Time course of pharmacokinetic and hormonal effects of inhaled high-dose salvinorin A in humans

Matthew W. Johnson, Katherine A. MacLean, Michael J. Caspers, Thomas E. Prisinzano, Roland R. Griffiths

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Salvinorin A is a kappa opioid agonist and the principal psychoactive constituent of the Salvia divinorum plant, which has been used for hallucinogenic effects. Previous research on salvinorin A pharmacokinetics likely underestimated plasma levels typically resulting from the doses administered due to inefficient vaporization and not collecting samples during peak drug effects. Six healthy adults inhaled a single high dose of vaporized salvinorin A (n = 4, 21 mcg/kg; n = 2, 18 mcg/kg). Participant- and monitor-rated effects were assessed every 2 min for 60 min post-inhalation. Blood samples were collected at 13 time points up to 90 min post-inhalation. Drug levels peaked at 2 min and then rapidly decreased. Drug levels were significantly, positively correlated with participant and monitor drug effect ratings. Significant elevations in prolactin were observed beginning 5 min post-inhalation and peaking at 15 min post-inhalation. Cortisol showed inconsistent increases across participants. Hormonal responses were not well correlated with drug levels. This is the first study to demonstrate a direct relationship between changes in plasma levels of salvinorin A and drug effects in humans. The results confirm the efficacy of an inhalation technique for salvinorin A.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-329
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Annie Umbricht and the medical staff at the Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit for medical screening and medical coverage; Mary Cosimano for conducting psychological screenings; Chad J Reissig, Janna Bonesteel, Crystal Barnhouser, Eric Richter, Jenna Cohen, Samantha Gebhart, and Margaret Klinedinst for assistance in conducting sessions and collecting and organizing the data; Ethan Hurwitz for assistance with manuscript preparation; Linda Felch for statistical analysis; and Michelle Rudek-Renaut for analyses of prolactin and cortisol. The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) through R01DA003889, T32DA007209, and R01DA018151. Analysis of prolactin and cortisol was supported by the Analytical Pharmacology Core of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins with grants P30 CA006973 from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and UL1 RR025005 from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the NIH and NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. Manuscript contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official view of NCRR or NIH. The project described was also supported in part by Grant Number UL1 RR025005.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s).2016


  • Salvia divinorum
  • cortisol
  • endocrine
  • pharmacokinetics
  • prolactin
  • salvinorin A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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