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.
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of CINP.