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Treating Stimulant Addiction with Salvia?

Treating Stimulant Addiction with Salvia?

Author: Justin Mckibben

Anyone remember Salvia?

Yeah, that one weird plant that made some headlines a while back when people were trying to get a high by smoking it.

Well apparently there is some new research out suggesting that this weird little oddity that made its rounds at one point before being overshadowed by other more serious synthetic drugs being pushed as ‘legal highs’ could actually be utilized in treating individuals who have an addiction to stimulant drugs such as cocaine or crystal meth.

While I’ve never been about promoting the use of one drug to combat another, it might be an interesting subject of debate. Is it possible that this strange shrub could hold some secret component to attacking the addiction to cocaine, amphetamines and the like?

What is Salvia?  

Salvia, or Salvia divinorum is by definition is a species of plant in the largest genus of the mint family, and there are a variety of cultural references and uses for this plant that have been going on for ages. Salvia is known for creating a strong reaction from its hallucinogenic properties, and thus it developed a history of recreational use in the United States.

Some reports have been given of people completely passing out or being unable to move or function until the height of the drug as tapered off, while others have reported vivid and disorienting hallucinations that are often overwhelming.

The Mazatec people of Oaxaca in southern Mexico have been conducting rituals involving the ingestion of Salvia divinorum, or “Divine Sage,” for hundreds of years, which supposedly produces a transcendent healing experience. This transcendent experience, it is probably safe to say, comes pretty close to the intense trip the user experiences.

Oaxaca Intervention

Some have found a religious reason for it, and yet one of the primary reasons people choose to undergo the magico-ritualistic experience in Oaxaca is to treat their dependence to other substances.

According to recent investigation conducted by researchers at Yale University’s School of Medicine on the Oaxaca ritual, the villagers involved in these ceremonies employ Salvia to treat people for a variety of addictions, so to them it would be no surprise to say that the plant could serve a greater purpose than getting high, because they see it not as a high but as a solution to drugs.

Medical Investigation

Now today in our version of traditional Western medicine specialists are examining the pharmacological properties of Salvia, and so far they claim to have yielded interesting results in rats addicted to stimulants.

Salvia leaves contain a collage of unique chemicals, that is not shocker considering the variety of odd effects it has on people. But one of these chemicals is Salvinorin-A, alleged to be one of the most potent naturally occurring psychedelic substances wound up in the biological make-up of this shrub.

Other psychedelics such as the infamous MDMA and LSD act on serotonin systems in the brain to create their effect. But in Salvia the salvinorin-A chemical activates a select group of k-opioid receptors.

In the study stimulant-addicted rats were given doses of salvinorin-A and observed to press a cocaine dispensing lever. Researchers in the study noted that the rats treated with the salvinorin-A component used the cocaine dispensing lever much less than the other stimulant-addicted rats.

Also, rats who are given cocaine tend to display “cocaine-induced hyperlocomotion,” meaning they would move more erratically. Once some of those rats that were given a dose of Salvia and then cocaine, they did not have the same erratic reaction. Now this isn’t a cure all in any case, as the Yale Medical researchers noted that Salvinorin-A does not appear to restrain behavior in-general, such as lever pushing or motivation for stimuli. Those involved in the study stated:

“Instead, it seems to suppress only cocaine-related behaviors and motivation,”

Western medicine’s interest in Salvia has been largely ignited by its use in the tribe in southern Mexico and their healing ritual, albeit the approach is different for a lot of reasons. Still, it seems as far as rats on cocaine goes, Salvia has some potential, but can this kind of reaction also take place in humans?

While scientists think further exploration and research could yield exciting and promising results to treat stimulant addiction, the reality seems that even if Salvia is in any way helpful, that help is limited and for all intents and purposes probably counter-productive. Treating one drug addiction with another ‘trippy’ drug is not a brand new idea, and yet it still doesn’t seem like the best idea compared to a program of recovery based on taking action and building positive coping mechanisms.

While this concept makes for an interesting proposition, it doesn’t seem to do much for those suffering from addiction. But there is help out there for those willing to seek it.

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