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Salvia (Salvia divinorum) is an herb common to southern Mexico and Central and South America. The main active ingredient in Salvia, salvinorin A, is a potent activator of kappa opioid receptors in the brain.1,2 These receptors differ from those activated by the more commonly known opioids, such as heroin and morphine.

Although Salvia currently is not a drug regulated by the Controlled Substances Act, several States and countries have passed legislation to regulate its use.3The Drug Enforcement Agency has listed Salvia as a drug of concern and is considering classifying it as a Schedule I drug, like LSD or marijuana.

Health/Behavioral Effects

People who abuse Salvia generally experience hallucinations or “psychotomimetic” episodes (a transient experience that mimics a psychosis).4,5 Subjective effects have been described as intense but short-lived, appearing in less than 1 minute and lasting less than 30 minutes. They include psychedelic-like changes in visual perception, mood and body sensations, emotional swings, feelings of detachment, and importantly, a highly modified perception of external reality and the self, leading to a decreased ability to interact with one’s surroundings.5 This last effect has prompted concern about the dangers of driving under the influence of salvinorin.

NIDA’s Monitoring the Future Survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders asked about Salvia abuse for the first time in 2009—5.7 percent of high school seniors reported past-year use (greater than the percent reporting ecstasy use). And according to the latest MTF figures the use of Salvia reported by 8th, 10th, and 12th graders remained unchanged from 2010 to 2011, with 1.6 percent of 8th graders, 3.9 percent of 10th graders, and 5.9 percent of 12th graders reporting past-year abuse.

Other Information Sources

For more information on the effects of hallucinogenic drugs, see NIDA’s Research Report on Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs.

For more information on Salvia divinorum and the Controlled Substances Act, visit http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drugs_concern/salvia_d.pdf.


  1. Chavkin, C., Sud, S., Jin, W. et al. Salvinorin A, an active component of the hallucinogenic sageSalvia divinorum is a highly efficacious kappa-opioid receptor agonist: structural and functional considerations. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 308:1197–203, 2004.
  2. Harding, W.W., et al. Salvinicins A and B, new neoclerodane diterpenes from Salvia divinorum. Organic Letters. 7:3017–3020, 2005.
  3. http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drugs_concern/salvia_d.pdf. Accessed September 24, 2007.
  4. Roth, B.L., et al. Salvinorin A: a potent naturally occurring non-nitrogenous kappa opioid selective agonist. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 99:11934–11939, 2002.
  5. Gonzalez, D., et al. Pattern of use and subjective effects of Salvia divinorum among recreational users. Drug Alcohol Depend. 85:157–162, 2006.
       6.  Braida, D., Donzelli, A., Martucci, R., et al. Learning and memory impairment induced by Salvinorin A, the principal
            ingredient of Salvia divinorum, in Wistar rats. Int J Toxicol. Epub ahead of print, September 29, 2011.