Naltrexone but Not Ketanserin Antagonizes the Subjective, Cardiovascular, and Neuroendocrine Effects of Salvinorin-A in Humans

Ana Elda Maqueda, Marta Valle, Peter H. Addy, Rosa Maria Antonijoan, Montserrat Puntes, Jimena Coimbra, Maria Rosa Ballester, Maite Garrido, Mireia González, Judit Claramunt, Steven Barker, Izabela Lomnicka, Marian Waguespack, Matthew W. Johnson, Roland R. Griffiths, Jordi Riba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Salvinorin-A is a terpene found in the leaves of the plant Salvia divinorum. When administered to humans, salvinorin-A induces an intense but short-lasting modified state of awareness, sharing features with those induced by the classical serotonin-2A receptor agonist psychedelics. However, unlike substances such as psilocybin or mescaline, salvinorin-A shows agonist activity at the kappa-opioid receptor rather than at the serotonin-2A receptor. Here, we assessed the involvement of kappa-opioid receptor and serotonin-2A agonism in the subjective, cardiovascular, and neuroendocrine effects of salvinorin-A in humans.

METHODS: We conducted a placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blind study with 2 groups of 12 healthy volunteers with experience with psychedelic drugs. There were 4 experimental sessions. In group 1, participants received the following treatment combinations: placebo+placebo, placebo+salvinorin-A, naltrexone+placebo, and naltrexone+salvinorin-A. Naltrexone, a nonspecific opioid receptor antagonist, was administered at a dose of 50mg orally. In group 2, participants received the treatment combinations: placebo+placebo, placebo+salvinorin-A, ketanserin+placebo, and ketanserin+salvinorin-A. Ketanserin, a selective serotonin-2A antagonist, was administered at a dose of 40mg orally.

RESULTS: Inhalation of 1mg of vaporized salvinorin-A led to maximum plasma concentrations at 1 and 2 minutes after dosing. When administered alone, salvinorin-A severely reduced external sensory perception and induced intense visual and auditory modifications, increased systolic blood pressure, and cortisol and prolactin release. These effects were effectively blocked by naltrexone, but not by ketanserin.

CONCLUSIONS: Results support kappa opioid receptor agonism as the mechanism of action underlying the subjective and physiological effects of salvinorin-A in humans and rule out the involvement of a serotonin-2A-mediated mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalThe international journal of neuropsychopharmacology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Salvinorin-A
  • human pharmacology
  • kappa opioid receptor antagonism
  • ketanserin
  • naltrexone
  • serotonin-2A antagonism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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