Salvia (Salvia divinorum) is an herb common to southern Mexico and Central
and South America. The main active ingredient in Salvia, salvinorin A, is a
potent activator of kappa opioid receptors in the brain.1,2 These receptors
differ from those activated by the more commonly known opioids, such as heroin
Traditionally, S. divinorum has been ingested by chewing fresh leaves
or by drinking their extracted juices. The dried leaves of S. divinorum
can also be smoked as a joint, consumed in water pipes, or vaporized and
inhaled. Although Salvia currently is not a drug regulated by the Controlled
Substances Act, several States and countries have passed legislation to regulate
its use.3 The Drug Enforcement Agency has listed Salvia as a drug of concern and
is considering classifying it as a Schedule I drug, like LSD or marijuana.
People who abuse Salvia generally experience
delusional episodes that mimic psychosis.4,5 Subjective
effects have been described as intense but short-lived; they appear in less than
1 minute and last less than 30 minutes. Effects include:
- psychedelic-like changes
in visual perception, mood, and body sensations;
- emotional swings;
- feelings of
- importantly, a highly modified perception of external reality
and the self, which leads to a decreased ability to interact with one's
This last effect has prompted concern about the dangers of
driving under the influence of salvinorin. The long-term effects of Salvia abuse
have not been investigated systematically.
Extent of Use
There are no available estimates of Salvia abuse, but a recent
increase in Salvia-related media reports and Internet traffic suggest the
possibility of an increase in the level of Salvia abuse in the United States and
Europe.4 Although information about the user population is limited, users appear
to be mostly younger adults and adolescents who are influenced by promotions of
the drug on Internet sites.3 Rather than being used as a party drug, Salvia
seems to appeal to individual experimentalists.5
1 Chavkin, C., Sud, S., Jin, W. et al. Salvinorin A, an active component of
the hallucinogenic sage Salvia divinorum is a highly efficacious kappa-opioid receptor agonist: structural and functional considerations. J Pharmacol Exp Ther.
2 Harding, W.W., et al. Salvinicins A and B, new neoclerodane diterpenes from
Salvia divinorum. Organic Letters. 7:3017-3020, 2005.
3 www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drugs_concern/salvia_d/salvia_d.htm. Accessed
September 24, 2007.
4 Roth, B.L., et al. Salvinorin A: a potent naturally occurring
non-nitrogenous kappa opioid selective agonist. Proc Natl Acad Sci.
5 Gonzalez, D., et al. Pattern of use and subjective effects of Salvia
divinorum among recreational users. Drug Alcohol Depend. 85:157-162, 2006.
SOURCE: National Institute on Drug AbuseLast Editorial Review: 9/10/2008