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Salvia Addiction and Abuse

Salvia is a plant with powerful hallucinogenic properties that are commonly recreationally abused. However, it can cause a number of dangerous long- and short-term side effects.

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What Is Salvia?

Salvia, or salvia divinorum, is a plant native to Oaxaca, Mexico used in spiritual and divination practices. The plant belongs to the Lamiacae family and has the flavor composition of mint. With over 800 varieties, salvia has vibrant purple stems, with a distinct aroma. Salvia goes by many names:

  • Sally-D
  • Maria Pastora
  • Magic Mint
  • Diviner’s Sage
  • Sheperdess’ Herb
  • Diviner’s Mint
  • The Female
  • Sage of the Seers

In addition to spiritual uses, salvia is recreationally used to achieve hallucinations. Some have compared its effects to that of LSD, due to salvia’s active ingredient, salvinorin-A, which provides the hallucinogenic effects LSD produces. Salvia is considered a Schedule I controlled substance in some states in America, meaning it has a high potential abuse and no legitimate medical purpose, although it is legal to use recreational in others.

How Is Salvia Used?

Salvia is available in the form of a green plant or a liquid. Salvia can be smoked or chewed. The leaves are dried and can be smoked in pipes similarly to marijuana. The result is a rapid-onset and short-lived high that may begin within minutes of consumption and generally lasts around 30 minutes. Users typically experience the most intense effects within 2 minutes of smoking, but these usually fade within 20 minutes. Salvia use is known for causing with noticeable changes in perception.

When salvia is chewed, the leaves secrete chemical components of salvinorin-A, which get absorbed in the oral mucosa. This method creates visual hallucinations and altered states of cognition that lasts from 1 to 2 hours. When in liquid form, salvia can be combined with other liquids. Another common method of Salvia use is crushing the leaves and mixing them into drinks or vaporizing the herb.

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Signs of Salvia Dependence

A salvia dependence can occur due to salvia’s effects on the mind. The active ingredient, salvinorin-A, attaches to the opioid receptors in the brain, acting at the KOR, or kappa opiate receptor site, altering the human’s ability to perceive reality as is. Whether or not salvia is fatally addictive is unknown; however, people may find the herb appealing as it produces hallucinations.

If someone has to use more of the drug to feel the same effects , this can indicate a problem. For instance, using more than the safe dosage of 1 gram could a show that someone has gotten use to the effects of salvia. Like other chemicals, drug tolerances occur gradually, and often transition into chemical use disorders.

A dependence is also marked by someone craving the chemical when they reduce or stop their use. They may feel mild uncomfortable symptoms like irritability and anxiety. To combat these feelings, they may continue using salvia.

Signs that may indicate salvia abuse include:

  • Taking more and more of the drug each time (tolerance)
  • Using salvia on a daily basis
  • Using other drugs in addition to salvia
  • Problems at school, work, or home
  • Increased secrecy or social isolation
  • Mood swings and unpredictable behaviors
  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping or being awake at odd times
  • Increased injuries, accidents, or risky behaviors
  • Decreased interest in physical appearance
  • Trouble concentrating or remembering things

Salvia Short- and Long-Term Effects

Considered the strongest natural hallucinogen available, salvia has both short-term and long-term affects. The hallucinogenic effects on the brain are one of many effects of the substance. Many may notice physiological and psychological effects such as:

  • Floating
  • Loss of touch with reality
  • Vivid colors, unusual patterns
  • Levitating
  • Depersonalization (body feeling connected to the space around them)
  • Temperature changes in the body (chills)
  • Slurred speech
  • Talkativeness
  • Nausea
  • Uneasiness
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular heartbeat

There are several studies concerning the long-term effects of salvia. Some sources reveal long-term use can lead to problems with cognition, both learning and long-term memory function. Anxiety is another long-term effect of salvia use. Individuals suffering “bad trips” would have problems adjusting to a grounded reality and could struggle with feeling relaxed.

In rare cases, some may endure psychotic side effects and trouble re-adjusting to reality in they have abused salvia. If people combine salvia with other chemicals like alcohol or stimulants, there is a higher risk of complication and even overdose. Don’t hesitate to get help. 

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Salvia’s Legal Standing

Because of salvia’s hallucinogenic side effects, many have deemed it dangerous, hence its illegal status in some states. If someone is found using salvia in a state where salvia has an illegal status, they can suffer 5 years of prison time. Salvia is legal in states such as California and Maine. States like Florida have previously allowed salvia use without restriction; however, is has become an illegal substance. Missouri, Oklahoma, and Delaware have ruled salvia as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Tennessee has declared possession of the plant as a Class A crime as of 2006. Wisconsin prohibits the selling and manufacturing of salvia, punishable by $10,000 in fees.

Get Help Today

Salvia has potential damaging effects that can last a lifetime. If you or a loved one struggles to taper use, or finds they needs more to cope, there is help available. Contact a treatment provider today. They can provide helpful details on facilities and treatments to help those battling a salvia dependency.


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