It wasn’t until a video of former Disney-star-turned-teen-rebel Miley Cyrus smoking salvia went viral in December 2010 that most Americans became aware of the hallucinogenic substance. But in that month, Cyrus dragged salvia out of the shadows and exposed it to the light of day.
Unlike many of the newer intoxicants making an impact on the underground party scene, salvia is not a designer drug. It is actually a naturally growing hallucinogen native to southern Mexico and other parts of Latin American.
Salvia Still Legal But Regulated In Many States
Salvia has become popular in recent years, riding the coattails of the modern fascination with ancient psychedelic substances, most of which have been used by indigenous shamans for generations and are believed by enthusiasts to offer opportunities for dimension-hopping enlightenment. In part because it has been relatively unknown and in part because it has not been extensively studied, salvia has not yet been banned by the federal government, but more than 20 states have taken legislative action to regulate its sale and distribution.
Salvia Binds To Different Receptors In The Brain, Causing A Different High Than LSD
Users chew the fresh leaves or smoke the dried leaves of the salvia plant to get high, and while the mind-body alterations provoked by salvia consumption are rather short-lived (usually less than 30 minutes) they are intense and unforgettable. The drug makes its impact by binding with kappa opioid receptors in the brain, thereby causing a series of hallucinogenic effects that are somewhat unique in comparison to other popular hallucinogens like LSD and psilocybin, which interact with serotonin receptors. Under the influence of salvia, users find themselves swimming in an ocean of warped consciousness, where the usual rules of time and space no longer apply and the surrounding world shifts into a zone of unpredictable surreality.
Salvia trips can be captivating, terrifying or indifferent. But they are always memorable and always powerful. Even though salvia binds to a specific type of opioid receptor, it is not related to conventional opioids like heroin and morphine and is not believed to be physically addictive.
Precious few studies into the long-term effects of salvia use have been conducted. From anecdotal reports, it appears the drug can cause dizziness, confusion, impaired physical performance and a powerful sense of terror for users undergoing a bad trip. Some laboratory evidence suggests that learning and memory could be adversely affected by continued salvia use, but this is an area that must be researched further before definitive conclusions can be reached.
Teen Salvia Use By The Numbers
While salvia first came to public attention in late 2010, it was already well known among certain segments of youth culture. In 2010, statistics collected by the National Institute on Drug Abuse showed that about 3.6 percent of school-age teens had used salvia at some point within the previous 12 months, and most had done so long before Cyrus’ antics became public knowledge.
That incident did provoke a flurry of legislative action at the state level to protect kids from the predations of the latest “in” drug. And along with raised public awareness, it seems the new laws did have an inhibitory effect on teen behavior: between 2010 and 2013, past-year consumption of salvia dropped from 1.7 percent to 1.2 percent among 8th graders; from 3.7 percent to 2.3 percent among 10th graders; and from 5.5 percent to 3.4 percent among 12th graders. Overall this represents a one-third decline in salvia use by school-age teens in just a three-year period, which would seem to confirm that if salvia was ever really “in,” it is now “out,” or is at least moving in that direction.
Back in 2008, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released a study that claimed salvia consumption rates were about three times higher among college-age adults than among adolescents. So while the number of teens trying this hallucinogen is dropping, those who do use it are likely to find a supportive environment in which to continue their salvia consumption once they move onto college campuses.
When Kids Are Trying To Escape, Salvia Addiction Is Always A Possibility
Addiction treatment and rehabilitation experts know that just about any intoxicating substance can create dependence if it is used to excess. Whether it is technically addictive or not, salvia has established a noticeable presence in the youth drug subculture, and there are undoubtedly a multitude of teens and young adults alike who are turning to this mind-bending substance to help them escape from their stresses, miseries and emotional troubles. Kids caught in this type of behavioral pattern could benefit tremendously from psychological counseling, and if further evaluation showed substance abuse issues were complicating the picture, addiction specialists would be able to offer critically valuable services as well.
At the present time, salvia use does not appear to be on the ascent. But the drug is still legal in many places so a sudden renaissance in its popularity cannot be ruled out— and the likelihood of such an outcome could increase dramatically if the drug’s murky legal status convinces young people that salvia is safer than other drugs. At the very least, the drug bears close watching, and any parent who discovers his or her adolescent child has been experimenting with salvia may have good reason to be concerned.
Learn More About LSD In – LSD And Teens: The Cold Hard Facts
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