FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) - "It's a very dangerous substance."
Officials on Fort Benning are talking about salvia- a purple plant that can be chewed or smoked. Police say it packs a punch.
"It gives you a high like marijuana. It's very intense. It's short-lived. It lasts anywhere from 1-10 minutes and only takes 30 seconds to a minute to take effect," said Detective Clarence Rambo with Military Police Investigations.
After six recent cases of soldiers being caught with it, those who live and work on post are now restricted from having or using salvia or any non-controlled substance used to get high.
"Soldiers have intense training on Fort Benning. Soldiers are operating vehicles, they're exiting aircrafts, they're firing weapons. When introduced with a drug or drug-like herb, what can happen is, you can put yourself in danger. People can get injured," Detective Rambo explained.
Salvia has been on the market for a few years but police say more and more local teenagers are getting their hands on it.
"This is a very commonly abused drug in our area right now," said Eddie Ingram, Chief Deputy for the Quitman County Sheriff's Office.
Although several states have banned it, the government has not made it illegal.
Salvia can be purchased at local head shops for as little as $20 and it even grows free in gardens.
"It's worse than marijuana ever thought about being because it has the same effects on a person as LSD and PCP. It's a hallucinogen. Anything that alters the brain can kill you or cause schizophrenia or brain damage," Ingram said.
Military Police on Fort Benning say the ban includes soldiers and civilians.
Civilians caught having or using salvia face administrative sanctions.
Soldiers could face counseling, demotion, a lose in pay & allowances and even separation from the army.
The director of Fort Benning's Substance Abuse Program says salvia can be tested for.
Authorities are urging parents to research salvia and its effects as well as another plant called khat that produces the same effects as methamphetamine.