It seems like each year, more and more people are just looking oaddictut for a different kind of “high” that they turn to alternative drugs. Some of which may be marked as “safe” or even “natural” but they are still labeled illicit. One of these drugs is salvia; what is it? Where did it come from?

Breaking Down Salvia

Salvia, or Salvia divinorum, is an herb that is part of the mint family. It is commonly found in the Southern parts of Mexico as well as South and Central America. This plant’s leaves, stem and seeds are often sold online. It can be smoked in bongs or pipes and even be infused in drinks or swallowed. Since it is an herb, this plant can also be chewed and once the materials are dried and vaporized, it often has hallucinogenic effects. 

Since it has hallucinogenic effects, the Salvia is very potent once consumed. It alters perceptions and often results in a distorted reality, creating auditory and visual hallucinations. The user cannot control their body movements and, at the same time, creates fear and anxiety which you may know as a “bad trip”. This is because of the active ingredient found in this herb is called salvinorin. Salvinorin has an atypical hallucinogenic property that binds to the kappa opioid receptors in the brain. This will then result in the rapid onset of a short-lived high that could begin within a few minutes of consuming the drug. The effect usually lasts for about 30 minutes to a few hours depending on the quantity and amount of drug consumed. 

In the United States, salvia is not an approved medical drug, nor is it used for medicinal purposes. However, it is listed under the Drug Enforcement Administration as a “drug of concern” since it has the potential to be abused by people. In 2010, it was reported that 37 states tried to regulate the sale of salvia, but was still available online. Below are some of the many street names salvia goes by:

  • Diviner’s Sage
  • Magic mint
  • Maria Pastora
  • Sally-D

Salvia is not usually addictive but if it is used regularly then it can cause concern since it has hallucinogenic effects. It is however sold as a recreational drug to some people. Although it has been found that salvia has not been thoroughly studied, it does come with neurological, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular effects to the user. That is why more studies are needed in order to understand the full capacity and nature of this drug. 

How is it Used?

Unlike marijuana, salvia cannot be used in joints or rolled cigarettes. This is because the dried leaves of the herb are not as potent compared to marijuana. That is why the leaves must be fresh in order to create an extract from them. It can be used in water bongs and can be infused in drinks as well as vaporizer pens. As mentioned, it can also be chewed but the dried leaves are not as potent. There are still some hallucinogenic effects but are milder when compared to the use of fresh leaves. 

The Effects of Salvia on Your Brain and Body

There is still no clear explanation as to how salvia affects your brain, but it is believed that the main ingredient, salvinorin, attaches itself to nerve cells in your brain and creates hallucinogenic effects. These side effects could take over within 10 minutes of consuming the drug. The effects are usually short-lived but results may also vary since some people can experience the high for a few hours. Some side-effects may include:

  • Auditory, visual hallucinations as users can experience seeing brighter colors, extreme shapes, and figures as well as vivid colors.
  • Slurred speech
  • Having an “out of the body” experience
  • Altered perception of surroundings
  • Anxiety
  • Unexplained fear
  • Uncontrolled laughing

While there are physical side effects seen on the user, it can also cause nausea and vomiting, loss of control over coordination and motor functions, irregular heart rate and dizziness, especially for first-time users. There are also other signs and symptoms that could be labeled as alarming or can cause for concern. Once the user exhibits the following behavior or side effects, you must immediately seek intervention. Here’s what you need to look out for:

  • Drug dependence
  • Using on a daily basis
  • Socially withdrawn and secretive
  • Uses other drugs to keep the effects of salvia even longer
  • Mood swings
  • Takes on risky behaviors or is more prone to accidents
  • Eating pattern has changed (either eats more or less than usual)
  • Sudden change in work/studies performance
  • Loss of interest in physical appearance
  • Cannot focus 
  • Forgetfulness

Treatment for Salvia Abuse

One of the most common treatments for people who are addicted to salvia is detoxification. However, since the effects of this drug happen quickly and briefly, detox may not be necessary. There have been no reports of salvia overdose, so detoxing from this drug is rare, but must be done in a safe and secure environment. Low levels of stimuli are also needed in order to purge the drug out of the user’s system. 

Besides detox, therapy can also help a person who has abused salvia (or other types of drugs), allowing them to redirect their negative behaviors to something more productive. Giving education during therapy sessions can also help the user understand the risks of drug addiction and discourage them from using substances like salvia. Improving the communication skills between loved ones and the user can also help improve their case. Stress management is also important for the user as this teaches them to improve their self-esteem and self-image while getting the treatment. 

Final Thoughts

Yes, salvia is plant-based, but it can still be addicting. Since it has hallucinogenic effects, it could be something that people will be looking forward to using over and over again specially since it is not entirely regulated yet. So if you or someone you know is addicted to salvia, it is best to seek help immediately. By doing this, you can help yourself or your loved one to turn their life around and not spiral down into the destructive effects of drug abuse. Stay away from addiction, it only ruins lives.

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