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Kratom: Friend or Foe?

Twenty five size 0 capsules of 500mg of Malaysian Kratom. It takes about ten of these bad boys to get a wonderful fade. The high is opiate like and therefore considered a opioid even though it acts on different receptor sites.
Twenty five size 0 capsules of 500mg of Malaysian Kratom. It takes about ten of these bad boys to get a wonderful fade. The high is opiate like and therefore considered a opioid even though it acts on different receptor sites. (Photo: Psychonaught)
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Due to the opioid-like properties of Kratom, it is currently under investigation and is being considered a “drug of concern.”

Kratom is the new hip thing across America among youth as well as addicts in recovery. Dispensaries, vape stores, and herbal tea shops are popping up across the nation selling Kratom in various forms, claiming that it is a safe alternative to opioids for pain management and anxiety. Is Kratom really as harmless as it seems? Let’s take a deeper look.

What is Kratom?

Kratom is a tropical tree that is native to Southeast Asia. The leaves contain two compounds that have mood and mind-altering effects similar to those of some amphetamines and opioids. These compounds bind to opioid receptors in the brain, resulting in feelings of euphoria and decreased pain while also causing an increase in pleasure and energy.

Some cities and states have banned the use of Kratom, but as far as legality goes, it is completely legal in the eyes of federal legislation. At the same time, it is widely irregulated and is not FDA approved.

Kratom is frequently taken as a pill or extract, but sometimes the leaves are chewed, brewed into tea, or smoked. Many people see Kratom as a safe alternative to stronger pharmaceuticals, but this may not be the case.

Kratom Fatalities

Despite popular belief that Kratom is safe, during a span of 18 months, a CDC study found that 91 people suffered from a fatal overdose attributed to the use of Kratom. The study examined the fact that although these fatalities are only responsible for 1% of all overdose deaths, 80% of people who overdosed on Kratom had a known history of substance abuse.

This suggests that people, including people with a substance use disorder, are abusing Kratom in a dangerous way. Due to the opioid-like properties of Kratom, it is currently under investigation and is being considered a “drug of concern.”

The Problem with Kratom

Advertising a substance that has opioid-like properties as a “safe” drug is particularly dangerous to individuals who struggle with opioid use disorder. Getting sober from opioids isn’t easy, and cravings can last for months on end. Many people who are struggling with cravings, but don’t want to use opioids, may turn to Kratom in order to ease their obsession for stronger drugs, like heroin or oxycodone. However, there are other ways to manage opioid cravings rather than marketing Kratom towards recovering opioid addicts.

Despite having no federal legislation against it, the FDA has even warned the public that Kratom has addictive qualities.

Let’s face it – there is a lot of money to be made on people who suffer from addiction by offering them safer alternatives. In the end, addiction is a disease, and the potential profit to be made from drugs like Kratom is not worth the lives it has the potential to take.

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3 Comments

  1. mrwong April 18, 2019

    Kate, speaking of making money from people who suffer from addiction, I’m curious if you happen to. It’s very Bizzaro World of you to paint a plant that Millions of Americans safely use to improve their lives as some hip new drug that’s big with the kids, and to discourage people from turning to a plant for help when “there are other ways manage opioid cravings”. I clicked your link. It takes you to an organization that actually makes money from people who suffer from addiction and the first “tip” listed is “Medically Assisted Treatment”. Go figure.

    I’ll be surprised if you actually publish this letter, but I’m writing you in the off chance that you actually do want to help people (not just people with addiction, a lot of us use kratom for other benefits). Given the fact that you are telling people kratom can be smoked is a big red flag that shows you have done zero legitimate research on the subject. You can smoke kratom all you want, but it is not going to do anything you’re going to like. The only way to receive any benefits from the plant is to ingest it.

    These media headlines going around regarding the recent CDC report are blatant fearmonger and ignore its actual findings, which support the position that more regulations need to be in place to protect consumers from unscrupulous bad actors who spike natural kratom with dangerous adulterants. The CDC report also indicates that medical examiners and coroners are reporting ONLY that they have detected kratom in toxicology reports, and they often incorrectly report that kratom was involved in or the actual cause of death. Please read this report from the American Kratom Association if you’re genuinely interested in knowing more, https://preview.tinyurl.com/y53t9wv4.

