Drug addiction has become one of the major concerns that the world has been trying to solve. However, despite the efforts of world governments to completely end the drug menace, it has not been that easy. Kratom use, for instance, has been the subject of debates as advocates and opposition groups have clashing beliefs about the plant’s effects on human health.
We at the TestCountry blog have been discussing about this controversial plant through several articles on kratom. There’s not much information about kratom for now – and studies are still under way – and that’s why it’s important to learn as much as we can about kratom.
What is kratom?
Kratom is a plant-like tree endemic in Southeast Asia, and belongs to the same family of plants as coffee and gardenias. It has been widely used for centuries in Thailand because of its ability to relieve pain and improve mood. Kratom use is also known to manage withdrawal symptoms associated with opiate addiction.
Kratom products are distributed in the form of crushed or powdered leaves, and varies in color from light to dark green.
- Kratom extracts are greenish in color.
- Kratom resins are dark brown in color, and are made by boiling down the water from liquefied kratom suspension.
- Kratom is also available in capsule and tinctures.
Kratom extract is the most expensive form of kratom.
Kratom comes in different strains: red, green and white. These color strains are determined by the veins and stem of the kratom leaves and not the color of the leaves themselves. Each strain possesses a different effect, and this has something to do with where the leaves comes from. The most of all kratom strain is Maeng Da, which is said to be very potent and highly effective in treating pain.
Kratom is usually sold at headshops, smart shops, and online stores. Most kratom supplies come from Indonesia where the plant is not prohibited or controlled.
It was in Thailand where this started to become popular. In the 1940s, kratom was banned in Thailand not because of its unfavorable effects but because it has surpassed the popularity of opium, which was then raking in huge revenues in the country.
Methods of Kratom Use
Kratom leaves may be dried and crushed, so that they can be chewed or made into tea. If kratom is taken as tea, a certain amount of lemon juice is added to help extract the plant alkaloids, and then a bit of sugar or honey to mask out the bitter taste of the brew. Kratom leaves can also be smoked.
Some kratom users would chew 3 to 10 times in a day. They take out the stem of the leaves and chew one leaf at a time. Some people add salt to prevent constipation. Drinking of warm water, coffee or tea is done after consuming the masticated kratom.
In recent years, kratom cocktails were made and was called as 4×100 . It is a mixture of kratom leaves, caffeinated soft drink, codeine-containing cough syrup, antidepressant or analgesic drug, and ice. Much like any other drug cocktail, mixing kratom with other drugs can be extremely dangerous.
Street Names of Kratom
Kratom is also known by the following street names:
- Thom (Thailand)
- Ketum (Malaysia)
- Mambog (Philippines)
The strength of a specific kratom sample depends on several factors, such as variety of kratom, age of the plant, environment and the time of harvest. The total alkaloid concentration in dried kratom leaves ranges from 0.5-1.5%. Thai kratom may have up to 66% of total alkaloids, while the Malaysian kratom varieties only contain about 12% of total alkaloids.
Ketum drinks in Malaysia are prepared by boiling dried kratom leaves over long hours. Three servings of 250 ml of ketum drink in a day are said to be effective in relieving opiate withdrawal symptoms.
Why do people use kratom?
Kratom has both positive and negative effects. More often than not, people overlook the side effects as they are more focused on the positive effects that kratom can provide.
Kratom can be beneficial in the following ways:
- Contains Antioxidant properties
- Helps reduce effects of anxiety and depression
- Controls diarrhea
- Enhances energy
- Helps to have a restful sleep
- Provides a calm effect
- Provides a sense of well-being
- Helps in pain management
- Improves focus
- Reported to be an herbal alternative to prescriptions
- Induces prolonged sex
- Aids in relaxation
- May help with losing weight
Medical Uses of Kratom
Kratom is used for various medical conditions in Southeast Asia, particularly in the treatment of diarrhea, cough, and intestinal worms. It is also used as an antimicrobial agent for wound infections. It has been also found to be helpful in managing withdrawal symptoms for opiate addiction.
Kratom is used to alleviate chronic pain. Although kratom may have somehow showed positive results to certain medical conditions, further studies are still needed to authenticate such claims made by self-medicating individuals and physicians. Scientific information about the effects of kratom is currently limited, and there have been no clinical trials conducted to fully determine if kratom is safe to use or not.
