Salvia (Salvia divinorum) is a plant, specifically a type of mint from the Lamiaceae family, and it grows in the Sierra Mazateco region of Oaxaca, Mexico. It has been used for a very long time by native and the Mazatecs, ancient people in the region, for religious ceremonies and to treat common ailments. People take Salvia in several ways: chewing on the leaves, making a tea out of the leaves, or smoking them in a water pipe or rolled up like a cigarette. While it has been around in the United States for a few decades, it probably didn’t reach mainstream culture until a 2010 video of Miley Cyrus smoking some in a water pipe hit the Internet.
Salvia is a drug that falls in the hallucinogen family of drugs, which it shares with LSD and PCP. That’s because Salvia has a chemical called salvinorin in its leaves, which creates hallucinations and out-of-body experiences for anyone who ingests them. Despite those known effects, there haven’t been many studies performed on Salvia to understand how it works in the body, if it’s addictive or if there are any long-term effects. For that reason, Salvia is legal in many states, though several have come together to place restrictions on the plant.
Symptoms of Salvia Abuse
Some research has shown that Salvia works on kappa opioid receptors in the brain, which are involved with interoception, pain sensing, mood and consciousness. This can explain Salvia’s dissociative effects which have caused people to forgot where they were and that they had smoked the drug. They sometimes forgot they had bodies and weren’t sure what was real.
Additionally it has caused physical effects like slurred speech, lack of coordination and silly behavior. The effects were relatively short, lasting less than eight minutes.
With so little research done on Salvia, it is difficult to determine if a person can abuse it or become addicted to it. Studies have shown that it can impact learning and memory in animals, but if that extends to humans is still unknown. Anecdotal reports from people who have tried the drug report that, along with the hallucinations and perception altering experiences, symptoms of Salvia use included anxiety, confusion, language impairment, headache, and drowsiness. Others have reported that they wouldn’t use Salvia again, as it was too intense for them. There have been no reports of salvia overdoses, but some people have accidentally killed themselves while on the drug.