The Dangers of Salvia
Salvia remains one of the most controversial substances in debates around drug legalization. You know it as the drug that triggered a YouTube craze of glassy-eyed, tripped-out teens in a Salvia induced trance. In the pro-Salvia corner it is argued that it is a natural drug that has been used for spiritual purposes for centuries. On the anti-Salvia side, people are amazed that a drug with such extreme psychoactive effects has maintained its legal status when similar drugs, such as LSD and heroin, are criminalized to such an extent. You may be left wondering what it’s all about, and I don’t blame you. This article will explain what Salvia really is, what effects it has and its dangers.
Salvia, or Salvia Divinorum is a herbaceous plant from the sage family, native to Sierra Mazateca in Mexico. It is the chemical Salvinorin A, contained in the plant, which has psychoactive effects on the brain. The Mazatec Shamans traditionally use the drug for spiritual healing rituals and to experience an altered state of consciousness. Customarily, they chew fresh leaves or make tea with their juices. In popular culture, however, the leaves are dried and smoked in a pipe or water pipe (or ‘bong’). The drug is still legal over most of the world, including the USA and UK and is grown legally or sold in health stores.
It’s unlikely that those who smoke Salvia in modern society are doing so for spiritual healing purposes. Commonly, they enjoy Salvia for the psychedelic experiences it stimulates. In a shop, Salvia comes in 5x to 50x concentrations and effects vary depending on the strength. What each individual experiences is also completely subjective. It has been reported that people can feel ‘outside of themselves,’ re-experience old memories and see merging objects. Motor skills and coordination are often impaired, and for some time after the psychological effects have dissolved. With stronger concentrations seizure-like effects are sometimes seen, with the thrashing of limbs and on occasion the user will completely pass out.
What are the dangers?
Get a sitter: Although serious health effects of Salvia are rare, this does not mean to say that using Salvia is completely safe. It is obvious from the effects explained above that Salvia significantly alters the state of mind and physical control of the user. Users are generally advised to have a ‘sitter,’ a someone sober to watch over them, to make sure they come to no harm; falling over and colliding with surrounding objects is a risk. It should be obvious that heavy machinery and vehicles should not be operated during a trip, and advisable that they don’t until after 8 hours have passed.
Bad Trips: Salvia is not a ‘party’ drug, like cocaine or heroin. Strong concentrations of Salvia cause intense visions and extreme psychological states and there is a chance the user will experience a ‘bad’ trip. It is safer to be taken in a familiar, quiet place, to avoid unwanted states of mind. There is also evidence to suggest that Salvia use can trigger relapses in those who have previous psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Depression: Research into whether Salvia causes psychotic disorders or depression is still ongoing. There is some evidence that Salvia is helpful for those suffering from depression, but other evidence suggests it can aggravate unhealthy states of mind. ‘Brett’s Law’ is a famous case study. The parents of Brett Chidester blamed their son’s frequent use of Salvia for his depression and suicidal thoughts. After his suicide in 2006, his home state of Delaware joined the list of US states which have criminalized the drug.
Children and Teens: As Salvia is legal in most places, the main concern is its popularity amongst children and teenagers. If they are unaware of its dangers, there is the risk that they will take the drug in hazardous situations, leading to fatal consequences.
Addiction: Salvia is not physically addictive, but addiction is not that simple. It is possible that somebody may take Salvia in order to alleviate negative feelings due to personal issues. This can cause a psychological dependency on the altered state of consciousness the drug provides, and lead the user to want to be high all the time. The main risk with Salvia, however, is its influence on broader experimentation. A user who find the psychoactive effects pleasurable may decide to progress onto ‘hard’ drugs with similar effects such as heroin or LSD; drugs that are more addictive and affect more severe health problems.
Salvia’s “legal” status may lead some to think this drug is perfectly safe. However, like any drug, Salvia has serious effects on the mind and body. All the dangers associated with Salvia must be carefully considered and respected to avoid unhealthy and potentially fatal consequences.
An avid writer, Stanely Martinson is interested in all things pertaining to health and health care. Recently his fascination has turned towards addiction and rehabilitation. For more information on rehab, read this.