Salvia is one of the most popular of all of these substances, due to its extreme effects, its relatively short “high” period, and its legal nature. It was perhaps most infamously glorified in a video that featured Miley Cyrus acting bizarrely after its use.
Unfortunately, its increasing popularity doesn’t put a dent in how seriously this drug can impact a person’s mental health. The effects of salvia are severe and can cause temporary or even permanent changes in a person’s mental state. In this way, it’s no safer than LSD or other perception-altering substances.
What Is Salvia?
Salvia is a still-legal hallucinogenic drug (only Australia has criminalized it) that comes from processing salvia divinorum, a plant that is found in Mexico, Central America, and South America. For centuries, it was used by indigenous, tribal populations as a method of “divine sight,” fueling spiritual visions through its hallucinogenic effect. As a result, it is often called by the name “diviner’s sage,” though it is also known as magic mint, Sally-D, and Maria Pastora.
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According to the Center For Substance Abuse Research, the first known historical mention of salvia was by historian Jean B. Johnson in 1938 in use by a tribe called the Mazatecs that drank salvia tea to induce visions. However, it took until 2002 for scientists to discover how salvia worked. It activates a specific opiate receptor (the kappa site) in the mind, which puts it under the classification of a KOR agonist.
This is a major problem, because KOR agonists actually contribute to a variety of mental health problems, particularly those centered around perception. For example, people with schizophrenia often suffer from KOR agonists in their mind, as do those with Alzheimer’s. This link will be discussed in more depth below.
What Are Some Salvia Use Statistics?
Initially a fairly rare drug, salvia has been skyrocketing in use over the last few years. The previously mentioned Miley Cyrus video did a lot to fuel its popularity. However, the fact that it’s still legal and only partially regulated have also helped many people to try it.
The following statistics are some of the most alarming salvia use statistics available:
- About 75,000-100,000 people use salvia every year
- At least 3% of all men between 18-25 use salvia
- A shocking 5% of all high school seniors have used salvia
- Hundreds of salvia use videos exist on video sites like YouTube, glorifying the use of a dangerous substance: some videos have millions of views
- Less than half of the states in the country regulate salvia sales
These statistics tell a troubling tale, one that shows salvia use increasing. Its legality makes it a major draw for students, including high school and college-age students. This makes it much easier to obtain and use what many people assume is a fairly harmless substance, one with few long-term effects. They are wrong.
What Are The Typical Effects?
Dr. Mary E. Muscari of Medscape revealed some fairly depressing information about salvia use: “The typical age range for salvia users is 12 years through college age, but it has been used by children as young as 8 years of age.” Eight years old is far too young to shake off the severe effects caused by salvia. They could cause a severe change in their mind which could alter their life forever.
Though salvia affects everyone who uses it in different ways, the most common effects of smoking salvia include the following:
- Severe and crippling hallucinations
- Short-term memory loss
- Complete loss of coordination
- Difficulty speaking coupled with excessive laughter
- Restlessness, anxiety, and depression
- Confusion and dizziness
- Sudden mood swings
- Tremors in the body
Overdose on salvia is completely possible and it’s not pretty. A person who ingests too much salvia often falls into a state of complete psychosis. They become unpredictable, incoherent, aggressive, and desperate. This state lasts far longer than the typical salvia use length and can stretch into hours. Often, a person must be restrained or placed under temporary psychotic care so as not to hurt themselves or others until the overdose wears off.
How Long Does Salvia Last?
There are several stages to salvia use, each of which varies in length and intensity. After ingesting salvia (whether through smoking, eating, injecting, or drinking it), it takes about 20-60 seconds for the drug to begin taking effect. After this period has passed, a 1- to 2-minute period of “coming up” begins.
It is during this phase that the first effects of salvia will begin to become present. The user’s eyes will dilate and their speech and behaviors begin to grow erratic. Many people panic during this period, as their perception changes drastically, including increased thinking speed, visual and auditory warping, and erratic thoughts.
