Recently, a drug called kratom, has come into the center of national controversy.Also referred to as ‘ketum’ or ‘kakuam’, taking kratom produces opiate-like effects.
Kratom is legal in the U.S. and many people begin taking the drug to help with withdrawal from certain drugs, like heroin. What you may not realize though, is that kratom can be just as addictive as opiates, and because of this, many Americans are struggling with a cycle of kratom addiction and relapse.
So, what is kratom and how does it affect the body? Here are 5 pieces of information about the mind-altering substance.
#1. Kratom Has a Long History of Use
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a plant that grows in Southeast Asia and parts of Africa. For centuries, farmers chewed the leaves of the plant to get an extra boost of energy while working in the fields. However, due to the harmful properties of the drug, it was banned in Thailand in 1979 and in Malaysia in 2003.
Despite the bans, the known effects of kratom, such as increased energy and alertness eventually made its way to Western countries. Today, kratom use is continuing to grow in popularity and it is often smuggled from jungles in Thailand for sale in countries like the U.S.
#2. It’s Easy to Obtain
Kratom “bars” are popping up and serving the drug as a brewed beverage. States like Colorado, New York, North Carolina, are opening spots where you can sit and enjoy the narcotic effects of the tea drink.
Since the drug is still legal in the U.S., you can actually order multiple drinks and you may not even know about the potentially addictive properties within the drink.
According to an article published in The New York Times, some bars serve kratom under the name “ketum” to deter you from making a connection to kratom.
If that doesn’t shock you, did you know that kratom is now also being sold at head shops, convenience stores, and online? It’s true!
#3. Kratom Produces Similar Effects to Opiates
Want to hear another crazy fact about Kratom? It’s actually categorized as a dietary supplement in the U.S., despite the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stating that it can cause a slew of negative health consequences, including respiratory depression, hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, and severe withdrawal signs and symptoms.
Kratom takes effect within 5 to 10 minutes after you take it and you can feel the effects for 2 to 5 hours. Although it’s most commonly consumed as tea, people also consume kratom chewing the leaves or ingesting it as an extract.
At a low dose (10 grams), kratom produces increased feelings of euphoria, energy, talkativeness, and social behavior. At higher doses (20-50 grams), it can produce feelings of sedation, pleasure, and decreased pain.
#4. It’s Very Harmful to Your Health
After taking kratom, you may experience some undesirable side effects. These may include:
- Dry mouth.
- Loss of appetite.
- Increased urination.
It’s even worse if you take kratom more frequently and for a longer period of time. You may experience:
- Weight loss.
- Skin darkening.
- Dry mouth.
There have been a small number of reports of hepatitis and other liver-related illnesses with kratom use, mainly involving kratom extracts. If you thought that was bad, kratom is also known to cause psychotic symptoms in some users.
With these harmful health effects, you may be wondering why this drug is still legal in the U.S. Well, within the research community, there are simply too few studies that examine kratom’s effects to ban it.
However, there is some positive news. Although it is still legal, some states have outlawed it’s use, such as Indiana, Tennessee, and Vermont. There are also many other states that have put forth legislation to have the drug banned.
#5. Kratom Can Be Addictive
You may have heard that taking kratom can treat and curb withdrawal symptoms from opioids or other substances like alcohol. However, there is no evidence in the research community showing that kratom is effective at treating withdrawal.
In fact, you may find that you end up being dependent and addicted to kratom, which comes with it’s own host of problems (see above).
You don’t want to be addicted to kratom. The withdrawal symptoms you’ll experience won’t be worth it. Imagine muscle aches, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggression, emotional changes, runny nose, and jerky movements. That doesn’t sound fun.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). What is kratom?
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2016). Import Alerg 54-15.
New York Times. (2016). Kratom, an Addict’s Alternative, Is Found to Be Addictive Itself.
New York Times. (2012). Leaf for Drug Cocktail Adds to Thailand’s Woes.
Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.). Kratom.
Hassan, Z., Muzaimi, M., Navaratnam, V., Yusoff, N. H., Suhaimi, F. W., Vadivelu, R., … & Jayabalan, N. (2013). From Kratom to mitragynine and its derivatives: physiological and behavioural effects related to use, abuse, and addiction. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 37(2), 138-151.
Raffa, R.B., editor. (2014). Kratom and Other Mitragynines: The Checistry and Pharmacology of Opioids from a Non-Opium Source. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 239-240.