The Rise Of Salvia

Last Updated on September 12, 2023

The recreational abuse of salvia is gaining popularity, but the long-term side effects and addictive qualities of the drug are still largely unknown. Despite all the unanswered questions about this substance, here is what we do know and why recreational abuse of salvia is potentially dangerous and life-threatening.

What is Salvia?

Salvia is a psychoactive herb in the mint family. It acts as a hallucinogen and is being advertised on several internet sites as a legal herbal alternative to illegal hallucinogens. Those who consume it generally claim to be doing so for its psychoactive properties. Slang terms for include:

  • Sally d
  • Magic mint
  • Lady salvia
  • Purple sticky
  • Sage
  • Ska Pastora

Native to Southern Mexico, this substance was commonly used by the Mazatec Indians for its hallucinogenic properties. Folk healers used this for medicinal or spiritual purposes, including medical divination, and foretelling the future.

How Salvia Affects the Brain

Researchers currently don’t know everything there is to know about how salvia affects the brain, however, they do know that the main ingredient in salvia attaches to kappa opioid receptors in the brain which makes people see or feel things that aren’t really there. These hallucinations generally last 30 minutes or less but they can be very dangerous, especially if the user is driving or operating machinery.1

Using salvia with alcohol or other drugs is unpredictable and dangerous because the presence of other substances in the body may exacerbate the effects of salvia. However, researchers still don’t know how other drugs interact with salvia and the physical and psychological effects are largely unknown.2

Although research studies show salvia has shown promise in treating addiction to other drugs like cocaine, more research is needed. Additionally, the adverse effects of salvia including sedation, depression, and dysphoria have their own risks.

Salvia Side Effects

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), saliva side effects can include:

  • Psychedelic-like changes in visual perception
  • Mood and body sensations
  • Emotional swings
  • Feelings of detachment

Salvia abuse also results in “a highly modified perception of external reality and the self, leading to a decreased ability to interact with one’s surroundings.” Most users of salvia ingest the drug by chewing or smoking the leaves and the effects can appear within one minute.

The long-term health effects are still not fully understood. Preliminary tests have shown a connection between salvia use and a decline in learning and memory. Dr. Howard Samuels, a psychotherapist, testified before the Senate Public Safety Commission in California that salvia causes, “hallucinations and loss of body control much like epileptic fits.” With him was a mother who told the story of her 17-year-old-son who committed suicide after the repeated abuse of salvia.

Salvia: Is it Safe?

Abusing salvia is dangerous for several reasons. First, the hallucinations can cause serious disruptions to the user’s perception of space and time, which can be very disturbing and psychologically damaging for some people. Second, salvia abuse may cause lasting physical effects that researchers do not yet know about.

Is Salvia Legal?

Salvia is illegal and considered a substance with the potential for abuse in much of the world. It is not currently regulated by the Controlled Substances Act in the United States, but several states have passed laws to make it illegal and control its use due to the possibility of negative health effects.3

Medical professionals and legislators are concerned that this substance is acting as a gateway drug and leading unsuspecting users to a life of drug abuse and addiction.

Salvia Addiction Statistics

Although it has not yet been determined if salvia is addictive, it is clear that abusing salvia has negative side effects. Here are some of the most recent salvia statistics:

  • Salvia is being used twice as often as LSD and almost as often as ecstasy.4
  • In 2008, an estimated 3 percent of young men between 18 and 25 years old abused salvia that year.4
  • In 2017, 0.4 percent of 8th graders, 0.9 percent of 10th graders, and 1.5 percent of 12th graders reported using salvia in the past year.5
  • Salvia use is most prevalent among recent or active drug users who have used other hallucinogens or stimulants.6

Salvia Withdrawal Symptoms

Very little is known about the withdrawal symptoms of salvia. Since researchers are still unsure about the addictive qualities of the drug, the severity or type of withdrawal symptoms are currently unknown.

Salvia Rehab: Behavioral Therapy for Hallucinogens

Even though salvia addiction may or may not be possible, the uncontrollable urge to abuse any drug is cause for concern and may very well lead to more harmful substance abuse habits. Salvia rehab at an inpatient drug and alcohol rehab center can provide behavioral therapy to address the root issues of your substance abuse and help you develop healthy coping strategies to deal with life stressors. Contact Nova Recovery Center today for more information about drug and alcohol rehab near Austin, Texas.


  1. https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts/salvia
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424847/table/appd.t19/
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/309735.php
  4. https://www.verywellmind.com/salvia-divinorum-a-legal-trip-3200920
  5. https://www.drugabuse.gov/trends-statistics/monitoring-future/monitoring-future-study-trends-in-prevalence-various-drugs
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3122136/
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