Salvia (Salvia divinorum or S. divinorum) is an herb that belongs to the mint family. A native plant to areas of the Sierra Mazateca region of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, salvia is considered to be one of the strongest naturally occurring hallucinogens. Also referred to as “diviner’s sage,” salvia is currently listed as a “drug of concern” by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Salvia can easily be purchased in most states at “head” shops, also called smoke shops, or on the internet.

Methods Of Salvia Abuse

For centuries, salvia has been used by the Mazatec Indians in religious ceremonies for its ability to produce visions. Visual and auditory hallucinations can result from drinking tea brewed from salvia leaves, smoking a cigar-like quid made from fresh leaves, or sucking or chewing on the leaves.

Smoking salvia leaves rolled in cigarettes or placed in water pipes (hookahs) produces strong effects within one or two minutes, which last about 30 minutes or less. Chewing on the salvia leaves allows the main psychoactive ingredient, salvinorin A, to be absorbed into the bloodstream, which produces less intense effects within about 15 minutes and lasts up to three hours.

Salvia Medical Uses

Although salvia is currently not approved for treating any medical conditions, it is sometimes taken for joint pain, bloating, headaches and diarrhea. Despite the potential medical uses of the drug, insufficient evidence exists for its safety, efficacy and benefits, reported WebMD.

In The Brain

Salvia’s main psychoactive ingredient produces its hallucinogenic effects by activating specific proteins in the brain and body. Unlike other hallucinogens, salvia does not affect serotonin receptors; salvinorin A attaches to and activates the kappa opiate receptors (KOR) and is considered a KOR agonist.

KOR receptors are involved in human perception, pain awareness, consciousness and mood. Although KOR receptors are one of four different opioid receptors, they differ from the other opioid receptors in that they are not associated with reducing pain like, for example, morphine and hydrocodone.

Salvia’s Effects

Salvia produces short-lived, intense psychedelic and subjective effects. Common side effects of salvia include loss of coordination, slurred speech, sensations and hallucinations. Other short-term symptoms of salvia, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), include:

  • Psychedelic-like visual distortions (e.g., perceptions of vivid colors, shapes and body movements)
  • Changes in a person’s perception of reality and sense of self
  • Talkativeness
  • Uncontrollable laughter
  • Heightened mood
  • Cartoon-like imagery
  • Feelings of detachment or loss of contact from reality
  • Recollection of memories
  • Hallucinations of merging with or becoming objects
  • Out-of-body experiences
  • Altered perceptions of time and space (e.g., feeling two locations at once)
  • Sweating
  • Concentration and coordination difficulties
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Feeling uneasy
  • Tiredness
  • Memory loss
  • Flushing

Withdrawal Symptoms Of Salvia

Salvia abuse is not currently associated with withdrawal effects and there are no reported overdoses from taking the drug. However, a 2011 study in the Journal of Medicine reported that salvia can cause gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and neurological effects when used alone or in combination with alcohol or other drugs.

Long-term Effects

Salvia is currently considered to have a low potential for abuse and salvia addiction is unlikely due to its short-lived effects, but the NIDA added that there lacks evidence on the ability of salvia to produce dependence or long-term physical or psychological effects.

Salvia can also contribute to coordination, learning and memory problems, and can have other potential unknown effects, which can have dangerous consequences, especially when driving. Further research is needed to clarify its safety, efficacy, addictive potential and long-term effects.

Salvia Addiction

There is currently not enough information available on the ability of salvia to produce addiction. Because salvia is fast-acting, it is considered to have a low addictive and abuse potential.

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Sovereign Health of Arizona provides individualized treatment for women who have substance use disorders, mental disorders and co-occurring conditions. Evidence-based and complementary treatment options offered to women are comprehensive and individualized based on thorough medical, biopsychosocial and substance abuse assessments provided to women upon their admissions.

Women who have substance use disorders at Sovereign Health of Arizona’s Chandler facility are offered treatments such as:

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Therapists at Sovereign Health of Arizona are trauma-trained to provide specialized treatments to women who have been affected by trauma and/or abuse. We also include opportunities for women to attend yoga and meditation classes, go on gym outings and participate in other recreational activities. Treatment at Sovereign Health of Arizona includes a combination of individual, group and family therapy.

We also offer group therapy that focuses on various topics to improve women’s health and well-being. Some of the groups offered at Sovereign Health of Arizona include:

  • Process group therapy
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  • Anger management

For more information about Sovereign Health of Arizona’s Chandler facility for women with substance use disorders, contact our 24/7 helpline.

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