Individuals seeking assistance in the fight against pain want to know: what is kratom?
Mitragyna speciosa, also known as kratom, is a tropical tree indigenous to Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. It is a member of the coffee family and can grow up to 42 feet tall.
The substance is beginning to gain traction as an alternative to opioids to manage pain. However, many prospective users know little about it. We aim to change that in this article.
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What Does Kratom Do?
From the beginning of the 21st century, anecdotal evidence on kratom effects has grown. As a result, it began to receive significant attention as an alternative medicine.
Kratom has opiate-like effects even though it is not an opiate. It is technically an opioid that binds to the same receptors in the brain as opiates. However, opioids and opiates do not activate these receptors in the same way.
The main alkaloids in kratom, 7-hydroxymitragynine (also known as 7-OH) and mitragynine, act as opioid receptor agonists. There is a suggestion that mitragynine reduces pain perception by acting on specific serotonin and opioid receptors. 7-OH may activate opioid receptors and a metabolite of mitragynine, with both pathways providing pain-relieving effects.
What Does Research Say About Kratom?
Kratom research is relatively limited. However, a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry in April 2002 suggested that the drug has powerful painkilling properties.
As it has opiate-like potential, kratom could prove useful as a means of helping patients with opiate withdrawal symptoms. This is because it activates the same brain receptors, providing similar effects but potentially significantly lower addiction risk.
Here are a few possible kratom benefits:
- Anti-depressant effects
- Stress relief
- Sleep aid
- Immune system booster
- Improved focus
A study published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine in 2020 looked into the potential for kratom as an anti-depressant and antipsychotic. The researchers pointed out that studies to determine whether the drug has those effects are lacking. However, they wrote that in-person and online surveys point towards kratom’s propensity to relieve anxiety and depression symptoms.
Consequently, in the opinion of the researchers, there is a “dire need for further research to be conducted on kratom” and “its mechanism of action.”
However, the use of kratom is controversial. Opponents of the practice suggest that it is unsafe and comes with an array of adverse effects.
Kratom Benefits and Side Effects
From 2011 to 2017, American poison control centers received approximately 1,800 reports involving adverse effects from kratom use. The list of possible kratom side effects includes:
- Liver damage
- Weight loss
- Dry mouth
- Depression and delusion
- Suppression of breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
Kratom withdrawal symptoms exist and are similar to issues faced by those hoping to cease opiate use. These include:
- Dilated pupils
- Blurred vision
- Heart rate and blood pressure changes
Supporters of kratom usage believe that there is a great deal of misinformation about the plant.
A government report looked into the 27,338 overdose deaths in the United States between July 2016 and December 2017. A total of 152 of these individuals died with kratom in their system. A coroner or medical examiner determined that kratom was the sole cause of death in 91 cases.
However, only seven decedents had kratom as the only drug in their systems. The CDC report also suggested that the presence of other substances couldn’t be ruled out.
It also appears that injecting kratom brings about the most significant level of risk. A study published in Chemical Research in Toxicology in January 2019 looked at the toxicity of kratom. The study found that the lethal dose of kratom was similar to the lethal dose of heroin when injected into mice.
Researchers found that the lethal dose of kratom was similar to the lethal dose of heroin when injected into mice.
However, relatively few users inject the drug, and most prefer to use it orally. The above study found that the 7-OH taken orally had a much safer profile unless taken at far higher doses. The researchers didn’t observe a lethal dose for mitragynine. Therefore, it is much less likely that anyone will overdose on kratom accidentally when consuming it orally.
How to Use Kratom
In general, interested parties will find the following available for sale:
- Kratom powder
- Kratom capsules
- Kratom tea
- Kratom pills
Traditionally, users chew kratom leaves. However, users in Western nations are more likely to use crushed or powdered leaves.
In general, they place the powder or leaves into hot water and drink it as tea. The process of steeping kratom leaves in hot water helps extract the alkaloids. Kratom tea is extremely bitter, so users are advised to add a sweetener, such as honey. Other users prefer using it in gelatin capsule form because it helps avoid the bitter taste of the leaves.
Kratom Effects & Dosage
Regarding possible effects, there is a suggestion that kratom acts differently depending on the dosage. According to this theory, it has a stimulating effect in low doses and a sedative effect when taken in larger amounts.
When used on an empty stomach, the effects of kratom could manifest after 15-20 minutes. They gradually build in intensity, and the peak effects may last 2-4 hours.
As for dosage, the amount a person should take depends on tolerance and physiology. In general, kratom capsules contain between 350mg and 750mg of the substance. A starting dose of 1 gram is often considered suitable. However, it is always advisable to start low and go slowly when increasing the dose.
Due to the time it takes for the kratom to get metabolized, one should wait at least 45 minutes after the first dose before taking more. Users should only take more if they feel no effects whatsoever. Play it safe and try various kratom doses over a few days. Also, keep in mind that a dose of over 5 grams is considered high.
Finally, kratom users often get very thirsty. Make sure a glass of water is readily available.
