Salvia Divinorum: Resisting Today’s YouTube Drug

I was inspired to write this article based on my periodic visits over the last year to smoke shops for my fine cigars. Some smoke shops sell items of “good taste” others are quite interesting in what they have displayed as “inventory”. Needless to say, I don’t stay long in the latter. Maybe I should stick only with “legit” cigar stores. So, in an effort to educate readers and raise awareness about current and re-occurring drug trends, I have chosen to write on such a topic as this.

It has been said many times that if you want to clearly understand something, go to the root of its origin. Well, in this case, we have to revisit Oaxaca, Mexico for this is where Salvia’s roots (no pun intended) lie. You see this herb from the mint family produces hallucinogenic properties that were part of ritualistic ceremonies dating back centuries by natives indigenous to the mountain terrains of Oaxaca, Mexico.

This herb comes in smokable form in that it is a leaf as well as a psychedelic. Some who are considered “veterans” or “specialists” of the herb claim that it is non-addictive and unique. Didn’t we say the very same thing about LSD, PCP, X, etc.? The effects of Salvia appear to last approximately 30 minutes and have been dubbed as a “wild-ride”…thus hallucinogenic properties. The pharmacological mechanism of action involves the kappa-opioid receptors. These receptors are similar to the ones that respond to opiates like morphine. As the title references, revisiting the YouTube Drug, access via computers and technology has popularized Salvia by viewing thousands of “first trips” on YouTube. One person who has helped contribute to this madness is our (society’s) very own Miley Cyrus. Yes, that’s right Ms. Hanna Montana. Many of the videos displayed are entitled with a number and letter indicator (i.e. 25x, 30x, 50x). This indicator represents the strength of the herb. Research on the validity of this fact is still in its infancy.


As recent as last December, sales appear to be declining according to vendors due to the new anti-“fake marijuana” law that makes the selling of “fake marijuana”, a combination of herbs and other ingredients (i.e. oregano) that are sprayed with a THC-like chemical, illegal in California. For those who are unaware, the psychoactive part of marijuana is THC (delta9-Tetrahydrocannabinol). Some of these marketed “fake items” are known as herbal incense as Spice and K2.

In conclusion, proponents of criminalizing Salvia via classification as a U.S. Schedule I drug may be a bit premature considering research on this herb is limited. However, I would rather as a parent, grandparent, and clinician be safe than sorry. Proponents of criminalization have cited the Delaware case of Brett Chidester, who frequently used Salvia and later committed suicide. This Delaware case precedent established what is now known as Brett’s Law. Let’s hope and pray we do not have to establish a subsequent law in the Golden State.

 By Jose Aragon III, BA, CADII, ICAD, SAP