Teen Salvia Leaf Use

Salvia leaf comes from the salvia divinorum plant. According to recent teen drug use statistics, teen salvia leaf use is on the rise. If you are not aware of this hallucinogenic drug teens are abusing, and the signs and symptoms of teen salvia use, this article is a must read.

A new trend that has medical professionals and parents worried is the use of salvia leaf by teens. Though salvia is a legal substance in most states, it is a powerful hallucinogen and little is known about the long term effects it might have on users.

Salvia leaf is the leaf of the plant Salvia divinorum, a member of the sage family. This plant contains a compound, Salvinorin A, which interacts with brain chemistry and causes a high. Salvia was used in traditional religion in Mexico by shamans, but in much smaller, less potent doses.

Today salvia is legal in all but 8 US states, though 16 more are considering a ban on salvia, and moves to ban the drug in the United States have come before Congress. Some cities and other countries have already banned the drug. Teens can buy salvia online or in some tobacco shops for relatively cheap. Some teens have the impression that because salvia is legal and natural it is safe, but many natural products that can be bought legally can have negative side effects.

According to one estimate, about 1.8 million people in the US have tried salvia, which is less than many other hallucinogens, but those other drugs have been abused for longer, and their use is now declining while the use of salvia is on the rise. In one survey, four percent of college students had used the drug recently, and almost 6 percent of high school seniors had used it in the last year, higher than most other hallucinogens.

Salvia leaves are usually smoked, but they can also be chewed or made into a tea. The effects usually last less than an hour. Some teens have made videos for the multimedia web site YouTube of themselves or their friends using salvia, making the drug more popular.

Salvia produces a hallucinogenic state, though it is not a high like marijuana or some other hallucinogenic drugs. Most people who try salvia don't like the experience and don't want to do it again. Scientists don't know yet if the drug has the potential to be addictive, but they do know some of its effects:

  • Hallucination, or seeing things that aren't really there
  • Distorted sense of time and place
  • Unpleasant sense of movement
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Nausea
  • Slurred speech
  • Slower heart beat
  • Chills

One teen's suicide has been linked to experimenting with salvia. Teens who drive after using the drug have a high potential for injuring or killing themselves or others because of the distortion caused by the drug. Also, other hallucinogens have the risk for causing long-term brain damage and of interacting dangerously with other mental health problems, and doctors fear that salvia may be no exception.

Any substance, including salvia, has the possibility for psychological addiction, causing a person to feel they need the substance to get through the day. Teens with this type of addiction need counseling to learn better ways to cope and avoid the effects of using dangerous substances.

Street names for salvia include:

  • Magic mint
  • Sally D
  • Ska Maria Pastora

Salvia may have some medical benefits in the future for:

  • Drug addiction
  • Depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Heart disease

For this reason, some people advocate keeping salvia legal for medical research and use among older people, but restricting its availability to teens, like tobacco and alcoho. Currently it is classified as a "drug of concern" by the federal government.

Parents should learn if salvia is legal in their area and talk to their teens about the dangers of using any type of drug. They should also be aware of the media their teens are viewing and talk to them about anything concerning, like YouTube videos of teen salvia use.


WebMD, Health and Parenting, "Salvia Becoming 'Drug Du Jour' for Some Teens" [online]

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIH News, "Teen Methamphetamine Use, Cigarette Smoking at Lowest Levels in NIDA's 2009 Monitoring the Future Survey" [online]

David Schaper, NPR, "Salvia: Legal Herb Hallucinogen Draws Teens, Critics" [online]

Patrik Jonsson, Christian Science Monitor, "Teen use of salvia divinorum raises alarms" [online]

MSNBC, U.S. News, "Lawmakers consider outlawing 'next marijuana'" [online]

Related Article: Other Drugs Teenagers Abuse >>