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How Serious Are Salvia Side Effects?

Salvia is a hallucinogenic drug that can have unpredictable side effects.

Salvia, an herbal substance, belongs to the mint family of plants, which grow naturally in southern Mexico. Also known as Salvia divinorum, salvia produces hallucinogenic effects similar to those experienced during a psychotic episode.

According to the U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration, as of 2006, an estimated 1.8 million Americans reported using salvia at some point in their lifetime while 750,000 reported using it within the past year. On average, young adults aged 18 to 25 are three times more likely to experiment with salvia than other age groups.

saliva effects

Salvia can produce hallucinogenic effects.

Like most all hallucinogens, this drug can produce unpredictable effects depending on the person and the amount used. Likewise, salvia side effects can also be unpredictable. Salvia side effects can take a toll on brain and body functions when used on a frequent basis. Over time, these effects carry a risk of physical and psychological harm as well as a potential for addiction.

Salvia Effects on the Brain

Salvia works by activating nerve cell receptor sites, also known as kappa opioid receptors. Unlike other types of hallucinogen drugs, salvia does not stimulate the production of serotonin, one of several brain neurotransmitter chemicals, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Consequently, salvia produces a different type of effect than other hallucinogens like PCP and LSD.

Once ingested, salvia effects occur almost immediately, producing feelings of euphoria with users feeling as if they’re sleep-walking. These effects last for up to 30 minutes at a time.

Salvia side effects can take shape during or after the drug effects wear off. The likelihood of experiencing intense salvia side effects increases considerably when using with other types of drugs or alcohol.

Salvia Side Effects

Physical Side Effects

Any drug capable of altering brain chemical activities can produce certain unintended effects. Salvia side effects result from the drug’s ability to interfere with normal brain chemical functions. The high experience brought on by salvia stems from the resulting surge of neurotransmitter chemicals throughout the brain and central nervous system.

Physical side effects of salvia may take the form of:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Inability to move
  • Only being able to move one side of the body
  • Seizure-like behaviors
  • Having no recollection of the experience
Psychological Side Effects

The psychological side effects of salvia can bring about serious repercussions, especially for people suffering from psychological disorders or those who’ve had psychological problems in the past. The most pronounced salvia side effect takes the form of depersonalization or out-of-body experiences.

In effect, depersonalization warps a person’s sense of self as well as of his or her surrounding environment. For people affected by mental health issues, these effects can aggravate disorder symptoms as well as trigger relapses in people who’ve had psychological problems in the past.


While hallucinogens in general carry a low risk of addiction, frequent drug use can predispose users to addictive behaviors. As a salvia side effect, addiction takes root within a person’s psychological make-up in terms of his or her motivations and belief systems.

With frequent drug use, salvia’s effects on brain chemical functions eventually impair a person’s thought processes and emotional responses. Once addiction sets in, users start to neglect other important areas of their lives in favor of using the drug.

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