In the search for effective anti-addiction compounds to help fight drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms as well as relapses, the hallucinogen Salvia divinorum is being studied by a group of researchers in New Zealand.
The research is a collaborative project between Victoria University and the University of Kansas, the aim of which is to find ways of targeting the kappo opioid receptor. This is a protein in the brain which is capable of altering a person’s perception of mood and pain.
Salvia is a plant native to Mexico, containing a powerful psychoactive chemical known as Salvinorin. According to Dr Kivell of Victoria University Salvia differs from most hallucinogenic substances. "It has a unique structure and contains compounds that we think could have anti-addictive properties."
Where most compounds that target the kappa opioid receptor have a tendency to cause severe side effects, the tests with Salvia divinorum have had surprisingly mild side effects so far.
Dr Kivell: "Drug addiction research is exciting science and it's also very relevant. Banning every mind-altering drug is not going to work so we need to find therapies to help people with their addiction. It's a very complex field and there is a lot yet to understand about why some people who take drugs get addicted and others don't."
It’s interesting to see if Salvia is really capable of ridding oneself of an addiction.