What is Salvia? Is Salvia Addictive?
Is Salvia Addictive? Salvia, also called Salvia Divinorum, is a plant species common in Central America and South America that can be turned into a psychoactive drug if it is chewed, smoked, or used as a tea ingredient. While not found in the United States naturally, the drug made its way to the country in the 21st century as a new drug with extreme hallucinogenic effects.
People most often chew the leaves from the plant or drink the extracted juices. However, salvia also is often rolled into cigarettes and smoked, similar to marijuana, and can be inhaled through water pipes or vaping pipes. Salvia is considered the most potent natural hallucinogen due to its extreme, short-lasting effects.
One of the roadblocks encountered when trying to get a better understanding of this drug is the lack of information about its effects, including whether it is addictive or if it can lead to death. While scientists continue to research salvia and test how it interacts with the brain the plant remains one of the most prominent, new drugs introduced to the country in the last 10–15 years.
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Salvia has many additional street names, including:
- Diviner’s Sage
- Magic Mint
- Maria Pastora
- Seer’s Sage
- Shepherdess’ Herb
These names are often used by people looking to buy or sell salvia as a way to disguise the transaction and possession of the drug. People who frequently use these street names are likely to have misused the drug. Many people who misuse salvia do not understand the drug’s full range of effects or even some of the basic ones, and it’s important to understand what salvia does.
Is Salvia Dangerous?
In general, drugs that cause hallucinations are considered dangerous. If someone gets behind the wheel or wanders into a roadway while hallucinating, the situation could be perilous.
Much like any mind-altering drug, an individual can become emotionally addicted to the high that salvia gives them. Users can also develop a physical tolerance to the drug, which, over time, causes them to crave more of the substance to achieve the same high. Larger doses of salvia can produce unpleasant repercussions, such as the user passes out.
How is Salvia Used?
For centuries, the native Mazatec people of Oaxaca, Mexico have used salvia as a “mental medicine” and for religious and ceremonial purposes. Mazatec shamans believe that salvia-induced hallucinations help to heal their people.
Today, people consume salvia in a number of ways. While eating salvia leaves raw is common, the leaves can also be brewed into tea, or dried and smoked — just like tobacco. It can be vaporized or inhaled through water pipes, similar to how marijuana is used. Also, salvia juice can be extracted from the leaves and ingested. Salvia’s effects tend to last longer when the drug is taken orally rather than smoked.
At present, salvia is quite easy to obtain. Salvia tinctures — concentrated liquid extracts that are often distilled with alcohol — are readily available for purchase online or in smoke shops. The drug itself is not illegal on a federal level, but a number of states have banned or otherwise regulated it. Due to salvia’s liberal availability, it is becoming an increasingly popular drug among teens — especially among boys.
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Salvia Dependence and Addiction
While there has not been any conclusive information declaring that Salvia is addictive, it can still be used as an escape from reality, which means it can be abused. People who suffer from stressful situations in day-to-day life, or suffer from another disorder that causes anxiety, are more likely to abuse substances that provide some kind of escape for them. In cases like these, someone may feel that they need that substance to go on. While this isn’t what people traditionally think of as an “addiction,” it can still be damaging for people stuck in this loop.
Signs of Salvia Abuse
Salvia use can be difficult to detect, especially since some methods of use leave behind no evidence of use. For example, if someone has eaten salvia leaves, you will not find obvious salvia paraphernalia related to smoking the drug. Another reason it can be tough to know if someone has used salvia is because the drug’s effects are short-lived, generally lasting between one and 30 minutes.
If someone is currently high on salvia, you may notice some of the following signs:
- Slurred speech
- Physical imbalance
- Uncoordinated movements
- Seeming disconnected from reality
- Bouts of uncontrollable laughter
Salvia Side Effects
Salvia can impact the user’s mind and body. A number of salvia users report side effects that produce varying degrees of distress.
Short-term Effects of Salvia Addiction
Dr. Jacob Hooker says of salvia: “Most people don’t find this class of drugs very pleasurable. So perhaps the main draw or reason for its appeal relates to the rapid onset and short duration of its effects, which are incredibly unique. The kinetics are often as important as the abused drug itself.” Essentially, salvia offers users an “easy” way to try psychedelic drugs, without having to commit very much time to be mentally altered.
