According to the DEA, “Salvia Divinorum is a perennial herb in the mint family native to certain areas of the Sierra Mazateca region of Oaxaca, Mexico.” While it is a natural plant and, as of yet, not officially scheduled by the DEA as an illegal substance, salvia can still have effects on the body that are not only intense but also sometimes dangerous. Anyone considering the idea of using salvia for recreational purposes should understand how the drug might affect their body (as well as their mind) and why its as-yet unscheduled status may be problematic.
Salvia, The Brain, and the Body
Salvia is known as a psychedelic or hallucinogenic substance, which means that it causes intense effects on a person’s sensory perceptions, mood, and other psychological functions. Still, it is important to understand that the drug causes physical effects as well. Most of these are considered to be harmless when the drug is taken in low doses, but they can be problematic, depending on where the individual is and what they are doing.
Currently, the drug is not known to cause severe health problems or the possibility of addiction, but so little is known about its effects that it is difficult to be certain it will never cause these issues. What is known is that the substance may cause intense, psychological effects as well as many physical ones, the latter of which are listed below.
When a person abuses salvia, the drug is likely to cause dizziness. It is important to be aware of this side effect and to understand that driving, operating machinery, or doing anything that requires intense concentration under the influence of a salvia high can be very dangerous. An individual could become severely hurt or hurt others in this situation if they are not careful. Therefore, it is important to treat salvia like any other mind-altering chemical or drug and to avoid activities that require concentration or may become dangerous under its influence.
A similar issue involves problems with coordination and motor skills when someone is high on the effects of salvia. Again, this could be dangerous depending on the whereabouts of the individual and what they are attempting to do while influenced by the drug. Still, these effects normally wear off after the high does, which, according to CESAR, can sometimes last from 15 minutes to an hour or two, depending on the method of use.
This effect will become noticeable to others, especially if the individual is extremely high. “Awkward sentence patterns” are also caused by a salvia high, and those who are abusing the drug will often not notice that they are speaking strangely, even though others will.
While salvia divinorum may still currently be legal in most parts of the United States, many other illegal drugs cause the same side effects (as well as dizziness and loss of coordination). Exhibiting these effects all at the same time could still cause an individual to be interrogated by a police officer or someone in authority, which is one of the reasons why the drug is not completely safe to use.
Nausea and Vomiting
Most hallucinogenic drugs cause gastrointestinal problems like nausea and vomiting, and salvia is no exception. The drug’s effects can be intense, and many individuals are not prepared to feel sick as a result of their salvia high. In some cases, the stomach problems caused by the drug can last longer than its actual high. If the drug is abused consistently, it may be able to cause severe gastrointestinal issues as a result of this effect. However, because “the psychological and physical health effects of salvia use have not been investigated systematically,” it is not known if these possible long-term side effects may occur or even if there may be any other consequences of consistent abuse (NIDA).
Decreased Heart Rate
Here, salvia differs from many other hallucinogenic drugs. While LSD, peyote, psilocybin, and PCP all cause an increase in heart rate or an irregular heartbeat, salvia actually drops the heart rate when abused. This is the opposite of tachycardia, called bradycardia, and it is often harmless. However, since the full effects of the drug are still unknown in many ways, it is possible that this effect may cause problems for long-term salvia abusers.
Hallucinogenic drugs often alter a user’s body temperature along with their sensory perceptions. Most of these cause an increase in temperature, which is why users experience chills. This is another side effect that, at first glance, does not seem harmful but may possibly cause problematic effects over time.
Salvia abuse also causes intense sweating as a result of the effects on the individual’s body temperature. This can add to the appearance of an intoxicated state and is another reason why salvia should not be used in public. According to the NIDA, the drug “is more likely to be used in individual experimentation than as a social or party drug,” and this may be safer in many cases. However, it is important to remember that no mind-altering substance can be considered one hundred percent safe from problematic or dangerous side effects.
There have been some reports of the drug causing loss of consciousness when abused in high doses. Although this does not always occur, it is a possibility and is more likely to happen if an individual takes high doses frequently. It should be remembered that salvia is still a drug and can cause overdose if abused; according to the DEA, the signs of overdose are, unfortunately, similar to the signs of intoxication: slurred speech, loss of coordination, and dizziness. Still, an individual should always be treated medically if they exhibit severe signs when under the influence of any substance of abuse.
The psychological side effects of salvia abuse do currently seem to present more of a danger than the effects the drug has on the user’s bodily state, but it is still important to be aware of these physical side effects and to know which are to be expected and which may be a sign of potentially dangerous consequences.