(Salvia Divinorum)

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 and morphine.

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.

Health/Behavioral Effects

People who abuse Salvia generally experience hallucinations or 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 detachment; and

  • importantly, a highly modified perception of external reality and the self, which leads to a decreased ability to interact with one's surroundings.5

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