There are all kinds of terms that get thrown around when describing drugs – both legal and illegal – to the point where you nearly have to be a scientist or a DEA agent to keep track of them. Narcotics, drugs of abuse, designer drugs, controlled substances – it’s enough to make a person wish for a dictionary. And of course, within all those categories are a multitude of drugs, the numbers of which are constantly growing. This article is going to focus on just one drug, which many people have not have heard of before, called Salvia divinorum.

Salvia divinorum is a “drug of concern,” which means it is not currently regulated by the Controlled Substances Act. The Controlled Substances Act is the piece of legislation from which get drug classifications, or schedules. Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use in the United States. As substances move toward Schedule V, they become less addictive and more medically useful. If a drug doesn’t belong to a schedule, that generally means that there simply isn’t enough information available about it yet. Drugs of concern aren’t necessarily safe, however, as they can still pose risks when abused. For example, DXM, a cough medicine, is a drug of concern because it can mimic the effects of PCP when used in very high doses.

So what exactly is Salvia divinorum? You might have heard it referred to by one of its street names: Maria Pastora, Sally-D, and Salvia. It’s a perennial herb – meaning it lives for more than two years – that’s in the same family as mint. It’s found in certain areas of the Sierra Mazateca, a mountainous region of Oaxaca, Mexico. It has hallucinogenic effects, and it’s long been used by the Mazatec Indians for ritual purposes such as divination and spiritual healing. In the United States, however, it’s being used by adolescents and young adults as an alternative to marijuana and LSD. The main active ingredient of the plant is called Salvinorin A, and it is considered to be the most potent known hallucinogen that occurs naturally. It can be grown outside its natural habitat, both indoors and outdoors, making it easy to cultivate at home.


Salvia divinorum can be chewed, smoked, or vaporized. People who ingest it report experiencing bright lights and vivid colors, as well as distorted shapes. It can also cause feelings of fear and panic, uncontrollable laughter, a sense of overlapping realities, and hallucinations. Some of the physical effects of the drug are loss of coordination, dizziness, and slurred speech. Because it’s not currently a scheduled drug, some companies advertise it as a legal alternative to other hallucinogenic plants, like mescaline.

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