What is Salvia Divinorum?
Salvia divinorum is a hallucinogenic plant which is part of the mint family. Because of its properties which cause effects similar to other drugs like LSD, it is not readily available from nurseries like other plants in this family. It is often used strictly as a hallucinogenic drug of abuse. According to CESAR, it is “also known as S. divinorum or Salvia,” even though other Salvia plants, like Salvia officinalis (or sage) for instance, do not cause these same effects.
The psychoactive component in Salvia divinorum is know as Salvinorin A and it “is the most potent naturally occurring hallucinogen.” The plant has bright green leaves, often grows purple and white flowers, and grows in clusters.
If you or someone you know abuses Salvia, call 800-592-1193 to find appropriate treatment options.
Where Does Salvia Divinorum Come From?
CESAR states that the plant is “native to the northeastern Sierra Mazteca mountain region of Mexico where the native Mazatecs have used i for centuries as a healing and divining tool.” It is cultivated in some areas of the United States, but does not grow naturally anywhere other than Mexico.
According to the DOJ, while Salvia divinorum does not grow in the United States naturally, it has caused a problem for law enforcement “particularly in the Northeast, Midwest, and Pacific regions of the country.” Abuse of and cultivation of the plant is more common in these areas.
What are the Methods for Abusing Salvia Divinorum?
There are several different methods of abuse when it comes to Salvia divinorum. It is most often chewed by the individual who wants to experience the high caused by the drug, and ingesting it this way is the most traditional means of doing so. It can also be “chewed as quid” (CESAR). Some of the other ways Salvia diviorum is abused are:
- It is dried and smoked in cigarettes, bongs, or pipes.
- It is vaporized and inhaled.
- It is brewed into a tea that the individual then drinks.
- It is crushed and mixed with water or another kind of drink.
The final method will likely produce more moderate hallucinogenic effects “since Salvinorin A is deactivated by the gastrointestinal system before entering the blood stream.” When someone is abusing Salvia divinorum, the effects are usually directly related to how much of the drug they abuse and how long they abuse it, especially when they chew it. “The longer the herb remains in the mouth, the stronger the effect will be.” Sometimes, this method can cause the effects to last up to two hours.
Is Salvia Divinorum Legal?
As stated by the DOJ, “Salvia divinorum is not listed under the Controlled Substances Act,” so currently, it is legal. There are efforts being made to criminalize the drug as a Schedule I substance. The DEA is monitoring reports of its abuse, but it is not known how common abuse of the drug actually is at this time. However, it still has many street names and other terms, including:
- Leaves (Herb) of Mary
- The Female
- Sage of the Seers
- Diviner’s Mint/Sage
- Magic Mint
- Maria Pastora
- Leaves (Herb) of the Shepherdess
- La Hembra
What are the Effects of Salvia Divinorum?
Salvia divinorum causes many hallucinogenic effects, but the drug is different from other common hallucinogens. For example, the NIDA states that “it does not act at serotonin receptors that are activated by other hallucinogens like LSD or psilocybin.” Salvia divinorum actually acts on the kappa opioid receptors (which are different than both the serotonin receptors affected by most hallucinogens and the opioid receptors affected by heroin and other opioid drugs).
Some of the psychological effects of Salvia divinorum and its main active ingredient salvinorin A are:
- “Psychedelic-like changes in visual perception”
- Mood and body sensations
- Emotional swings
- “A highly modified perception of external reality and the self
- Decreased ability to interact with one’s surroundings
CESAR states that the plant causes “intense hallucinations” where a person may see themselves traveling through time and space. It is also common to see vision of a woman while affected by Salvia divinorum, which is where it gets many of its names. Patterns and shapes will also occur as hallucinations when the eyes are closed, but this will usually cease if the person opens their eyes.
Salvia divinorum also causes physical side effects along with the psychological effects. Some of these effects are:
- Lack of coordination
- Slurred speech
- Decrease in heart rate
Because of many of these effects, it can be very dangerous for a person to be out while under the influence of Salvia divinorum. The drug causes impairment, coordination problems, and hallucinations which makes driving a car extremely dangerous. Overall, the effects of Salvia divinorum have so rarely been studied that it is difficult to know for sure how dangerous they are.
Long-Term Effects of Salvia Divinorum Use
According to the NIDA Teen, “We also don’t know the long-term effects of using the drug.” We do know that that learning and memory can be affected by Salvia divinorum, as shown in tests which have been performed on animals, but currently, there is no way of knowing how dangerous the effects of the drug are in the long-term.
As for the possibility of dependence, withdrawal, and addiction to Salvia divinorum, there is no clear answer as of yet. “More studies are needed to learn whether it has addictive properties” and even to know how addictive it may be.
According to the DOJ, “Numerous individuals report experiencing negative effects during their first experience with Salvia divinorum and indicate that they would not use it a second time.” This may be part of the reason why the knowledge about its effects in the long-term is so low. However, there is a possibility that the drug might cause some of the same issues that other hallucinogens cause, such as:
- Schizophrenic behavior
- Flashbacks or Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)
- Issues with confusion and isolation
Is Salvia Divinorum Dangerous?
Salvia divinorum can be dangerous to the individual who abuses it. The plant can cause hallucinations which might “result in abusers harming themselves and others” or in accidents due to coordination and perception issues. Over time, there is a possibility of Salvia divinorum abuse causing worsening issues which have not been properly researched yet. Although Salvia divinorum is not listed under the Controlled Substances Act currently, this does not mean it is safe.
For more information about Salvia abuse, or for help finding a treatment program, call 800-592-1193.
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