Salvia Abuse

You may think salvia is a harmless garden plant, but teens are using it to get high. This hallucinogenic herb has been growing in popularity since 2010, when teen idol Miley Cyrus was spotted abusing it. If your teen has engaged in salvia use, you should seek help to figure out the best course of action.

A member of the mint family, salvia is native to Mexico, where it grows wild. This psychoactive plant is small enough to fit onto a windowsill, like a houseplant. It is similar in appearance to the kind of mint you would use in the kitchen, featuring slim, square stems and many jagged-edged leaves. Known in the science world as Salvia divinorum, some plants sprout white or purple flowers. It may look benign, but its effects are powerful.

Using salvia can cause hallucinations and other side effects similar to the effects of psychedelic mushrooms and the dangers of LSD — but not as long-lasting.

Teens who seek out hallucinogens may be trying to fit in with their friends, or even trying to escape a stressor in their life. Hallucinating takes them into another world, where their everyday worries may not seem to exist. With just under 2% of high school seniors having used salvia in the past year, this drug is not as widespread as some others, but can be equally as detrimental to your teen’s life.

Your son or daughter may use nicknames for salvia when communicating about the drug among their peers.

Commonly used salvia street names include the following:

  • Magic Mint
  • Sally-D
  • Ska Pastora or Maria Pastora
  • Leaves of the Shepherdess
  • Diviner’s Sage or Seer’s Sage
two teens smoking salviaIn general, drugs that cause hallucinations are considered dangerous. If a teen gets behind the wheel or wanders into a roadway while hallucinating, the situation could be perilous.

Much like any mind-altering drug, a teen can become emotionally addicted to the high that salvia gives them. Teens can also develop a physical tolerance to the drug, which, over time, causes them to crave more of the substance to achieve the same high. Larger doses of salvia can produce unpleasant repercussions, such as the user passing out.

People who have suffered from mental illnesses such as psychosis in the past may experience relapse after using salvia.

“Psychedelic drugs are especially dangerous for individuals who are psychologically unstable or not yet fully matured emotionally, for example, teenagers.” Dr. Eugene Shroenfeld, Psychiatrist and Addiction Medicine Specialist
For centuries, the native Mazatec people of Oaxaca, Mexico have used salvia as a “mental medicine” and for religious and ceremonial purposes. Mazatec shamans believe that salvia-induced hallucinations help to heal their people.

Today, teens consume salvia in a number of ways. While eating salvia leaves raw is common, the leaves can also be brewed into tea, or dried and smoked — just like tobacco. It can be vaporized or inhaled through water pipes, similar to how marijuana is used. Also, salvia juice can be extracted from the leaves and ingested. Salvia’s effects tend to last longer when the drug is taken orally rather than smoked.

At present, salvia is quite easy for teens to obtain. Salvia tinctures — concentrated liquid extracts that are often distilled with alcohol — are readily available for purchase online or in smoke shops. The drug itself is not illegal on a federal level, but a number of states have banned or otherwise regulated it. Due to salvia’s liberal availability, it is becoming an increasingly popular drug among teens — especially among boys.

Researchers have suggested that salvia could be used as an antidepressant medicine, but further research is needed in order to determine the drug’s suitability in such a capacity. For the time being, though, salvia is just used recreationally. Dr. Jacob Hooker — a chemist at Brookhaven National Laboratory who has studied salvia’s impact upon the brain — says that salvia is “probably one of the most potent hallucinogens known.”

Salvia and Other Drugs

Because psychedelic drugs such as salvia tend to popular party drugs, teens will often end up mixing salvia with alcohol and other drugs. Teens also combine salvia with Xanax and other prescription medications. Thus, it is not surprising that teens who use salvia often have issues with other drugs as well (e.g. marijuana), some of which may be highly addictive.

