Salvia is an herb of the Salvia divinorum plant that grows naturally in Oaxaca, Mexico. When consumed, it has a hallucinogenic effect that causes a person to experience sensory changes in sights and sounds. Street names for salvia include Maria Pastora, sage of the seers, diviner’s sage, Sally-D and magic mint. The nickname “mint” derives from the fact that salvia is a member of the mint family.
Currently, the United States does not recognize salvia as having any known medical purpose. Salvia is not a controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act at this present time. While many drugs are categorized according to “Schedule,” which describes their addictive potential and possible medicinal use, salvia does not belong to an existing category. Although it is not entirely deemed illegal in the United States, regulatory controls have been placed on salvia in numerous states throughout the country. These states include: Hawaii, Illinois, Nebraska and Tennessee. The United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) currently has the drug listed as a “drug of concern.”
The salvia plant has been used for centuries; initially by the Mazatec Indians in Mexico for its purported healing properties. Today, the plant is grown in Mexico, Central America and South America. Salvia is sold on the Internet in a variety of forms, including seeds, plant cuttings, leaves, liquid extracts and whole plants. Some smoke shops, also referred to as “head’ shops or tobacco shops, also sell salvia.
People use salvia by chewing its leaves or drinking the juices extracted from the salvia plant. Others may dry the plants’ leaves and roll them into cigarettes or place them into pipes. The drug can also be vaporized and inhaled using a special device. Users will sometimes drink alcohol while taking salvia to enhance the drug’s effects.
An estimated 1.8 million Americans have used Salvia in their lifetimes, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Young adults ages 18 to 25 were reported to have significantly more incidents of use than adults older than age 26. Studies also found that males are more likely to use the drug than females.
While many hallucinogenic drugs are considered to be “club” drugs, salvia users are more prone to using the drug within their homes, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
When a person smokes or ingests salvia, the active ingredient, Salvinorin A, activates nerve cells known as kappa opioid receptors, which create changes in the body.
Reported effects associated with using salvia include:
The media has compared salvia usage and its symptoms to the use of LSD. However, the substances do not possess similar chemical properties. Also, LSD’s effects can last up to 12 hours whereas the effects of salvia tend to subside within one or two hours.
Despite the fact that salvia has been used for thousands of years, research studies have not been conducted on its long-term effects. Currently, no studies have determined a direct link to the drug’s addictive potential, nor have any long-term problems resulting from salvia abuse been identified, according to the NIDA.
Because a large percentage of those who abuse salvia also suffer from a mental health disorder, an addiction specialist will often recommend first addressing the underlying mental illness through counseling and other therapies. This can have a positive effect on a person seeking sobriety. If an individual uses salvia and/or other drugs, a residential or outpatient drug treatment program can provide the psychological support necessary to assist them in overcoming an addiction or dependence of a drug.
Examples of interventions used to break a person’s salvia addiction include psychotherapy, as well as group and family therapies. A person may also participate in wellness activities, such as exercising and practicing stress management techniques whenever possible.
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