A potent hallucinogenic herb, Salvia divinorum or salvia has been used for hundreds of years by the Mazatec Indians, living in Oaxaca, Mexico for healing and divination. What makes the drug unique is its ability to make its users experience both psychological and physiological effects. However, for some, the drug does not seem to induce pleasant effects on their bodies as they feel changes in gravity because of which they get pushed or pulled constantly and experience changes in bodily forms like limbs splitting into different directions. Some of the visual and auditory hallucinations experienced by its users include depth-perception, perspective distortions and hallucinations.
According to Dr Peter H Addy, an associate research scientist in Anesthesiology at the Yale School of Medicine, the main effect of salvia is “tactile hallucinations” – a false perception of physical contact with an imaginary object as well as “visual and tactile synesthesia” or mirror-touch synesthesia where watching another person being touched produces a similar effect on another. Unlike morphine or heroin that increases the dopamine level in the body, leading to euphoric effects, salvia reduces the dopamine level that causes dysphoria – “more of a disassociation of the warmth and familiarity with your body and human connections.” Unique and mysterious, salvia is so intense that for the user, one moment “everything is fine” and moments later “everything is chaotic and different.”
Legal in some countries, salvia and its active constituents are illegal in the United States, even though they have not been classified under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
Not a safe alternative to other drugs
So what is salvia and what makes it so popular? A hallucinogenic herb, salvia serves as a popular recreational drug as it mimics the effects of LSD and ecstasy. Its effects like producing hallucinations and distorting the reality make it a favored choice for teens to escape reality. Though considered to be safe than other illegal drugs, too much of it can cause teens to indulge in reckless behavior in public, putting them and others at risk. The drug may also cause emotional dependency, forcing users to take frequent and higher doses.
Derived from a plant that belongs to the mint family, salvia need not be treated before consuming. It can be easily grown indoors and used by anyone. However, salvia is not so popular. Some of the negative symptoms experienced by its users include extreme anxiety, general confusion, delusions and feelings of impending doom. As not much research has been done on the drug, its long-term effects on humans, including its addictive properties, remain unknown.
Though the drug may not be considered addictive, regular use of the substance, especially among teens, is a cause for concern. What makes the drug dangerous is the lack of research into its potential effects and only a few reported injuries caused due to its consumption. Irrespective of the nature of the substance, addiction to drugs can be a debilitating experience for anyone, including teens. While the use of salvia has declined among teens in the U.S., in 2017, 0.9 percent 10th graders and 1.5 percent 12th graders consumed salvia.
Treatment for salvia abuse
If your teen is showing signs of drug abuse, including salvia abuse, it is imperative to seek professional help. A comprehensive treatment for salvia addiction includes medical support to help teens break the addiction cycle and teach them effective tools to overcome cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, treatment for teen salvia abuse may also include behavioral therapies to help teens identify the causes triggering their addiction, emotional support and healthier alternatives to overcome stress and/or anxiety.
A leading teen rehab facility, Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego provides age-appropriate care to teen boys and girls, aged 12 to 17, for a variety of mental health and addictive disorders, including salvia abuse. To learn more about our programs, call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online with our admissions specialist.