Kratom, or Mitragyna speciosa, is an herbal supplement that hails from Southeast Asia. This supplement, which is extracted from leaves of a tropical tree, is federally legal in the United States, though several cities nationwide have banned it for human consumption. It has been used in Southeast Asian countries for centuries; however, it has begun sweeping the United States markets in more recent years. Kratom is often taken to relieve pain. It is seen by many as an alternative to infamous pain medications such as oxycodone or hydrocodone. While it has yet to undergo substantial research from federal agencies, proponents of kratom state that its effects are promising and worth investing more research into.
Compounds in Kratom
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Kratom contains two primary components, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. Depending on the amount consumed, these components affect opioid receptors in the human brain in one of two ways. When taken in larger doses, the mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine work much like well-known pain medications. In these increased amounts, the primary components interact with the brain’s opioid receptors to create sedation and euphoria while decreasing pain. In smaller doses, however, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine produce stimulant-like side effects. Users report that smaller doses of kratom typically result in effects such as increased mental awareness and physical energy.
How Kratom is Ingested
There are a variety of ways that humans can ingest kratom. Much of the consumption of kratom is dictated by geographic region. For example, in countries outside of Southeast Asia, Kratom is typically consumed in a powder form. The powder form of kratom can be consumed by mixing it with cold water, which is reported to have a very bitter taste, or by mixing it in a warm tea, which creates a much milder flavor. Kratom is also often ingested directly in its leaf form in Southeast Asian countries. Most commonly, however, it is taken in capsules or pills that are carefully weighed out for accurate dosing; this latter option has been noted to decrease the side effect nausea, as the bitter leaf does not reach the taste buds.
Users of kratom have reported an array of side effects from ingesting the herbal supplement. Most of the side effects are mild and short lasting; however, there have been reports of more intense, concerning consequences of using kratom. Most users claim there are no addictive properties associated with kratom. Nevertheless, their statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, as the herbal supplement has not been researched substantially by the United States government. In 2017, the FDA released a study that noted forty-four deaths related to kratom, but none of these deaths confirmed kratom as the sole cause of passing. Forty-three of these deaths also involved illegal substances such as opioids, benzodiazepines, and other potentially lethal substances. The following are user-reported side effects that can occur when taking kratom
- Loss of appetite
Legality and Current Research
Currently, it is legal to consume kratom on a federal basis. With that being said, there have not been comprehensive studies on the herbal supplement as of 2019. In 2016, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) tried to place kratom on its list of Schedule I list, but they withdrew their proposal when met with outraged proponents of the supplement. According to a study published in ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters, kratom needs to be researched more because it has potential to reduce pain to a degree that is on par with current medical treatments such as oxycodone or morphine but without the extensive addictive properties and painful withdrawals. In the meantime, it is crucial to speak to your medical provider before beginning any new pain management strategy.