Kratom: Is It Safe?
What is kratom?
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a tropical evergreen tree in the coffee family. It’s native to Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, and other South Asian countries. The leaves, or extracts from the leaves, have been used as a stimulant and a sedative. It’s also been reported for treating chronic pain, digestive ailments, and as an aid for withdrawal from opium dependence.
However, there have not been enough clinical trials to help understand the health effects of kratom. It also hasn’t been approved for medical use. Read on to learn about what is known about kratom.
Is it legal?
Kratom is legal in the United States. However, it’s not legal in Thailand, Australia, Malaysia, and several European Union countries.
In the United States, kratom is usually marketed as an alternative medicine. You can find it in stores that sell supplements and alternative medicines.
At low doses, kratom has been reported to work like a stimulant. People who have used low doses generally report having more energy, being more alert, and feeling more sociable. At high doses, kratom has been reported as being sedative, producing euphoric effects, and dulling emotions and sensations.
The main active ingredients of kratom are the alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. There is evidence that these alkaloids can have analgesic (pain relieving), anti-inflammatory, or muscle relaxant effects. For this reason, kratom is often used to ease symptoms of fibromyalgia.
The plant’s dark green leaves are usually dried and either crushed or powdered. You can find fortified kratom powders, usually green or light brown in color. These powders also contain extracts from other plants.
Kratom is also available in paste, capsule, and tablet form. In the United States, kratom is mostly brewed as a tea for the self-management of pain and opioid withdrawal.
According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), a small dose that produces stimulant effects is just a few grams. The effects usually happen within 10 minutes after ingesting it and can last up to 1 1/2 hours. These effects can include:
- reduced motor coordination
A larger dose of between 10 and 25 grams of dried leaves can cause a sedative effect, with feelings of calmness and euphoria. This could last for up to six hours.
Why is it controversial?
Kratom hasn’t been studied in-depth, so it hasn’t officially been recommended for medical use. Clinical studies are very important for the development of new drugs. Studies help to identify consistently harmful effects and harmful interactions with other drugs. These studies also help to identify dosages that are effective yet not dangerous.
Kratom has the potential to have a strong effect on the body. Kratom contains almost as many alkaloids as opium and hallucinogenic mushrooms. Alkaloids have a strong physical effect on humans. While some of these effects can be positive, others can be causes for concern. This is all the more reason why more studies of this drug are needed.
Results from one study confirmed the addictive properties of mitragynine, the major psychoactive alkaloid of kratom. Dependence can often cause side effects like nausea, sweating, tremors, the inability to sleep, and hallucinations.
Also, the production of kratom hasn’t been regulated. The FDA does not monitor the safety or purity of herbs. There are no established standards for safely producing this drug.
Reported side effects of long-term use of kratom include:
- lack or loss of appetite
- severe weight loss
- discoloration of the cheeks
There are numerous calls into the CDC poison centers for kratom overdose every year.
There are reports of beneficial effects from using kratom. In the future, with the proper supporting research, kratom may have proven potential. However, there is no clinical evidence to support reported benefits.
Without this research, there are a lot of things about this drug that remain unknown, such as effective and safe dosage, possible interactions, and possible harmful effects including death. These are all things that you should weigh before taking any drug.