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Salvia, a drug that originated from the Southern Mexican Malatec tribes, has been gaining popularity within the US. Today, it is estimated that over 1.8 million people have tried it at one point or the other. This number may also be on the rise.
Putting the traditional usage of the drug aside, salvia is quickly gaining traction for its psychedelic properties. However, the lack of research means that its consequences are as yet unknown.
Recreationally, most users take salvia to enjoy its hallucinogenic properties. What they don't ask is if whether the good trip they are looking for might turn into something dangerous or fatal.
Read on to learn more about this drug, what it is, how it's used, as well as its effects, withdrawal symptoms, overdose, dangers, and potential for addiction, among others:
Scientifically referred to as Salvia Divinorum, this is a leafy herb smoked for its hallucinogenic and manic effects. Those who use it feel its effects almost immediately. During this time, you might stop relating normally to the environment as well as laughing uncontrollably.
Further, the drug might cause you to stumble or fall down. However, the high from salvia is quite brief and may only peak in 5 to 10 minutes even though its effects will continue waning for close to another 30 minutes.
Although salvia is touted for its herbal nature, it is far from harmless and fun. The only problem is that information about its long range dangers, short term effects, and actions is as yet inconclusive. As such, the typical sources of information on the dangers and addictiveness of various substances come short with respect to salvia.
What is known, however, is that salvia is a native member of mint family that grows wild in Mexico. A psychoactive plant, it is small enough that people fit it onto windowsills like any other houseplant.
In terms of appearance, it is quite similar to kitchen-grade mint and features slim and square stems with many jagged-edged leaves. Some of the plants also sprout purple or white flowers. This benign looks, however, should not fool you because the effects of salvia are quite potent.
When used, the drug may cause hallucinations among other side effects and dangers typical of LSD and psychedelic mushrooms but not quite as long lasting. This is because its active ingredient is now thought to be quite as potent as that from LSD, another psychedelic drug.
The drug has been used in tribal rituals for centuries. Today, people ingest it by rolling up its dried leaves for smoking or simply chewing the fresh leaves. By so doing, users may feel its short-acting effects almost immediately. Despite its duration, the high might be quite intense.
Some of the commonly used street names for salvia include but are not limited:
In the United States, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) hasn't approved this drug for any beneficial or medical uses. Some believe that if the government were to classify salvia under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I drug, it might be impossible for medical and pharmaceutical companies to research its effects and dangers.
However, some opine that using salvia carries the potential to bring relief in the treatment of addiction and substance abuse, depression, and pain. These opinions are quite varied in the medical community.
Other researchers, on the other hand, believe that the drug might be useful in treating schizophrenia. In this group includes those who think that science needs to figure out how to block how salvia affects the kappa opioid receptors in the brain.
The drug, however, is dangerous and has been likened to late stage Alzheimer's. As such, it could prove useful in finding a cure for this disease that has long plagued humanity.
That said, abusers typically buy the drug in the form of plant cuttings, seeds, extracts from the leaves, fresh leaves, and dried leaves. They then proceed to either chew salvia like chewing tobacco - although the taste might cause you to vomit while the smell is similar to sewer water. The greatest effects, however, arise when you take the drug by mouth and chew it.
In other instances, abusers use bongs (or water pipes used for smoking marijuana) or inhaling the vapors from salvia in crystallized form through glass tubes. Alternative ways of use include rolling dried stems, dried leaves, or fresh leaves into tobacco paper for smoking like you would a cigarette - the only difference being that the drug burns slower. Smokers typically hold the salvia smoke inside the lungs for anywhere between 10 and 30 seconds to ensure it induces a trance.
Last but not least, the user might boil the leaves and drunk the arising solution as a tea. However, you may also buy the drug in liquid form (as a leaf from the extract) for use in making tea.
Irrespective of the mode of use, salvia is widely considered to rank among the most potent of all naturally-occurring hallucinogens. As such, the drug is likely to produce effects such as fear, anxiety, and loss of control over the movement of your body, auditory and visual hallucinations, distorted reality, and altered perceptions. This is according to reports from Newsweek.
