What Is Kratom?


Kratom, scientifically known as Mitragyna speciosa, is an herbal substance likened to opioids, bearing significant side effects and a high addiction potential. Originating from regions like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea, this plant has a slender stem and broad, pointed leaves. Consumable in various forms such as crushed leaves, tea, capsules, or powder, kratom has historically been used for treating diarrhea, pain, opioid and alcohol withdrawal symptoms, increasing sexual desire, and combating fatigue.

Despite its ancient uses, modern consumption of kratom is prevalent for self-treatment of pain, opioid disorders, depression, and anxiety. However, such uses lack approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and health experts caution against its usage due to insufficient scientific evidence validating its effectiveness.

Legal Status and Concerns

In the United States, kratom is legal, but its status is contentious. About 30 states are considering legislation related to its sale, and six states have outright banned it. The FDA advises against kratom consumption due to risks of addiction, abuse, and dependence, aligning with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s classification of kratom as a substance of concern.

How Kratom Affects the Body

Kratom’s primary active compounds, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, interact with opioid receptors in the brain, inducing morphine-like effects. High doses can lead to sedation, euphoria, pain relief, and decreased breathing, while lower doses may cause increased alertness, energy, and rapid heartbeat. However, its psychiatric effects can mimic disorders like bipolar conditions. Concerns also extend to its impact on the central nervous system, potentially harming the kidneys and liver.

Drug Interactions and Risks

Kratom’s interaction with other substances, including benzodiazepines, stimulants, opiates, fentanyl, and alcohol, can amplify their effects, particularly impacting heart rate and breathing. Due to the lack of extensive research, the full spectrum of kratom’s drug interactions remains unclear.

Dosage and Side Effects

Determining a safe kratom dosage is challenging due to its unregulated and under-researched nature. A 2015 study indicated that dosages below 30 milligrams might avoid serious adverse effects. However, the potential for addiction is a significant risk, often necessitating increased dosages for the same effect, leading to tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and substantial expenditure.

Side effects can range from hallucinations, gastrointestinal issues, itching, and increased heart rate to more severe outcomes like decreased breathing, liver damage, seizures, and even death. Withdrawal symptoms include pain, sickness, irritability, and anger.

Kratom Alternatives

Considering kratom’s risks, experts recommend safer alternatives for addressing pain, anxiety, and other conditions:

  • For chronic pain: Yoga, acupuncture, exercise, massage therapy, and CBD products from reputable sources are considered safer options.
  • For anxiety: Techniques like acupuncture, exercise, yoga, massage therapy, CBD products, and meditation can be effective. Professional mental health support, involving talk therapy and prescribed medication, is also advised.

In summary, while kratom’s historical and current use for various ailments is notable, its safety, efficacy, and legal status remain highly contentious. The potential for addiction and adverse health effects, coupled with the lack of comprehensive research and FDA approval, makes kratom a risky choice. As such, exploring alternative treatments for pain, anxiety, and other health concerns is strongly recommended by health experts.