What follows this period is the two-minute “peak” period of salvia’s effects. If you’ve ever seen a salvia video online, it is usually this period that they capture. Here a person will lose all sense of control over their body and their mental state. It’s not unusual to see people fall over or twitch uncontrollably. Often, they’ll struggle to speak or may speak nothing but gibberish.
This phase is usually the most traumatic for people, as they will be trapped in a state that they can’t control. Their thoughts will race down many strange avenues and become erratic to the point of instability. Paranoia and depression may pair with overwhelming joy and agitation. Eventually, a 5-8 minute “plateau” will occur, during which the effects no longer increase in severity.
That’s an 8- to 15-minute period in which a person lacks control over their behaviors. After the plateau, it takes 15-30 minutes to totally come down from the drug, during which time your perception will slowly return to normal.
All in all, it takes about 30-60 minutes to take a salvia trip. This rate will vary based on a person’s height and weight (heavier and taller people usually have shorter trips), as well as their experience with salvia. Typically, a person emerges from that period with no feelings of “hangover” or dizziness. However, they’ve seriously altered their perception in a way that their mind will never forget.
Is Using Salvia Dangerous?
Adolescents and even adults who use salvia take for granted the risk factor involved in use. The quick nature of its effects as well as its legality fool them into thinking there is no danger. Sadly, this isn’t the case and an increasing number of young people are falling victim to the hidden dangers of salvia and the ways in which it can stimulate psychotic episodes.
When salvia stimulates the mind, it causes a severe break with reality based on changed perception. This can cause a person to panic and feel an intense sense of vulnerability, fear, and agitation. It can also upset the chemical balance in their brain, leading to a suddenly unbalanced state of mind. Use of salvia has been known to simulate the effects of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, two difficult mental states that are exacerbated under the drug’s mental control.
Even worse is the fact that salvia is actually more potent than many illegal hallucinogens. The Telegraph, a British newspaper, reported that salvia is considered to be one of, if not the most potent available hallucinogenic drug, and that it is often marketed in head shops in varieties that advertise a potency of “50 times or higher” the normal effect of salvia.
That’s a seriously dangerous dosage, one that is hurting an increasing number of people. The same Telegraph article reported that 10 percent of the United Kingdom’s student body had at least tried salvia. That number is mirrored in US college students, and is likely to grow only higher if the substance remains legal and more people post misleading videos online.
As mentioned above, salvia use triggers many of the same agonists that contribute to schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. While it’s too early to state that salvia use could accelerate or even trigger these conditions, the connection is troubling and worth noting.
Is Salvia Addictive?
One misconception that many people suffer from about hallucinogens is that they aren’t addictive. Generally, substances such as mushrooms and LSD aren’t physically addictive, but DrugAbuse.gov says that others are. For example, PCP is a highly addictive drug that causes a dangerous sense of derangement in a person that can make them completely uncontrollable and violent.
Studies on salvia addictiveness have yet to be conducted. There are no known overdose death cases and few, if any, instances of people entering rehab to treat salvia addiction. However, people have been known to do dangerous things while on salvia, leading to injury and death. Not only that, but it affects opiate receptors, which is troubling, as addictive opioid drugs like heroin also work on these receptors.
What Treatment Options Are Available?
Treatment for salvia abuse focuses on soothing the dangerous mental instability that can result from too much use. Typically, a person who suffers from mental problems due to salvia use will receive some type of medication to help treat their symptoms, such as antipsychotics or anti-anxiety medicines.
However, psychological assessment and counseling sessions are often required to help a person work through any traumatic experience they may have undergone. The severe nature of salvia hallucinations can be troubling for a person to handle, leading to post-traumatic stress disorder, severe depression, suicidal thoughts, and worse.
Get The Help You Need Today
If you or someone you love is suffering from a problem with abusing salvia, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Vertava Health today. We can help in finding a good counselor or rehab center that will assist you or your loved one to work through drug abuse and addiction problems and emerge as a healthy and happy person.