Other effects include:
In terms of side effects, you may expect to experience some sort of detachment, among the following:
A common misconception among drug addiction is that hallucinogens are not addictive. However, substances like LSD, mushrooms, and salvia may not be physically addictive. This does not mean that they are not psychologically addictive.
According to DrugAbuse.gov, the drug salvia is quite addictive. It is somewhat similar to PCP which may cause severe senses of derangement and lead you to become completely violent and uncontrollable.
At the moment, however, studies on the potential addictiveness of salvia are yet to be conducted or to yield conclusive reports. Similarly, there are virtually no known cases of death from an overdose and few (if any) instances of users going to rehab for salvia treatment.
Still, users and abusers have been known to engage in dangerous activities while high on the drug. Some have even injured themselves while others caused death (of themselves or of others) under the influence of salvia.
The drug works by affecting the brain's opiate receptors. This in itself is dangerous because most addictive opioid drugs (such as heroin) also happen to work on these same receptors.
As mentioned above, research is yet to suggest whether salvia is addictive. However, this statement should not be taken carte blanche to be the truth. It also does not mean that salvia can be used safely.
In fact, speculation in the medical community is that the drug may worsen some mental health problems or even cause you to suffer symptoms similar to psychosis. Many users also try the drug only once in their lifetime because the effects it causes are quite intense or scary.
Salvia users hardly ever report to emergency treatment centers complaining of an overdose. This could be, in part, due to the fact that the drug's effects only last for a couple of minutes.
However, if you find a person overdosing, it could be that they may have ingested this drug. At the moment, doctors do not have any antidote for salvia so they are likely to sedate the patient with benzodiazepines.
That said, each salvia product comes with a different degree of power and potency. This might mean that the drug is quite dangerous with respect to overdoses. In some instances, it is likely that such an overdose might lead to unconsciousness or suicidal ideation and actions.
In many cases, the withdrawal symptoms for those who try to stop abusing salvia may not manifest themselves physically. The drug, however, is quite addictive emotionally and users are likely to experience mental distress when access to its use is curtailed.
Some of reported withdrawal symptoms include:
Salvia use carries various risk factors. The fact that it acts so quickly and causes such potent effects means people tend to assume that the drug is not dangerous. However, this is hardly ever the case. In fact, an increasing number of users have been falling prey to salvia's hidden dangers - such as how it stimulates psychotic episodes.
While the drug may stimulate the mind, it also causes severe breaks from reality. As a direct result, your perception might change, causing you to panic and start feeling an intense sense of agitation, fear, and vulnerability.
Since salvia may also upset your brain's chemical balance, it is highly likely that you will suffer an unbalanced state of mind. In this case, using the drug may lead to the effects of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia - two different but difficult mental states that the drug exacerbates when it controls your mind.
Worse still is the fact that this drug is more potent that most illicit hallucinogens. According to The Telegraph, salvia is considered one of the most potent of all hallucinogens.
This kind of dosage is quite serious and might put anyone who uses the drug at risk. The dangers are further compounded by the numerous misleading salvia articles and videos posted online on a regular basis.
As mentioned earlier, using the drug is likely to trigger most of the agonists that also contribute to Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia. While it might be too soon to state that salvia accelerates or triggers these conditions, medics find the connection to be noteworthy and troubling.
Overall, any drug that may cause hallucinations is dangerous both to the user and to anyone in the vicinity. If you use the drug and get behind a wheel or wander into the open highway while hallucinating, there is no telling what could happen.
Last but not least, salvia may lead to emotional addiction and physical tolerance. Over time, and after repeated use, you may need more of the drug to feel the same effects. Large doses, of salvia or of any other drug, may produce unwanted repercussions that might put your health and life at risk.
According to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), the following are some of the signs and symptoms of salvia use, abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction:
Like with any other substance addiction, the first step in treatment involves detoxification. However, salvia addiction is difficult to treat through detox because its effects dissipate quickly.
According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), there are currently no accepted medications for use in the treatment of hallucinogen addiction and abuse. However, therapy might prove useful in uncovering the reasons why you have been abusing drugs like salvia. Therapy may also help to redirect your negative actions into more constructive once.
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