Salvia is psychoactive plant that is classified as a hallucinogen, a group of drugs that alter the users thoughts, feelings and perceptions. Salvia’s active ingredient, salvinorin A, induces a brief period during which the user experiences hallucinations. In recent years it has become increasingly popular with teens and young adults and instances of salvia abuse have been on the rise.
Salvia, a member of the mint family, is native to the northeastern Sierra Mazateca mountain region of Mexico. It can also be grown successfully in other areas including parts of the United States. It was used ritualistically by native peoples who also considered it to have healing properties.
Street names for Salvia include Maria Pastora, Sage of the Seers, Diviner’s Sage, Sally-D and Magic Mint. It can be ingested in a number of different ways. Fresh leaves can be chewed or they can be dried then smoked either as a cigarette or in a water pipe such as a bong or a hookah. If the leaves are crushed the extract can be mixed into a liquid.
Once taken the drug’s active ingredient salvinorin A is released into the bloodstream and travels to the brain. It then binds to parts of nerve cells called kappa opioid receptors producing hallucinatory effects. These may last for only a few seconds or as long as thirty minutes. The effects include visual hallucinations, feelings of traveling through space or time, and a sense of detachment from the surrounding environment. Other symptoms of salvia use include loss of coordination, slurred speech, dizziness, nausea and chills.
The Prevalence Of Salvia
There is no federal law prohibiting the sale or use of salvia although the DEA has labeled it “a drug of concern” and is considering making it a scheduled drug. Some states have placed legal restrictions on Salvia. In those states it can be purchased in head shops or tobacco stores. It can also be easily obtained online. Because it’s so easy to get those engaged in salvia abuse are often young people. A 2008 study found that from a sample of 1516 college student respondents, a pattern of use emerged that indicates that salvia is indeed becoming a significant member of the list of drugs used, with 4.4% of students reporting using salvia at least once within the past 12 months.
Monitoring the Future conducted a survey funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It reported that in 2012, 1.4% of 8th graders, 2.5% of 10th graders, and 4.4% of 12th graders used Salvia in the past year.
In 2011, a video appeared showing Miley Cyrus smoking a bong at her eighteenth birthday party. She claimed to be smoking Salvia. It brought widespread attention to salvia abuse among young people.
17-year-old Brett Chidester mentioned Salvia in a suicide note after he took his own life in 2006. Brett’s mother believes that his salvia abuse had damaged him psychologically. Although it’s unclear what role the drug may have had in Brett’s suicide, his death certificate lists Salvia use as a contributing cause of his demise. In 2006 Brett’s home state of Delaware enacted a statute known as Brett’s Law. It classifies salvia divinorum as a Schedule I controlled substance. Possession, use, or consumption of it is now a class B misdemeanor punishable by a $500.00 fine.