The Facts About Salvia Divinorum Drug Use Among Teens

What Parents Should Know About Teen Use of This Hallucinogenic Drug

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Salvia divinorum is an herb in the mint family commonly found in South America, Central America and Mexico. Growing more than three feet in height, the plant's three large green leaves are known to produce hallucinations or other delusions when ingested, or dried and smoked.

The active chemical that produces the high is salvinorin A, one of the most potent naturally-occurring hallucinogens. It is particularly dangerous when driving under the influence of the chemical, as it impedes awareness and the sense of reality.

Legal Status of Salvia Divinorum in the United States

The legal status of salvia divinorum is variable and depends on your state as of 2015. Many have banned possession and distribution of the consciousness-altering drug, while in some states such as California (illegal to provide to minors, but not illegal for minors to possess), Maine (illegal to possess if under 18 years old) and Maryland (illegal to possess if under 21 years old) it is restricted by age. Finally, in some states, salvia divinorum is legal, including Washington, Oregon, Utah, Montana, Nevada, Idaho, New Mexico and Arizona.

The Growing Problem of Salvia Use Among Teens

The use of salvia is showing up among the teen drug use statistics as a growing problem for parents and teens. Here are some of the interesting statistics of teen salvia use from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):

  • It is estimated that of all Americans age 12 years or older, about 1.8 million have used salvia divinorum in their lifetime.
  • It is estimated that of all Americans 12 years old or older, about 75,000 have used salvia divinorum in the past year.
  • Young adults also were nearly 3 times more likely than youths aged 12 to 17 to have used salvia divinorum in the past year.
  • Males were about 3 to 4 times more likely than females to have used salvia divinorum in the past year.

    The first time the Monitoring the Future Survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders asked about salvia abuse was in 2009 as salvia divinorum was not a drug of concern for teen users until then.

    At that time, 5.7 percent of 12th graders reported past-year use, which is greater than the number of teens reporting use of ecstasy but not as high as teens who drink heavily (over five drinks on over five occasions in the past 30 days).

    The current numbers reporting past-year use of salvia abuse remained unchanged from 2010 to 2011:

    • 1.6 percent of 8th graders
    • 3.9 percent of 10th graders
    • 5.9 percent of 12th graders

    The US National Library of Medicine noted that "of 1516 college student respondents, 4.4 percent reported using salvia at least once within the past 12 months," regarding their online survey. This shows a significant growth pattern among young adult use, a trend that can precede trends in first-time experimentation with a drug among children in their teen years.

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