California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, San Francisco, CA
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Salvia divinorum (SD) is a legal psychoactive plant that produces hallucinogen-like effects through a putative kappa opiate mechanism. We characterized the reasons, methods, and reported consequences of SD use in a sample of 500 users (92.6% male, 23.4±8.7, range 13-68 years) with an on-line questionnaire. They had used 13.3±22.9 (range 1-250) times, usually to explore altered consciousness or to have a spiritual/mystical experience. 80.6% probably or definitely would use SD again. 92.6% smoked SD with 61.4% using a concentrated extract and 37.3% using dried leaf; effects were estimated to last 14.1±12.8 minutes. Compared to other methods of altering consciousness, SD effects were felt to be unique. Common (>25%) after-effects of SD included feelings of increased insight (47%), improved mood (44.8%), calmness (42.2%), increased sense of connection with the universe or nature (39.8%), weird thoughts (36.4%), things seem unreal (32.4%), floating feeling (32%), increased sweating (28.2%) and body felt warm or hot (25.2%). 25.8% reported persisting (>24 hr) positive effects (usually an increased sense of well-being) on at least 1 occasion. 4.4% had persisting negative effects (most often anxiety). 0.6% had sought professional help for a SD-related problem. At some point, 0.6% felt addicted to or dependent upon SD; 1.2% reported strong cravings for SD; 0.4% endorsed three DSM-IV dependence criteria. We conclude that SD is commonly used and merits further study.