What is Salvia?
Salvia (salvia divinorum) is a psychoactive sage plant that’s found in the mountainous regions of southwestern Mexico where it’s ceremonially used for its ability to alter consciousness.1-3 Salvia is a dissociative, which is a type of hallucinogen that makes the user feel as if they are disconnected from their body and the environment.4,5
Salvia leaves look similar to mint leaves.3 Dried or fresh leaves are typically chewed, smoked, or brewed into tea.1,3
Street names for salvia include: shepherdess’s herb, diviner’s sage, maria pastora, magic mint, and Sally-D.1,3
Salvia nor its active ingredient salvinorin A are scheduled under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, however, several states have passed legislation controlling its use.3,6 Salvia is often purchased online and is typically used by teenagers and young adults 18 to 25 years old.6
Effects of Salvia
Effects of salvia begin fairly quickly, often between 30 seconds and 10 minutes.5 Salvia produces hallucinations and changes in the visual perception, including seeing bright lights, vivid colors, shapes, as well as body movement or object distortions.3,6 Individual experiences vary, but users typically experience a feeling of detachment from one’s body.1,6 Changes in mood have also been reporting and may include increased talking, laughing, fidgeting and paranoia.5,6
Effects typically last for approximately 30 minutes and generally less than 2 hours; the intensity and duration of its effects is dependent on dosage.5,6
Adverse side effects may include:3,5
- Loss of coordination.
- Slurred speech.
- Uncontrollable laughter.
- Increased heart rate.
At high doses, salvia can make a person completely dissociated and disoriented, which may induce harmful behavior or a loss of consciousness.5,7 Persisting effects of anxiety and psychosis have been noted but does not appear to be common.5-7 Memory impairment has also been reported following salvia use.8
Salvia Abuse and Treatment
Salvia is generally considered to have a low abuse potential, given its short duration of action and lack of an identified withdrawal syndrome.6 People who have used salvia have reported pleasant effects and positive experiences, however, which could lead to repetitive use.6,7
Common signs of a substance use disorder due to salvia includes:
- Cravings and urges to use salvia.
- Unable to stop or cut down use of salvia.
- Taking increased amounts of salvia to achieve the desired effect.
- Spending more time and money to obtain, use, or recover from salvia.
- Being unable to manage responsibilities at home, work, and school.
- Continued use of salvia, even if it is causing problems with relationships.
- Missing work, school, or social activities because of salvia use.
- Continued use of salvia, even after harmful consequences.
- Continued use of salvia, even if it aggravates physical or psychological issues.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when going without salvia.
Behavioral therapy can be used to treat addiction to dissociative drugs like salvia.1
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration & Office of the Surgeon General. (2016). Salvia. Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health.
- Diaz J. L. (2013). Salvia divinorum: A psychopharmacological riddle and a mind-body prospect. Current Drug Abuse Reviews, 6(1), 43–53.
- S. Drug Enforcement Agency. (2020). Drugs of Abuse: A DEA Resource Guide: 2020 Edition.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Research Report: Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs.
- Miller, S. C., Fiellin, D. A., Rosenthal, R. N., & Saitz, R. (2019). The ASAM Principles of Addiction Medicine, Sixth Edition. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.
- Mahendran, R., Lim, H. A., Tan, J. Y., Chua, S. M., & Winslow, M. (2016). Salvia divinorum: An overview of the usage, misuse, and addiction processes. Asia-Pacific Psychiatry, 8(1), 23–31.
- Baggott MJ, Erowid E, Erowid F, Galloway GP, Mendelson J. Use patterns and self-reported effects of Salvia divinorum: An internet-based survey. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2010;111(3):250‐256.
- MacLean, K. A., Johnson, M. W., Reissig, C. J., Prisinzano, T. E., & Griffiths, R. R. (2013). Dose-related effects of salvinorin A in humans: Dissociative, hallucinogenic, and memory effects. Psychopharmacology, 226(2), 381–392.
- Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. (5th ed.). (2013). Washington D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.