    I’ve been a daily kratom user for about 3 years. I’m a 47 year old network engineer, husband and father of a medically complex 5 year old daughter with brain damage and special needs. I have been using kratom for improved well-being, energy, as well as improved sleep. Using it responsibly, I can report zero negative effects. After a few months of using kratom regularly my wife actually commented that I seemed generally happier. A little background on me– I’ve dealt with low level depression and mild anxiety on and off most of my adult life. I’ve tried antidepressants in the past with little success. My experience is kratom actually promotes a healthier lifestyle. I’ve never been a big drinker or smoker and I’ll admit my interest in them had already been waning with age, but since I started using kratom I’ve completely lost all interest in both. Another change for the better is my motivation for running has improved significantly.

    If kratom is so dangerous and has no benefits then why did Thailand just recently legalized it for medical use? Or why would the states of Utah and Georgia recently pass kratom consumer protection acts which enact protections for kratom consumers from adulterated and misbranded kratom products? It is very telling that the FDA has had such a difficult time finding any evidence that kratom is deadly. It certainly isn’t for lack of effort. Last year they cited 44 deaths in nine years and of those deaths almost all of them involved other potentially deadly and / or illicit drugs in the decedent’s systems. There was even a suicide and a man who was shot in the chest included.

    Something else noteworthy is the fact that the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recently awarded researchers at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy a two-year, $3.5 million grant to bolster research on kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) and its potential to treat opioid abuse and physical dependence. This was after they performed a comprehensive review of already available scientific studies and information and they concluded “kratom use does not cause overdose deaths. Closer investigations revealed no fatalities documented that could be singularly linked to use of the natural unadulterated kratom plant.

    There are around 450 acetaminophen deaths every year in America yet nobody is talking about banning Tylenol. And what about alcohol? Here’s a substance that has no medical value, can and often is dangerously addictive, and is responsible for 88,000 deaths in America annually. Yet not only is this ubiquitous killer substance not banned, it’s universally celebrated. You’re not going to find any “alcohol advocates” proselytizing on how wine saved their lives. But stories like this are real when it comes to kratom.

    Reply
  2. Jackahm Webb April 19, 2019

    I have been using kratom for over 4 years now with no negative incidences. Some of the head shop brands are ok but many are sketchy, mostly all are overpriced. I was buying kratom for $50 for about 100 grams or 4 ounces. I now know enough of the kind of kratom that works for me to buy it online. I buy mine from soulfulherbals.com because they have entire kilos for about $100 and they sell their 4 ounces for half what the head shop does. I highly recommend with kratom like anything else, you find a good source so you know what the heck you are gettng.

    Reply
  3. Liam Malon June 26, 2019

    The deaths you are speaking about in this article have been looked at by top scientists and determined that the accompanying substances in almost every single case are much more likely the cause of respiratory suppression than Kratom.

    I’m a 42-year-old husband and father, sole supporter of my family. I have held a prominent position at one of the largest LLC’s in the country for the past six years and just last week was given another promotion and a 20% pay increase. I have been using Kratom for almost a decade now. I switched to it to get away from the addictive and life threatening medications prescribed by my doctor(s) to treat sports injuries from my youth. The only negative effect I have ever encountered using Kratom was when I first began using the leaf. That negative affect was mild nausea caused from not knowing exactly how much I needed to take in order to achieve an affective dose. I laid down, and an hour later I felt fine. Most people I have ran into that use Kratom have never even suffered nausea. The “highs” you read about online are a quite mild euphoria that subsides quickly if used daily, like myself. While the euphoria may disappear, the stimulant effects, similar to your morning coffee, and the pain and inflammation reduction carries on. You don’t get “high” from Kratom. And, your claim that addiction is addiction is a pretty irresponsible statement. Am I an addict because I choose to use Kratom instead of gabapentin, hydrocodone, oxycodone, lyrica, tramadol or the other prescription meds I’ve been prescribed to treat my injuries? I think not. Stop lumping everyone into the same category and stop assuming because some people can’t cope effectively, nobody can. This is getting ridiculous.

    If this sounds like a harsh reaction to your article, do more research next time and write an unbiased, completely informed piece. This one is not. You mentioned nothing about the scientists that looked into the alleged overdoses and discredit the claims that Kratom was the cause of death. You also mentioned nothing about the pharmaceutical patents filed of the alkaloids found within Kratom, and that pharmaceutical industry(along with those receiving payoffs) stand to make billions, if not trillions off of the medicinal properties found in this leaf. There is a smear campaign going on similar to that of “reefer madness” against marijuana. It’s absurd.

    Irresponsible articles like this one only spread misinformation. It begs the question, what made you decide you wanted to write a piece on Kratom in the first place? I’d be curious to know the true answer.

    Reply

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