Salvia (Salvia divinorum) is an herb that is native to Mexico and Central and South America, and it is often smoked to produce hallucinogenic effects. What makes this drug different than traditional marijuana is that it produces almost immediate effects. The user begins laughing uncontrollably and loses touch with the environment. It’s common for users to fall down or stumble around, similar to what happens in a drunken state. The effects only last for about 5 to 10 minutes.
Is salvia a harmless drug that produces short highs? Not exactly. The biggest challenge that we have is that there is little conclusive information on the drug. Researchers know little about the short- and long-term dangers of salvia, mostly because there haven’t been many conclusive studies done. Still, salvia is listed as a drug of concern and is being considered for classification of a Schedule I drug by the DEA. At the time, salvia is legal in most countries.
What’s in Salvia?
The main ingredient in salvia is salvinorin A., which is a strong activator of the kappa opioid receptors in the brain. These are different receptors that are activated when using drugs like heroin or morphine, and they are responsible for the short and giggly highs. There are a number of ways that salvia can be taken, such as ingesting the leaves or drinking the extracted juices. In the U.S., the most common way to administer salvia is by smoking the dried leaves in a joint, much like one would do with marijuana.
Unlike synthetic drugs that contain a number of chemicals, salvia comes from a natural source, so users feel justified in smoking the dried leaves. They believe that the drug is a bit of harmless fun with a short high and no long-term side effects. Furthermore, unlike marijuana, salvia doesn’t have the same stigma, and it can be purchased legally in many parts of the country. Even with more acceptance of the drug, reports from the National Institute of Drug Abuse found that salvia abuse remains unchanged from previous years and accounts for a small percent of teen drug abuse. It’s believed that salvia is a drug that attracts experimentalists who use the drug in the privacy of their homes instead of at parties.
What are the Effects of Salvia?
The most pronounced effect of salvia is uncontrollable laughter. The drug hits the user almost immediately, and they start giggling and laughing, seeing bright lights and colors and maybe even experiencing hallucinations. Other effects include lack of control of body movements and distorted objects. Symptoms appear within 1 minute and last less than 30 minutes.
Researchers are still unclear on what the long-term dangers of salvia abuse may be, but the drug will lead to the common symptoms of drug abuse, including:
- Mood changes
- Changes in social circle
- Dropping activities or hobbies
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits
- Money missing
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Family relationships deteriorate
- Falling grades
- Poor work performance
- Missing for extended periods of time
Should we be Worried about Salvia?
With a limited amount of information about salvia abuse, legislators and law officials have turned to the one honest place available: YouTube. On YouTube, there are countless videos of people smoking salvia, and the short clips show the users stumbling around, laughing and losing touch with reality. You may be asking yourself why people would put this type of information on the internet, but because there is such limited data, 30 states have failed to enact any type of legislation to make the drug illegal.
Furthermore, there are no recorded overdose-related deaths from salvia; although there have been salvia-related deaths due to users losing their perceptions of reality. Still, a drug can have psychological consequences even if it lacks withdrawal symptoms, and salvia is a drug that can lead to long-term addiction and other drug-related consequences.
At The River Source, we find that many of our patients who have addictions to salvia are in complete denial. They believe that because the drug is legal in most states and because it is natural, it doesn’t pose any risk, with the exception of a short, feel-good high. Often, salvia users have addictions to other drugs as well, and they may be using salvia as an experimental drug at home.
If you or someone you love is abusing salvia, don’t think that you can’t get addicted and become psychologically dependent on the drug. You may need the help of an addiction treatment center to get yourself living independently once again. For the understanding and support that is needed to kick a salvia habit, contact The River Source, day or night, at 866-294-9331.