A salvia dependence may be linked to a co-occurring mental disorder. In fact, hallucinogens like salvia is often linked to higher rates of anxiety disorders, clinical depression and bipolar disorders. When a drug use disorder coincides with a mental disorder, it is referred to as a dual diagnosis. The complexities of comorbidity require dual diagnosis treatment options to treat all co-occurring disorders effectively.

teen smoking salvia jointIt can be difficult to detect whether your teen has used salvia, especially since some methods of use leave behind no evidence of use. For example, if your teen has eaten salvia leaves, you will not find obvious salvia paraphernalia related to smoking the drug. Another reason it can be tough to know if your teen has used salvia is because the drug’s effects are short-lived, generally lasting between one and 30 minutes.

If your child is currently high on salvia, you may notice some of the following signs:

  • Slurred speech
  • Physical imbalance
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Emotionality
  • Seeming disconnected from reality
  • Bouts of uncontrollable laughter
  • Chills
Salvia can impact your teen’s mind and body. A number of salvia users report side effects that produce varying degrees of distress.

Short-term Effects of Salvia

Dr. Jacob Hooker says of salvia: “Most people don’t find this class of drugs very pleasurable. So perhaps the main draw or reason for its appeal relates to the rapid onset and short duration of its effects, which are incredibly unique. The kinetics are often as important as the abused drug itself.” Essentially, salvia offers teens an “easy” way to try psychedelic drugs, without having to commit very much time to being mentally altered.

Several of the drug’s short-term effects is as follows:

  • Dissociative hallucinations
  • Dizziness
  • Dysphoria (a general state of unease)
  • Uncontrollable laughter
  • Flashbacks
  • Psychosis
  • A feeling of “loss of body”
  • Low heart rate
  • Motor function impairment

Long-term Effects of Salvia

Because salvia is relatively new to the modern drug market, its long-term effects have not received much study. This uncertainty is reason enough to approach this drug with tremendous apprehension. However, it is known that similar drugs in the hallucinogenic family can produce long-term effects.

Long-term effects of hallucinogens include the following:

  • Flashbacks, well after the initial drug usage
  • Lowered motivation
  • Depression
  • Alterations in brain chemistry
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble focusing
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis
  • Personality changes

Effects on the Brain

teens passing salvia jointSalvia’s active ingredient, salvinorin A, adheres to nerve cells and disrupts the communication lines between the brain and the spinal cord. To get a little more specific, salvia is called a kappa opioid receptor agonist. These proteins have analgesic properties, which means they offer some relief from physical pain.

Bad Trips on Salvia

Unfortunately, in some teens, salvia has been known to induce a terrifying temporary psychosis. This is known as a “bad trip.” The aforementioned psychiatrist Dr. Eugene Shroenfeld offers a warning tale about a teenage patient of his, who experienced a bad salvia trip and prolonged toxic psychosis. The young lady was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where she engaged in self-mutilating behaviors. While Dr. Shroenfeld says that that horrific experience is rare, it demonstrates the dangers of salvia.

Salvia Withdrawal

You may not notice your child’s salvia withdrawal manifest itself physically. However, since salvia can be emotionally addictive, your teen might experience some mental distress when this drug is removed from their life. From your perspective as a parent, this could mean your teen is moping around more than usual or is even showing signs of severe depression.

If you believe your child has been abusing substances of any kind, act now to quell their habit. Begin by reaching out to a treatment professional, such as a local addiction counselor, your family doctor, or the advisors who pick up the phone when you call We have dedicated our careers to helping adolescents overcome addiction — that’s why our help comes free and without obligation.

If a medical professional diagnoses addiction in your teen, some form of treatment will likely be necessary. We at offer free assistance in setting up steps to recovery, and can help you determine which treatment avenue will work best for your child.

During our years of experience helping parents like you, we have seen that addiction is unspeakably difficult for families to handle. You are not alone. Stay involved. Help your teen begin the journey back to health by getting in touch with us today. Do not wait — your child’s life is too important.

It’s Time To Get Your Child Back.

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Salvia Abuse
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Salvia Abuse was last modified: June 15th, 2017 by The Recovery Village