Share on Facebook Pinterest A team of researchers recently investigated the subjective psychological effects of the psychedelic plant known as Salvia divinorum.“Our main findings indicate that smoked [Salvia divinorum] facilitates an intense altered state of consciousness consisting of marked changes in affect, cognition, interoception, and sense of reality,” Peter H. Addy of VA Connecticut Healthcare System and his colleagues wrote in their study, which was published in the April 2015 issue of the Journal of Psychopharmacology. “Individuals often lost normal awareness of themselves and their surroundings, as well as reporting an assortment of delusional phenomena.”Salvia divinorum is a unique drug with a intense onset and short duration that has been used in Mexican healing rituals for hundreds of years. Share Share on Twitter Email LinkedIn Classic psychedelics like LSD or psilocybe mushrooms act as agonists of serotonin receptors, meaning the drugs activate receptors in the brain in a manner similar to natural serotonin. But salvinorin A, the main psychoactive component in Salvia divinorum, has a completely different mechanism of action. Rather than targeting the serotonin system, salvinorin A acts as an agonist of kappa opioid receptors.In the study, 32 medically and psychiatrically healthy adults who had prior experience with psychedelic drugs smoked 1017 micrograms of salvinorin A in a controlled, relaxed setting.The participants uniformly reported a rapid onset and extremely intense experience. “The transition between states was abrupt, very abrupt and that was a little unpleasant,” one participant told the researchers.The participants experienced a wide variety of hallucinations after smoking Salvia divinorum. Seventeen participants reported synesthesia, the experience of two or more sensory channels being mixed together. Twenty-five participants said they experienced closed eye visual imagery, from simple lights to geometric patterns to complex scenic hallucinations.“What had been a bit of light entering through the bottoms of the eye mask became two voluminous hills or waves, and then they were supplemented by others that extended outwards into a horizon,” one of the participants said.Surprisingly, five participants experienced the same scenic hallucination: carnival scenes. But other participants reported their visual hallucinations as kaleidoscopic, with one person them describing them as “garden images morphing into spirals.”The Salvia divinorum plant (Photo credit: Luis Pérez)Tactile and kinesthetic sensations were also common. Many participants reported feeling as if their body was moving, spinning, or stretching. Four participants reported a specifically odd sensation: being folded along with the universe around them. “The field was solid, but I was falling through the field and then there was a diamond shaped pattern,” one person explained. “I was falling through the pattern, and it was all folding in, and it was falling away from me.”Six participants reported not hearing anything during the psychedelic experience, while five other participants reported hearing auditory hallucinations or less well-defined auditory sensations.The participants also reported a wide variety of emotional shifts. Some participants felt happy or humorous, while others felt guilty, selfish, or frightened. The most commonly reported emotional states were self-acceptance and awe.A disruption of the normal sense of self emerged as another feature of the experience. Eleven participants reported feeling a sense of detachment from themselves, while six reported feeling disconnected from their bodies. “I couldn’t tell if I was part of the carpet, or you’re part of the chair,” one person explained.Fifteen participants said the experience was unique, while six described it as a crazy. According to one participant: “That’s crazy. I’ve never felt anything like that… It was like a crazy dramatic river scene.”The researchers said the Salvia divinorum appears to have a low potential for abuse. “Subjects did not report experiencing euphoria or craving to use, and did not seek out SD subsequent to experimental exposure,” the researchers said.