Recreational Use of Kratom
Herbal medicine and kratom
The plant called kratom is used as a stimulant or pain reliever by millions of people in the United States, according to the American Kratom Association (AKA). Researchers say its psychoactive compounds likely have a lower rate of harm than prescription opioids. They also have some drawbacks, including a potentially high risk of dependence and addiction.
AKA estimates that between 10 and 16 million Americans use kratom, which is sold as a herbal supplement in powder form or as teas, capsules, tablets and concentrates at smoke shops and online. It is a tropical plant related to coffee trees and grown in Southeast Asia. It contains a chemical called mitragynine, which acts on the brain’s opiate receptors and alters mood. In small doses, it acts like a stimulant; in higher doses, it has sedative properties.
Research to date has focused on kratom’s analgesic effects in mice. One study found that kratom’s alkaloids reduce pain by increasing the time it takes for a mouse to feel pain in what is called a tail-flick assay. Another study found that a specific kratom compound was more effective than morphine at blocking pain in mice using an inflammatory model.
But a growing number of reports in the media and from public health officials describe kratom’s psychological or emotional side effects, such as sedation, addiction and even death. In May, a Florida nurse and mother of four reportedly died of acute kratom intoxication after buying the drug on the internet. Her fiance found her dead in their home with a cup of coffee and a packet of kratom powder, which she had marked “space dust” in black marker.
Other kratom users have described their own struggles with the drug, which is not regulated at the federal or state levels and is available in a wide variety of forms, from unground leaves to pulverized or dried leaf fragments to powders, capsules and extracts. It is not a controlled substance, but some states have banned its sale.
Some studies indicate that kratom can cause liver damage, but most of the evidence is anecdotal. The AKA says chronic kratom use has also been linked to other serious complications, such as seizures and respiratory failure.
Researchers stress that rigorous clinical research is needed to test kratom for therapeutic benefits, behavioral intoxication and adverse side effects before it’s endorsed for medical purposes or given as a replacement for opioid medications. In the meantime, they recommend that consumers err on the side of caution and consult their health care provider to determine a safe dosage. They should also avoid combining kratom with other drugs, including alcohol, as they can have dangerous and life-threatening interactions. Those who need relief from pain, anxiety or depression should explore other options that don’t have the same risks, such as yoga, acupuncture, exercise and ktropix products that can be purchased legally without a prescription.