in which teen pop star Miley Cyrus ripped a bong hit. It wasn’t weed, however, that she smoked. It was salvia. Sunday, December 13, was the 10th anniversary of that video, and on Instagram, Cyrus posted a tribute to that horrible memory. She wrote: “Time really flew by. I remember this like it was yesterday..... J/K I don’t remember shit cause I was fucked the hell up”
Now, many have wondered, throughout the years, whether pop stars and famouses have much effect on the choices teenagers make for themselves. Generally, I circumvented the more dire trends of my youth, like low-rise jeans, or that one year in high school where everyone pretended to like Arcade Fire because they played their songs in Urban Outfitters a lot. Why couldn’t the same be said for Cyrus’s salvia excursion?
I was a sophomore in December 2010, if I did the math correctly. At the time, I mostly hung around the same delinquents I’d grown up with. On the weekends, we’d either smoke weed in the old Wal-Mart parking lot, smoke weed behind church, smoke weed at the beach, or smoke weed in my friend’s attic while he played Dark Souls on PS3. One of my coworkers at Chuck E. Cheese would buy us alcohol, even though he was on probation, and that was in the mix sometimes too. But until Miley Cyrus ripped a hit on TMZ, nobody had even heard of salvia. At least, not our particular group of layabouts.
Sometime in the spring, when it was finally warm enough to skate out in the dried-up reservoir, my friend showed up at my house, and was like: “Wanna smoke some salvia?” I’d only heard of the stuff online, because of Cyrus. Still, I clambered into his truck, picked up another friend, and headed out in the cut, while he explained to us that he’d gotten it from a friend of his older brother, who also hustled most of the weed in town. He told us when his brother did it, “he saw god.” But his brother was also a nerd, so I didn’t put much stock in his experiences.
Now, about that reservoir: I can’t remember if California’s drought had hit by 2011, but I do know that for most of high school, there was never any water in it, and all the adults would mutter to themselves about how when they were kids, it would rain from September to May, and the levy would flood. But none of us cared much. The severe lack of water meant that we could ride our skateboards down the concrete walls of the artificial lake like they were actual ramps.
It also provided nice cover for when we all felt like doing drugs.
My friend with the brother smoked it first. For a few minutes he told us he felt fine, and then he yelled a lot and paced around. Our other friend did it a few minutes after him, and just sort of laid on the ground and cried. I took a few hits last, and really, honestly, I felt fine. Until the whole world started to fall apart.
The salvia “trip” is like a high-power pressure washer that scrubs away the fine lines and wrinkles on your brain until all that’s left is a smooth, perfect orb. I also hallucinated that dinosaurs were trying to kill me, for a while. I laid on the concrete slope of the reservoir, paralyzed with fear until I built up enough courage to go run into the shallow bit of murky water that sat in the center of the man-made lake. At some point, the first friend had taken all his clothes off, and the second had run into the woods. He barely made it back to the car before it got dark and the mountain lions came out.
As I remember it, the “trip” felt like 10 hours, but the naked friend had set a timer, and we were out for barely 10 minutes, maybe 15.
None of us are friends anymore. And in all honesty, there wasn’t much to hold us together anyway, besides a mutual interest in drugs and video games and not going to church on Sunday. Since I left that little town, I’ve tried all sorts of things I shouldn’t have. But I have never, ever, ever done salvia again. I would literally rather die than ingest one more drop of that poisonous, foul substance. If I had to venture a guess, I’d think that Miley Cyrus probably feels the same way.