Salvia is a hallucinogenic herb that can cause changes in mood, vision and body sensations. Individuals who use the drug can experience intense visual hallucinations and an altered sense of time.
For centuries, the Mazatec people in southern Mexico have used the substance for healing and religious purposes. In recent years, salvia has become a popular recreational drug in the United States.
According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 5.3 million Americans aged 12 or older have tried salvia. Young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 used salvia at a higher rate than any other age demographic surveyed in the report.
No deaths associated with salvia have been reported, but a salvia trip can result in a number of unsettling health consequences. Research on the plant’s addictiveness and long-term health effects remains ongoing.
Salvinorin A, the active ingredient in salvia, is a highly potent hallucinogen. When the compound enters the bloodstream, psychedelic effects can occur.
Salvia can be used in several ways:
The duration of a salvia high varies depending on the method of use. When its dried leaves are smoked, effects can last up to 15 minutes. But chewing Salvinorin A extractions can produce hallucinations that last from one to two hours. When the substance is left in the mouth, the effects become stronger over time.
It is not known if salvia is addictive because research on the addiction potential of the plant is limited. People are unlikely to become dependent on salvia, but repeated use of the drug can be problematic.
Salvia abuse can cause distressing physical and psychological side effects. According to a 2018 study published in the journal Open Access Emergency Medicine, Salvinorin A has a potency similar to that of LSD. Being high on the herb has been likened to a strong marijuana intoxication.
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Salvia has no approved medical uses in the United States, and it is not regulated by the Controlled Substances Act. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration has considered classifying salvia as a Schedule I drug alongside marijuana, LSD and heroin.
While salvia is not illegal under federal law, more than 25 states have outlawed buying, selling or possessing the drug. States that have banned the herb include Delaware, Illinois, Missouri and North Dakota.
The effects of salvia can include a variety of physical and psychological symptoms. The herb acts on the part of the brain that controls perception. While more research is needed to identify any long-term health problems associated with salvia use, the drug can cause several distressing symptoms.
People who use salvia often report seeing various patterns and shapes. Hallucinations may include sensations of floating, flying or traveling through time and space. However, visual hallucinations from salvia fade when interrupted by light or noise.
No salvia-related hospitalizations have been reported. But psychedelic drugs can cause dangerous behaviors. For example, being high on hallucinogens such as salvia can lead to accidental injuries and driving under the influence.
In a 2011 study in The Journal of Emergency Medicine, researchers conducted a retrospective review of the California Poison Control System’s experience with salvia intoxications over a 10-year period.
The authors stated that patients intoxicated on salvia require aggressive monitoring and supportive care. Most patients who exhibited severe complications in the study, including seizures and mental instability, combined salvia with other drugs.
If someone is experiencing severe hallucinations caused by salvia or other hallucinogens, medical attention may be needed. The individual should be placed in a safe, secure environment under direct supervision. Doctors may provide antidepressant therapy to those dealing with depressive symptoms.
To learn more about salvia abuse, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline. This 24/7 hotline provides information about a variety of drugs, including salvia. All calls are confidential.
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