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Salvinorin-A induces intense dissociative effects, blocking external sensory perception and modulating interoception and sense of body ownership in humans

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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 profile of subjective effects of increasing doses of salvinorin-A in healthy volunteers with special emphasis on interoception.

Methods: A placebo and three increasing doses of vaporized salvinorin-A (0.25, 0.50, and 1 mg) 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 (HRS), the Altered States of Consciousness (APZ), and a new instrument that evaluates different aspects of body awareness: the Multidimensional Assessment for Interoceptive Awareness (MAIA).

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 high 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.

Maqueda, A. E., Valle, M., Addy, P. H., Antonijoan, R. M., Puntes, M., Coimbra, J., … & Riba, J. (2015). Salvinorin-A induces intense dissociative effects, blocking external sensory perception and modulating interoception and sense of body ownership in humans. International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, pyv065.
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