Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Patricia Sullivan, MD MPH
Sometimes it is difficult to know whether a particular substance is harmful or not. There may be a lack of thorough research and it may remain inconclusive by medical experts.
Salvia is one of those drugs in which people are not entirely sure about. Particularly, medical professionals have not yet found whether it should be deemed safe for use. Salvia, or Salvia Divinorum, is a plant grown in South America, that is known to produce hallucinogenic effects.
Nevertheless, it’s effects and history are extremely interesting. Let’s dive into the facts about salvia here.
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The History and Legality of Salvia
As a hallucinogenic, salvia has been used in ceremonies by Mazatec Indians for centuries. Traditionally, the method in which it is used is through indigestion. The juices get extracted from the plant and made into a tea. It is still used today for religious rituals by the Mazatec people. Although, now instead of indigestion, more people use it by smoking it. Whether someone ingests it or smokes it, the person will feel the same effects.
Like with many substances, salvia has found its way into the United States with a growing audience. The drug has gained popularity among teens and young adults. Part of its popularity is the properties associated with the drug. For example, salvinorin A is an active ingredient and is considered one of the most potent naturally occurring psychoactive drugs. This ingredient can mimic other drugs such as LSD and ecstasy, both of which have a high number of users in the United States.
Prohibited Use Of Salvia
Another reason for its popularity is due to the fact that it is not illegal on the federal level. However, a number of states in the U.S. have passed laws to regulate its use. This is also true with a number of other countries around the world. With this being the case, those who are regular users feel no risk at all when taking the drug as it is considered a “legal” high. Taking this into consideration, the Drug Enforcement Agency has classified this drug as a hallucinogen and has not promoted its consumption.
Many other states have deemed the substance as a Schedule I drug. This means people caught using it in a state that deems it illegal, can be either fined thousands of dollars, be served jail time, or both.
States that have prohibited the use of salvia include:
Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.
The Effects of Salvia When Taken
To decide whether the salvia drug is safe, it is important to understand the effects when a person consumes it.
As mentioned before, salvinorin A is an incredibly potent property in saliva. It causes the hallucinatory effects of the substance.
When a person takes in the substance, salvinorin A gets absorbed into the body through the oral mucus or the lungs, and from there, it starts to enter the bloodstream.
A person will experience psychoactive effects only when enough salvinorin A is absorbed into the bloodstream.
From some studies that have been conducted, it is thought that this property attaches itself to a person’s nerve cells—in turn, producing the hallucinogen reaction for the user.
High concentrations of the substance, when used become localized in the brain, particularly in the cerebellum and the visual cortex. This is how salvia moves within the body, but now we need to look at the actual effects.
Effects Of Salvia
A person can experience the effects of the substance within a short amount of time. Usually, this can take less than a minute.
The effect of salvia hits can be compared to turning on a switch inside a person. One minute a person is experiencing things normally to the next minute they experience an altered state of reality and self-awareness.
A person will experience these feelings from anywhere between 8 min to 20 min. This can be enticing for some users, particularly first-time users, since they know the effects won’t last too long.
During this time, salvia changes what is called ‘interoception.’ This can be defined as what a person feels inside and outside their body.
A person may feel disorientated and won’t figure out what is real or isn’t. Because of this, there is a split on how people view the experience of salvia. Some find it a pleasant or spiritual experience, while others find it too intense or disturbing.
Potential Symptoms and Risks of Salvia
While studies continue to be conducted on the long-term effects of salvia, the available information comes from animal testing. From what is found through the animals, similar symptoms can appear on a human.
The drug, if abused, may lead to a deterioration of the body and brain.
First, we shall look at what salvia does to a person’s body. A person may feel tired, nauseous, dizziness, loss of control of their motor skills, and an irregular heart rate.
Depending on how a person takes salvia can cause different effects on the user’s body. For example, if they smoke it, their lungs may become damaged in the process.
Next, we’ll see how it affects the brain. Symptoms can include slurred speech, uncontrollable laughing, anxiety, fear, difficulty concentrating, confusion, loss of memory, and a hindrance in learning. If one does develop these symptoms from the use of salvia, it can have a damaging impact on their professional and personal life.
Using Salvia With Limited Research
The ‘good’ news is that salvia hasn’t been reported to cause any deaths nor has it led to any overdoses. Not only that but there isn’t any association with a person becoming violent.
While acts of violence are possible, especially if the person has a history of violence, there is no evidence to support this link.
However, salvia can leave you in an incapacitated state. Any substance that can leave you vulnerable has the potential to put you in a harmful situation.
Additionally, so far, reports do not exist of it being a highly addictive substance. Especially when comparing it to other substances.
So this can mean a person may not struggle with feeling dependent or fear withdrawal if they don’t use it. The symptoms of salvia may seem mild compared to other substances.
However, it should be noted that research is still being made on it, and one should always take that into consideration.
Where Salvia Stands
So now we have to answer the big question, and that is, “Is Salvia Safe?” Despite the conflicting evidence, research leans towards it being unsafe.
The reality is that salvia is a substance that doesn’t allow the person to function properly. In other words, people wouldn’t take it when driving a car or going to work, so why should it be considered something safe?
A substance that inhibits your physical or emotional abilities is dangerous in it. Anytime you take something that inhibits your body, you automatically put yourself at risk.
Staying On The Safe Side
It can be important to stay cautious when putting something foreign into your body with limited research. Since there is no evidence of the long-term impacts of saliva, then one should stay wary until proven otherwise. This should be the case for anything unknown, especially for substances that can alter a person’s mind.
Additionally, experts in substance addiction know that one drug can lead to a person using another one. Even if salvia is found to be safe, there is a good chance it could lead to another substance that isn’t.
If you are thinking about trying salvia, you should ask yourself why you are willing to take a substance, regardless of the inconclusive studies.
As we know, most of the time, taking any substance is a way for people to escape or cope with themselves or their environment.
Instead of using a substance to cope with your reality, you can learn to overcome whatever difficulties you face. A person can learn these ways through therapy or counseling.
You can benefit more than from these methods than any substance. Staying sober is one of the best ways to change their lives.
Getting Help for The Use of Salvia and Other Drugs
Hopefully, shortly, we will have a clearer understanding of salvia’s long-term effects on people. Even though salvia’s full effects and risks remain unknown, it is still treatable.
One highly effective method is going to a rehab recovery facility that will provide an effective treatment program. These treatment programs come custom-designed, allowing the best chances to recover.
A rehab facility is a judgment-free area where each client will confront their addiction head-on and have support from other addicts in the same recovery process.
Remember that it is never too early or too late for recovery to begin. For those of you who have problems associated with salvia, or other substances, a rehab recovery center can help treat you.
Please call (385) 327-7418 for more information on drug rehab for hallucinogenic or other drugs.
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