Even though salvia has legally been on the market in many states for years, it’s still considered to be one of the worst substances on the market. You’ve seen plenty of salvia-induced hallucinations online, but you probably don’t know how salvia works or what salvia does. Salvia divinorum is marketed as a legal substitute for similar experiences, but its effects are nothing like the drugs to which it’s compared.
The following dark facts about salvia expose the plant’s reputation for giving users frightening highs that can make them feel like they’re disconnected from their bodies. Unlike mind-expanding psychedelics like LSD, salvia doesn’t waste any time with throwing your consciousness for a loop. Users have clamed they’ve forgotten who they were and how to use their bodies while experiencing a salvia high.
Salvia Provides An Unreplicable Experience
A salvia trip isn't like the highs experienced by smoking weed or taking molly, which are fairly standard from use to use. Even LSD, which produces a psychedelic state in its users, has a standard operating procedure (for lack of a better term). However, Dr. Bryan Roth, a biochemist and neuroscientist at Case Western Reserve University told NPR this isn't the case with salvia.
He said, "experienced hallucinogen users say that the effects of Salvia divinorum are qualitatively and quantitatively different than any other hallucinogen that they have ever taken," and the drug causes "spacio-temporal dislocation," which means users lose all understanding of where they are and how their bodies relate to the space around them.
It Creates Tactile Hallucinations
Rather than providing the "up" or a "down" feeling many other substances provide, salvia creates an intense experience where users feel a "tactile hallucination" akin to bugs crawling across their skin. Even other types of substances that provide a mind-expanding experience aren't known for creating an actual physical feeling in the same way as salvia.
Dr. Peter H. Addy, a research associate at Yale who studies salvia, refers to the substance as an "atypical psychedelic." He told Vice salvia not only creates tactile hallucinations, but it creates "synthenesia," or the crossover of senses. For instance, users claim they can see music or feel a color.
Salvia Drains Dopamine From Your Brain
The high provided by salvia is a fast-burning high that lasts for about 30 minutes by binding to the kappa opioid receptors of a user's brain. Dr. Peter H. Addy, a Yale researcher, says the substance has the opposite effect of many psychedelics. While those drugs increase serotonin levels, salvia exhausts a brain of dopamine levels.
The long-term effects of dopamine deficiency can cause everything from mood swings to suicidal thoughts and hallucinations.
It's Legal In Over 15 States
Despite its legitimately frightening aspects and side effects, you can actually purchase and legally use salvia in more than 15 states in the US. Even though users may not be able to purchase salvia in stores, in many states it can still be easily purchased online.
The Substance Was Traditionally Used In Tribal Religious Ceremonies
While many stateside users tend to think of salvia as a substance that you smoke, that's not traditionally how it's ingested. For hundreds of years, the substance has been used in the religious ceremonies of indigenous tribes in the Sierra Mazateca mountains in southern Mexico. Rather than a quick inhalation, the ritual is an hours-long process where users eat the leaves of the plant while being massaged by a shaman.
People from the Mazatec area of mountains believe salvia allows users to speak to the Virgin Mary, although researchers aren't aware of how the people of the Sierra Mazateca mountains used salvia prior to the introduction of Catholicism to the area in the 1500s.
Salvia Isn't Meant To Be Smoked On Your Couch
Pretty much everyone who uses salvia does so by smoking it, but the people of Mazatec area of Mexico who first brought about the use of the substance take it very seriously. Not only do they never smoke it, but their rituals take place in "near or total darkness" as a means to keep the plant they believe has religious connotations a secret.
When the Mazatec people aren't chewing the leaves, they're drinking it in a watery, soup-like concoction that has psychoactive properties.