Facts about Kratom

  • Kratom comes from the leaves of a tree that is a member of the coffee family.  It is usually sold in capsules, that have a ground or chopped form, of the Kratom leaves inside.  However, the actual leaves may also be used, but this form is not as common in the United States.
  • The capsules can be swallowed, or the contents of the capsule may be brewed into a tea, or used for smoking.
  • The effects of the drug are felt pretty quickly and can last many hours.
  • The drug is often used, and marketed, as an alternative to other “illegal” drugs.  The drug is sometimes referred to as an herbal opioid-like drug.  It is commonly used to try and ease withdrawal symptoms from other drugs, such as opioid type pain medications.  Withdrawal from opiates often results in severe diarrhea.  In some countries Kratom has been used as medicinal treatment for diarrhea, pain, and fatigue, for many years (Prozialeck, Jivan, & Andurkar, 2012).
  • Research has shown the active properties in the leaves have shown anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects and appear to act on some of the same receptors as opiates (Warner, Kaufman, & Grundmann, 2016).
  • There has been some disagreement in the United States about whether or not the drug should be legal.  The drug does shows some qualities of one that could have medicinal uses, however, I think the danger lies in the unpredictability of it’s effects.  In addition, the psychoactive properties make it a drug that is certainly susceptible to abuse. More research is needed to determine if the drug would be helpful in treating opiate withdrawal.  If it proves to have beneficial medical uses, than regulating Kratom would make the product safer. For instance, making sure the dosing is the same in all products, and that nothing has been mixed, or added to it.  Without FDA regulation there is no guarantee you know what you are ingesting.
  • The drug is not yet federally illegal, but may be banned in your specific state.  States in which the drug has been banned, or listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, include:  Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin.  A few other states have banned the drug in certain counties or cities.  For example, while the drug is legal in California, the city of San Diego passed a local ordinance to ban the drug.
  • Regardless of it’s legality, the poison control center has received many calls related to the use of Kratom.  It also has a high potential for addiction, and many people have described very uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms after using Kratom.  The withdrawal symptoms are described as being very similar to opiate withdrawal.  Some common symptoms include: sweating & chills at the same time, severe fatigue combined with insomnia, uncomfortable restless legs at night and a feeling of being unable to sit still, diarrhea, runny nose, and a general overall “flu” like feeling.

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Prozialeck, W., Jivan, J., & Andurkar, S. (2012). Pharmacology of kratom: an emerging botanical agent with stimulant, analgesic and opioid-like effects. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (112(12): p. 792-799).

Warner, M., Kaufman, N., & Grundmann, O. (2016) The pharmacology and toxicology of kratom: from traditional herb to drug of abuse. International Journal of Legal Medicine (130(1) p. 127-138).