Saturday, April 5, 2008

Salvia: The Mystery Drug

Tripping with the kappa opiate receptor.

Over the past few years, a little known and highly unusual psychedelic drug has claimed the interest of drug users and drug scientists alike. Salvia divinorum, a green, leafy plant native to the Mazateca region of Mexico, provides its users with a short but intense hallucinogenic experience. A member of the mint family, it is not among the ornamental garden plants sold under the name Salvia at local nurseries.

The high is unlike that from LSD or psychedelic mushrooms, users say, nor is it anything like the experience of smoking marijuana. Salvia is not currently controlled by federal law, but dozens of states have moved to outlaw cultivation and sale of the plant, which is currently freely available for purchase on the Internet.

As an herb with psychedelic properties, Salvia divinorum is of pharmaceutical interest because of its uncommon affinity for opium/endorphin receptors—specifically the kappa opioid receptor. Most drugs with classical “psychotomimetic” properties, like LSD and MDMA, are highly selective for the 5-HT(2A) serotonin receptor.

Salvia is not one of these. Like ibogaine, another hallucinogenic shrub with a weak affinity for kappa opiate receptors, Salvia’s active ingredient--Salvinorin A--causes psychoactive effects not usually associated with stimulation of the brain’s internal opioid system. Previous research had identified a few such compounds, such as enadoline, which produced similar hallucinogenic effects.

The pharmaceutical industry has already taken a look at the kappa-opioid agonists in the ongoing search for new painkillers, and has so far discovered the usual psychedelic trap of too many unpredictable side effects for a commercial medication.

Classified as an “atypical” psychedelic, the salvia high is intense, dream-like, and short-lived, tapering off after about 30 minutes. An ounce of salvia in leaf form sells for as little as $40, but more concentrated liquid extracts sell for as much as $60 per gram.

Salvia’s addictive potential is low to nonexistent. No hallucinogen such as LSD or peyote has ever been found to be addictive in the classical sense.

Nonetheless, fearing that the inexpensive plant might become “the next marijuana,” as an Associated Press report put it last month, 24 states have passed, or are considering, legislation to restrict access to salvia. Elsewhere, sale of the drug has been restricted in Spain, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, Australia, and other countries. In the AP article, a Florida state legislator alleged—with unintended irony: “As soon as we make one drug illegal, kids start looking around for other drugs they can buy legally. This is just the next one.”

There are many reasons why Salvia divinorum is not likely to be “the next one.” According to drug expert Rick Doblin of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), salvia “tastes terrible” and is “not going to be extremely popular.” The popular drug information site EROWID describes salvia as “more scary than fun” for many users, concluding that, whether smoked or swallowed, the plant is “aversive for many who try it.” Like ibogaine, salvia is no party drug. It can result in confusion, dizziness, depersonalization, and all the other hallmarks of a “bad trip.”

A related question is the extent to which kappa opioid receptor boosters might reduce the craving for addictive drugs. Ibogaine has been touted for having precisely this effect on heroin addicts and others. However, an early study of kappa opioid receptor-active compounds did not find any reduction in self-administration of cocaine.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) is studying salvia. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), citing salvia as a “drug of concern,” is evaluating it.

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Anonymous said...

Very interesting article, well researched and balanced. From experience from my circle of freinds, salvia can indeed cause 'bad trips', especially when taken in high doses. It does not cause a physical high, although taking is usually enjoyable due to what is experienced.

True, it isnt the next cannabis, for several reasons; Its too expensive (though that may change), its effects wear off after quite a short time, and due to its psychedelic nature, it is not to everyones taste.

Although, on the note of it tasting bad: it is usually smoked (it has no taste then), and most drugs taste equally bad when eaten!

Dirk Hanson said...

Thanks for your post.

I thought it was important to point out, as you confirm, that this isn't a drug like pot, and it shouldn't be taken lightly.

I've caught some heat for doing a post on salvia at all--a lot of users are hoping to keep the salvia scene underground and away from the authorities, but I think it's already too late for that.

Dave said...

Salvia reminds me a lot of acid and mushrooms. I've become a serious salvia head at 47. Everyone should try it now. Acid once was legal.

Dirk Hanson said...

"Acid once was legal."

Indeed it was. And in much the same way that indiscriminate public use of LSD soured average citizens on that drug, YouTube videos of 1st-time salvia users is going to cause public officials to put the hammer down on this one as well.

Anonymous said...

I am doing research on salvia and am writing articles on salvia. I am going to write 50 articles on various topics on salvia. I want someone to review my article. I will be grateful to you.This is my blog

lisa said...

very interesting. i am extremely curious about salivia since i have read some of the adds for it and wasent sure what it was. i am looking at from two points one since i am a CASAC-t i want to know about all new dfrugs out there and their potential for addiction especially in teens . at the moment i am disabled and not working until my surgary. i have 3 slipped disks and sciatica and chronic pain. i would like to be off opioid pain meds so i am also curious about it for its supposed analgesic properties. during the time after my sugary i will be comming off opiods and it will be painful for me. i'd like to try it but dont want to "trip". Thanks for your article and i will also check out the last commenters also. do you have an opinion about using it in this way and is it really not addictive?

Anonymous said...

