Salvinorin-A Induces Intense Dissociative Effects, Blocking External Sensory Perception and Modulating Interoception and Sense of Body Ownership in Humans

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2015 Jun 5;18(12):pyv065. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyv065.


Background: Salvinorin-A is a terpene with agonist properties at the kappa-opioid receptor, the binding site of endogenous dynorphins. Salvinorin-A is found in Salvia divinorum, a psychoactive plant traditionally used by the Mazatec people of Oaxaca, Mexico, for medicinal and spiritual purposes. Previous studies with the plant and salvinorin-A have reported psychedelic-like changes in perception, but also unusual changes in body awareness and detachment from external reality. Here we comprehensively studied the profiles of subjective effects of increasing doses of salvinorin-A in healthy volunteers, with a special emphasis on interoception.

Methods: A placebo and three increasing doses of vaporized salvinorin-A (0.25, 0.50, and 1mg) were administered to eight healthy volunteers with previous experience in the use of psychedelics. Drug effects were assessed using a battery of questionnaires that included, among others, the Hallucinogen Rating Scale, the Altered States of Consciousness, and a new instrument that evaluates different aspects of body awareness: the Multidimensional Assessment for Interoceptive Awareness.

Results: Salvinorin-A led to a disconnection from external reality, induced elaborate visions and auditory phenomena, and modified interoception. The lower doses increased somatic sensations, but the highest dose led to a sense of a complete loss of contact with the body.

Conclusions: Salvinorin-A induced intense psychotropic effects characterized by a dose-dependent gating of external audio-visual information and an inverted-U dose-response effect on body awareness. These results suggest a prominent role for the kappa opioid receptor in the regulation of sensory perception, interoception, and the sense of body ownership in humans.

Keywords: Body ownership; dissociative effects; dynorphins; human; interoception; kappa opioid receptor; salvia divinorum.; salvinorin-A.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / drug effects*
  • Consciousness / drug effects
  • Diterpenes, Clerodane / administration & dosage*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Hallucinations / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Interoception / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Narration
  • Ownership
  • Psychotropic Drugs / administration & dosage*
  • Self Concept*
  • Visual Perception / drug effects*
  • Young Adult


  • Diterpenes, Clerodane
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • salvinorin A