Smoking Kratom: Is it Safe?
The practice of smoking kratom is thousands of years old. Indeed, some users try to smoke kratom with cannabis. The leaf burns relatively easily, but smoking is regarded as an inefficient method for kratom delivery. It requires more leaves than one would need with capsules or powder.
As an aside, some people use kratom and cannabis together to experience greater relaxation. However, it is advisable to monitor your intake of both carefully. According to reputable psychedelics informational platform The Third Wave, one suggestion involves eating food in between consuming these substances to avoid the feeling of lightheadedness.
Is Kratom Psychedelic?
In technical terms, the answer is “no.” A drug is considered psychedelic if it binds to serotonin 5-HT2A receptors as an agonist or partial agonist. Kratom’s main compounds seem to display their activity on opioid receptors. However, mitragynine and 7-OH are active at other serotonin receptor types. For instance, mitragynine binds to serotonin 5-HT2C receptors.
However, scientists don’t classify kratom as a psychedelic drug. In 2016, Dr. David Nichols, an expert in psychedelics, didn’t mention kratom in his research paper, Psychedelics. However, he did mention the fact that “psychedelics have agonist or partial agonist activity at brain serotonin 5-HT2A receptors.”
A paper published in Pain and Therapy in 2020 stated that kratom had “distinctive psychotropic properties.” However, the authors did not suggest that the drug was psychedelic.
Nonetheless, further research is required to understand kratom and its compounds fully.
Is Kratom Addictive?
Yes, kratom addiction is possible. However, there is little data available to ascertain the rate of addiction. For reference, between 21% and 29% of patients prescribed opioids misuse them. And as many as 12% of those who use these drugs develop opioid use disorder.
Research from John Hopkins Medicine suggests that fewer than 10% of kratom users meet the criteria of mild kratom substance abuse disorder. Less than 3% meet the criteria for moderate/severe kratom substance use disorder.
Of kratom users, around 19% experience mild side effects, 1.9% experience severe side effects, and 9.5% have withdrawal symptoms.
For the record, users must avoid using kratom in conjunction with most drugs because of the potential for interaction.
Users must avoid using kratom in conjunction with most drugs because of the potential for interaction. Potential side effects include breathing difficulties, vomiting, and unconsciousness.
Avoid using kratom with the following substances:
- Gamma hydroxybutyrate
- Gamma butyrolactone
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
Kratom users should also avoid grapefruit as it potentially inhibits the CYP3A4 enzyme, which metabolizes many drugs.
There are also different kratom herb types that may change the experience. Users of so-called white-vein kratom say it offers stimulation, increased concentration, an energy boost and could also act as a mood enhancer.
Red-vein kratom usually has a higher 7-OH concentration. As a result, it has sedative effects and may help the user feel relaxed. It is also potentially useful for insomniacs as a sleep aid.
Green-vein kratom offers a combination of sedative and stimulating effects. Many kratom plant users prefer the green-vein option due to its more balanced effects.
Is Kratom Legal?
Kratom legality varies depending on the location. It is also difficult to navigate the complex laws surrounding drugs in many countries. However, there is no outright ban on the substance itself in Germany and Canada. However, it is illegal to sell for human consumption in both nations.
Predictably, things are less clear in the United States. While it isn’t federally scheduled, it remains illegal in many states and cities. These include:
The FDA has not approved it as a medicine and has asked the public to steer clear of products containing kratom or its active compounds. The DEA lists kratom as a “Drug of Chemical Concern.” This means it poses a possible threat to the public but isn’t on the list of controlled substances.
Kratom is decriminalized in numerous nations, including:
Where Is Kratom Illegal?
At the time of writing, kratom is illegal in:
- United Kingdom
Penalties for its usage vary from mild to severe, depending on the jurisdiction. For example, even though it is banned in Thailand, over 90% of teenagers use it.
Where to Buy Kratom
Assuming that kratom is legal in your location, there are a few reputable suppliers at present. Kratom Country has developed a positive reputation in the niche and sources its kratom from Indonesia. The brand claims its kratom leaves go through stringent testing at third-party labs to meet safety and purity standards.
It sells kratom capsules, powder, gummies, and softgels. Powder options include red, green, and White Maeng Da in 2-ounce, 6-ounce, and 9-ounce containers.
Bulk Kratom Now is a supplier that offers over 30 strains. Its products are lab-tested, and the brand offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. As the name suggests, you can purchase large quantities of kratom, including up to a kilo of powder.
While there are many kratom sellers, the companies mentioned above have established themselves as reputable brands in the niche.
Final Thoughts on Kratom & Its Potential Benefits
Ultimately, kratom remains a mystery drug to many. At present, there isn’t a great deal of research into the benefits of kratom. However, it is potentially useful as an analgesic and could also help manage withdrawal symptoms among individuals using opioids. Kratom also has potential mood-boosting properties, but more research is required.
Those interested in using kratom must first check its legality in their region. Then, they should only purchase from a reputable vendor. When using it for the first time, use a small dose, and wait to see any possible effects.