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Salvia divinorum, for short salvia, is a hallucinogenic herb that is a member of mint family, commonly found in southern Mexico, South America and Central America. The salvia divinorum plant sprouts clusters of white and purple flowers, has large green leaves and grows over three feet tall. Since this substance is created only using the naturally grown plant, there are a variety of ways individuals may ingest salvia. According to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) individuals may chew fresh salvia leaves, drinking the extracted juices of salvia, smoking the dried out leaves of salvia (i.e. via water pipes, rolled cigarettes…etc.), and/or it can be vaporized, and subsequently inhaled. Salvia goes by several street names some of which include Magic Mint, Sally-D, Lady Sally, Purple Sticky, Incense Special, Seer’s Sage, and Maria Pastora. According to federal law, salvia is not considered an illegal substance. The DEA has flagged salvia as a substance that poses risks to people that use it, which has resulted in several states in America passing laws to regulate its use. 

Salvia and the Brain

The active ingredient in salvia is known as salvinorin A. Frontiers in Pharmacology detail how the use of salvia, specifically salvinorin A, can affect one’s brain. Salvinorin A is known to change the way neurotransmitters communicate. Salvia affects the brain’s signaling process by attaching to kappa opioid receptors and influencing the dopamine receptors in one’s brain. The amount of salvia ingested will determine the way in which one’s brain and body will react. In order for any psychoactive side effects to occur, an individual must absorb enough salvinorin A into his or her system. The exact amount will vary depending on the individual, as well as the potency of the salvia ingested. All of the ways salvia affect the brain remain unknown, as this substance continues to be researched. Furthermore, the long-term physiological effects of using and/ or abusing salvia are currently unknown.

Side Effects of Salvia

The side effects that an individual using salvia may experience will vary. This substance is said to mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as LSD and ecstasy, though for a shorter duration of time. The effects are said to manifest within one minute of ingesting salvia and typically last less than thirty minutes long before beginning to taper off. Some examples provided by Healthline, of common side effects from salvia use that have been reported include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Loss of appetite
  • Physical impairment
  • Dizziness
  • Uncontrollable laughter
  • Slurred speech
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Disorientation
  • Visual distortions
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Visual hallucinations
  • Sweating 
  • Visual impairments
  • Mood swings

Some individuals may experience an inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy. As such, the potential risks for driving under the influence of salvia can be detrimental and highly dangerous. Every individual is unique and may respond differently to ingesting salvia.

Withdrawal, Tolerance, and Addiction

Research is limited and much remains to be discovered regarding the scientific properties of salvia in addition to the effect salvia has on one’s body. The length of time salvia will remain in one’s body will depend on an individual’s personal health history (including age, weight, activity levels, hydration and metabolism), the dose used, the frequency of use, and the potency of salvia used. It is currently unclear if the use of salvia can lead to a physical addiction. Hence, without conducting additional research, understanding whether or not an individual is capable of building a tolerance to salvia is unknown. Moreover, additional clinical research must be conducted in relation to what, if any, withdrawal symptoms that might present should an individual that had abused salvia abruptly stop using salvia. Drug testing, specifically for salvia, is highly uncommon and quite costly.

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one in regards to substance abuse and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one. We can be reached by phone at 424-258-6792.