Ok im an addict and all drugs are addictive even though they are proven not to be its all bullshit. don't try it because what if you do get addicted and end up dead or in rehab which will happen trust an addict

Anonymous said...

im sorry but this article should be concidered irrevilent as you cant get an effect from swallowed salvorin A as it is broken down in the stomach

Anonymous said...

You guys are stupid. I'm tired of reading posts when people don't know what there talking about and havnt had a first hand experience. I'll tell you right now you can not be addicted to salvia. Anyone who has tried salvia knows of it's terrible experience. You take one hit of it's smoke, sit back and go on the ride of your life. In my hallucination I begin to start to morph into the furnature around me. Then I c walls. The walls began to spin and I relize they are the walls of my house as I float around. I eventually get outside only to have my neighbors house pick me up in the palm of it's hand and throw me into a wall. It's very hard to remember a full salvia trip but that was the jist of mine. It's definatly an experience like no other but not at all enjoyable or an enjoyable feeling. Salvia is not for the weak minded but I do recomend it to anyone willing to try it only because it's the most intense out of body experience you can get. Luckly it only lasts 10 min and it's after effects are about 10 min. The first time you try it you probably won't go on your "trip" but just feel funny and weird causing uncontrolable laughter and a slight loss of reality. The second time I tried it I used an 18" bong and had the trip I just told. I've done it a few other times (me and my friends are stupid) and never had a good experience apart from my first time. So to those of you who want to try this drug or want an out if body experience, it can be very scary in the moment but you will live And your life will carry on, but now you have been warned

Anonymous said...

Also I'd just like to ask one question. Why does this drug need to be illegal? It has yet to kill anyone and if done responsibly there is nothing wrong with it. It seems as though as soon as teens find a way to have fun it needs to be baned. As soon as this drug becomes illegal it will become more interesting to the people that havnt tried it before. They think why is this illegal? It must be realy something huh? Well I wanna try it then! Now people will be trying to get it and it won't be takin in the proper setting. They did it with marijuana and I garentee if this drug becomes illegal it will happen again

Dirk Hanson said...

"I'll tell you right now you can not be addicted to salvia."
You should read more carefully. The post says this:

"Salvia’s addictive potential is low to nonexistent. No hallucinogen such as LSD or peyote has ever been found to be addictive in the classical sense."

Anonymous said...

I worry about the addiction potential because I recently smoked Salvia. I suggest avoiding smoking enough to trip. I used it to help break out of serious long term nicotine and alcohol addictions.

The corollary to that is that Salvia is not useful afterwards (or "fun", ever).

I don't think anyone who is remotely happy or has been happy within the past 50 to 100 months would get anything out of Salvia except bad trips. But for me, it made me want to stop my destructive behaviors.

Anonymous said...

I should add: I have not stopped destructive behaviors. The want to stop them is the only thing that has happened.

Anonymous said...

Yes, actually you can be addicted to salvia. Im addicted to salvia. But i don't think its bad for me. Sure it tastes bad and although the trips are slightly unpleasant they're also very interesting. And for the rest of the day I feel that my ability to express myself and focus is better. I feel less withdrawn from the world around me, my reflexes are faster, and my memory works better. Nobody else that I know is affected by slavia this way, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that I am usually a slow thinker, and slightly numb to the world, and get distracted easily. I might have ADD or some really low form of depression or bipolar.duno

My trips are often characterized by a feeling of awakenment on the left side of my brain. It feels like the left side of my brain is slanted to the left and is straightening. Like an old slanted house starightening out. I also usually have somebody trying to get me to hurry up cause im going to slow. Like common common lets go lets go! And if theres music playing I think the song is talking to me and whatever im looking at becomes so real, like its connected to me, when i first start talking its complete gibberish, my first attempt to understand the outside world as it actually is (as a world seperate from me). The other thing: my tongue, theres always some arguement about my tongue, but i don't realize its about my tongue until it moves. Theres always something that i have to make a decision about quick before its too late, and then my tongue makes a move and thats when i start talking giberish, really fast and fluently, no stuttering or hesitation. I speak in onomatopoeia. it comes from my willingness to speak and be normal and get out of the trip.

Once im talking normal again u wouldn't know that i had just smoked salvia, you would just think that im really wide awake thinking clearly and in a good mood. But my skin feels so sensitive especially around my face and the slightest itch on my face is almost not even woth scratching, the sensation isn't painful just unpleasant like that part of my body is yelling at me why'd u have to touch me?!

This drug should not be illegal. its great! i do it every morning before school.

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed, this is an interesting article.
I just recently had a salvia trip, and believe it or not, I did not know salvia was a psychedelic. But I sure figured it out once I was back from my trip. It wasn't scary at all and it didn't taste bad when smoked. There's a lot to say about my trip, but the only thing ill say is that everyone should try it at least once. (Of course, only if you're a marijuana smoker.) Its just another experience and it sure is a trip. :)

mdai said...

It is a great blog site for anyone who wants to find out about this kind of subject. Appreciate your discussing a real great information to everyone.

Anonymous said...

I have used it to cancel my addictions without will power of any kind. It's highly therapeutic, but scary if you smoke it / do too much. Not for the weak. Not a party drug.

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