Salvia divinorum: kappa opioid agonist, hallucinogen and current policy issue

May 02 2008 Published by under Opiates

Salvia divinorum smoking is apparently popular with the kids these days.
Drug Law Blog had a recent note on progress of a California Assembly bill AB 259 which:

Provides that any person who sells, dispenses, distributes, furnishes, administers, gives, or offers to sell, dispense, distribute, furnish, administer or give Salvia divinorum, or Salvinorin A, or any substance or material containing Salvia divinorum or Salvianorin [sic] A, to any person under 18 years of age shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Currently legal psychoactive? Efforts afoot to regulate and/or limit use? Game on, DearReader...


Let us start with a lame disclaimer. I meant to get to the Salvia issue some time ago but this is pretty far away from my area and I know very little about it. I went so far as to try to persuade a researcher that I thought would do a pretty decent guest post to cover it in a guest post but that seems to have fallen through. So let us consider this post an intro, for myself as well as for you, DearReader.
Well, we might as well start with the rationale from the legislator proposing the new legislation:

Author's Statement : According to the author, ""Recently, a substance has been discovered being sold on the Internet and in local 'smoke and head' shops across the state which has been identified as a hallucinogenic herb. This substance is called 'Salvia' or ' Salvia divinorum'. As of now, this substance is legal to sell to minors in the State of California.
- snip -
The effects produced by Salvia divinorum are not comparable to any other effects produced by the other psychoactive substances (i.e., peyote, psilocybin, LSD, etc.). ...The effects can range from subtle to extremely strong, causing an individual to have out-of-body experiences and create a real potential for physical danger to oneself and others.

Ok. So it is an attempt to keep this stuff out of the hands of minors, interestingly this bill will simply append a similar law keeping inhalants out of the hands of minors. Seems pretty straightforward. People are using it. It apparently results in a very different subjective experience than classic hallucinogens, check. The presumed primary active component is Salvinorin A, check. Mechanism of action is through activation of kappa opioid receptors, check, check.
Hmm, okay, what else? Well you can apparently produce a conditioned place preference in rodents and zebrafish with Salvanorin A, effects that are both kappa-opioid and endocannabinoid mediated. This despite the fact that kappa-opioid agonists are not readily self-administered (although I'd have to go back and do some looking to nail that assertion down).
One part of the legislative argument just cracked me up.

Salvia cannot be considered a 'party drug' or have any social use whatsoever. In fact, people under the effects of Salvia are usually not social with others and do not interact with people while having their hallucinating experience.

It sounds as though this legislator is saying "Well, Ecstasy and cannabis, now that's great stuff because it's, you know social and everything but this individual experience stuff is right out!" Why this is part of a legislative rationale for a restriction on a psychoactive I do not know.
We'll close with one of the many YouTube Salvia experiences thanks to this comment on Drug Law Blog:

Anonymous YouTube videos, as titillating as they may be, are not the kind of evidence that should be the basis for passing legislation.

Anonymous? "titillating"? Well if that isn't bait I don't know what is. Doesn't this just take you back to the 'ol college days, DearReader?

12 responses so far

  • anon for the sake of my phd says:

    salvia is a weird one. it's trippy as hell, it will make you forget the human condition for half an hour or so (bc you're busy staring at a fly or listening to the birds) but for some reason you don't really wanna do it again, and if you do it's rather in order to try and figure out "what the fuck is this?" than to get high. gets a neuroscientist drooling obviously, but i'm not telling anyone anything new here i presume.

  • phbbt says:

    i didn't get anything out of salvia. shrug.

  • Mitch Harden says:

    In Missouri Salvia is already a Schedule I controlled substance, so if I want to do research with it, I have to do a bit of hoop-jumping. But since it isn't controlled at the Federal level the DEA doesn't have to get involved.

  • BlindSquirrel says:

    The effects can range from subtle to extremely strong, causing an individual to have out-of-body experiences and create a real potential for physical danger to oneself and others.

    So by his rational anything that makes you high needs a law passed against it. Mind you, I'm not objecting to the law with respect to minors, but some things are so nasty or otherwise unpleasant like salvia that they are self-limiting. Do we really need laws against the likes of nutmeg, morning glory, Coleus Blumei, Amanita muscaria and panterina to keep adults from experimenting? I realize this law doesn't address adult use; I'm thinking about the Missouri law. Oh and there is a rumor about Hygrophorous conicus and acutoconicus. But it isn't true.

  • cobbler says:

    I've also read anecdotes, maybe on Erowid or somewhere, that 8 of 10 salvinorin A users would choose not to use it again.
    Mitch, if your work is funded by NIH you can submit a request for research quantities of salvinorin A to the NIDA Drug Supply Program. If I understand correctly, your work does not have to be funded specifically by NIDA but rather any IC.

  • TomK says:

    I saw my stepbrother take a 20x extract. For 10 minutes, he talked about reality splitting off, like he was reading from a textbook on the many worlds hypothesis, then he was back to normal. He had no knowledge of the physics he was talking about during the drug state.
    Salvia isn't addictive. It lasts five minutes. The NIH and DEA guys need to smoke a bowl of it, chill, and listen to some phillip glass. You won't go crazy and hey look, a new way to look at reality.
    Meanwhile, look at the hundreds of thousands of people dying from alcohol and tobacco.

  • Mr. Gunn says:

    isn't it kinda ridiculous to have one set of regulations governing situation-induced states of mind and another for substance-induced states?

  • Meh says:

    Salvia sucks anyways who the hell cares you stupid hippies.

  • This is a very nice site really well put together i like it. I also found this other site it has some great info as well http://www.salviadivinorumblog.com/

  • Nice but old discussion. I also introducing and salvia divinorum smoking activities.

  • Salvia is also gaining interest as a potential cure in Alzheimer's illness, as well as patients with aids, alcohol addiction, chronic discomfort, schizophrenia, and sleeplessness.

  • Bruno24 says:

    Of course, the video has been deleted. It is a pity, those videos illustrate that even when Salvia divinorum is consumed in the worst conditions (noisy and lighted), it leads occasionally to bruises and nightmares, things which happens to sober people too. I have not yet found any serious statistical evidences that Salvia is toxic, nor addictive. On the contrary, it seems anti-addictive.
    People confuse the impressive psycho-active ability with dangerousness. Sleep is also an impressive altered state of consciousness, and known as fatal when you drive, but this is not a reason for making sleep illegal.
    The more I study it, in all ways, that plant, the more I think it could be one of the most efficacious and safe medication known today.

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