Several of the drug’s short-term effects are as follows:
- Dissociative hallucinations
- Dysphoria (a general state of unease)
- Uncontrollable laughter
- A feeling of “loss of body”
- Low heart rate
- Motor function impairment
Long-term Effects of Salvia Addiction
Because salvia is relatively new to the modern drug market, its long-term effects have not received much study. This uncertainty is reason enough to approach this drug with tremendous apprehension. However, it is known that similar drugs in the hallucinogenic family can produce long-term effects.
Long-term effects of hallucinogens include the following:
- Flashbacks, well after the initial drug usage
- Lowered motivation
- Alterations in brain chemistry
- Trouble focusing
- Personality changes
Salvia Effects on the Brain
Salvia’s active ingredient, salvinorin A, adheres to nerve cells and disrupts the communication lines between the brain and the spinal cord. To get a little more specific, salvia is called a kappa-opioid receptor agonist. These proteins have analgesic properties, which means they offer some relief from physical pain.
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You may not notice salvia withdrawal manifest itself physically. However, since salvia can be emotionally addictive, individuals might experience some mental distress when this drug is removed from their life. As a parent, this could mean your teen is moping around more than usual or is even showing signs of severe depression.
Salvia’s Legal Standing
Although salvia is not federally regulated as an illegal drug, the Drug Enforcement Administration lists the drug as a concern and a risk to people who misuse it. Many states have either completely banned consuming salvia or limited its use. The following states have classified Salvia Divinorum as a Schedule I substance, making the sale, possession, and use of the drug illegal:
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
The following states have limitations on the sale, use, and possession of salvia but have not classified it as a Schedule I substance. In some of these states, the drug is decriminalized, which means offenses relating to salvia result in misdemeanors:
- South Dakota
In some states, salvia is completely legal. Others have age restrictions. The following are the states where the drug is either legal or only restricted from minors:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
Please note that information about the legality of Salvia Divinorum in each state is based on the status as of May 7, 2018. Due to the lack of evidence that salvia leads to death, some states have not made the drug illegal and it’s also why the federal government has not passed a nationwide law prohibiting the sale, use, or possession of the drug. However, the extreme, psychedelic side effects can be dangerous if people attempt to operate a vehicle or other machinery while using the drug. Taking salvia also can be a path to experiment with and regularly misuse other drugs, with similar side effects.
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Salvia Addiction Treatment
Detox is often one of the first steps in drug addiction treatment; however, since salvia’s effects are considered to come on quickly and dissipate rapidly, generally speaking, detox may not be necessary. Detox is the safe removal of toxins from the body, and since salvia overdose is rare, detox for salvia may typically only require a person to be in a safe and secure environment with low levels of stimuli until the drug is fully purged from the body.
NIDA reports that currently there are no accepted medications for the treatment of hallucinogen abuse or addiction either. Therapies are helpful in discovering why a person is abusing drugs and helping to redirect these negative behaviors into more constructive ones. Educational opportunities during drug rehab can further explain the potential dangers of continued drug abuse to individuals and families, and preventative measures can discourage the continued use of drugs like salvia.
Family counseling can also help to rebuild and improve the family dynamic by fostering healthy communication skills and creating a positive support system. Improved stress management techniques and tools for coping with potential triggers are taught during group and individual sessions, further enhancing a person’s self-esteem and self-image during substance abuse treatment. Salvia may come from a plant, but it is still a mind-altering and hazardous drug that is abused recreationally for its hallucinogenic properties.
Reclaim Your Life From Salvia Addiction
Salvia addiction is a condition that can cause major health, social and economic problems that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up rehab center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from addiction with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.
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 Salvia. NIDA for Teens. National Institutes of Health, n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2016.
 DrugFacts: Hallucinogens. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). National Institutes of Health, Jan. 2016. Web. 9 Mar. 2016.
 Short and Long Term Effects | Teens | Survive – Stop Yourself. Stop a Friend. Partner Sites. Administrative Office of the Courts, n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2016.