Is Kratom Safe?
Kratom contains more than 20 active chemicals that bind in the human brain. This can lead to physical dependence and addiction. Despite the long history of kratom as an alternative to prescription drugs, kratom use has become popular in countries like Thailand and Malaysia, even though the plant is banned.
Chemicals found in kratom may interact with drug-metabolizing enzymes in the liver, which may eventually lead to dangerous drug interactions with other medications.
Dangers of Kratom Use
Kratom users should be warned of the dangers that kratom may possess, most especially to those who are regularly using this kind of substance.
Kratom use within a regulated amount may provide beneficial effects to an individual. It has a natural stimulant effect, which is very helpful in adding focus, and increasing energy and alertness. However, larger doses may produce a euphoric feeling similar to opioids, and may affect a person’s decision-making.
Frequent and progressive kratom use may lead to addiction, because it can trigger the “happy center” of the brain. When the user takes the substance, it comes to a point where the individual may no longer feel the same intensity with the same dose. As a result, the user would then take larger doses to achieve the desired result, which in turn may lead to dependence.
Insufficient Kratom Regulations
Kratom was marketed in the past as a nutritional or dietary supplement. It was in 2014 when there had been numerous reports to the U.S. Food and Drug Authority (FDA) about health concerns and toxicity of kratom. This resulted to a move to completely ban importation of kratom to the US.
Despite this measure, kratom is continuously being sold at headshops where it is labeled as “incense”. It can also be purchased online. Some bars even offer this as a cocktail drink called “ketum”.
Currently, it is an unregulated substance, which is why it continues to be available in the market. No official labels are used for selling; therefore, the potential health hazards and the level of potency may be unknown to buyers.
Undesirable Drug Interactions
Mixing kratom with other psychoactive substances may put a person at high risk of having seizures. One of the most popular kratom concoctions is 4×100, a cocktail composed of kratom and codeine-based cough syrup or caffeinated beverage. This mixture can provide a similar effect as alcohol.
Several reports of kratom use mixed with other drugs have led to serious health conditions. When kratom is used along with another mind-altering drug, it can lead to a very fatal drug interaction.
Side Effects of Kratom Use
Kratom use can lead to different effects – from stimulant-like to opiate-like effects depending on the dose taken by an individual.
At low doses of 1-5 g, kratom may produce a mild stimulant effect. An individual may feel the effect 10 minutes after taking kratom, and this feeling may last for up to 1.5 hours. The effects are less intense as amphetamine use, and may include the following:
- Decreased appetite
- Increased energy
- Increased alertness
- Heightened libido
At moderate to high doses between 5-15 g, kratom may provide an opioid-like effect that may last for several hours. Such effects include:
- Reduced pain
- Calmer state
- Cough suppression
- Decreased in opioid withdrawal symptoms
Unfavorable side effects may range from uncomfortable to lethal symptoms such as:
- Constricted pupils
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of motor coordination
Doses of more than 15 grams are reported to cause seizures. A potent form of kratom known as Krypton is believed to be the cause of several deaths in the U.S. Krypton is a combination of kratom and O-desmethyltramadol, which causes an increase in the depressive effects on the central nervous system.
Long-term effects of kratom may cause:
Dependence is likely to happen after regular kratom use. This is one of the reasons why many people are clamoring for this substance to be listed among the controlled substances in the U.S. Such dependency may lead to serious health hazards.
Kratom addiction will need treatment the same as any other opioid addiction. Treatment may involve rehabilitation and detoxification, as well as management of withdrawal symptoms.
Kratom withdrawal may be experienced by kratom users who stopped taking the substance. Some of the most common withdrawal symptoms include:
- High blood pressure
- Runny nose
- Intense caving for kratom
Legality of Kratom Use in the U.S.
Currently, kratom is not included among the list of controlled substances in the U.S. However, several U.S. states have come up with their own regulations with regards to kratom use, possession and trade.
The U.S. may still need to conduct further research on the true effects of this substance, whether it can provide substantial positive effects or not. Patients who have used kratom as an alternative pain remedy vouch for its therapeutic effects and its affordability compared to prescription drugs.
Not all states may see kratom as the alternative solution in treating certain medical conditions, though. In fact, some states have considered banning kratom completely. U.S. states that have banned kratom and its by-products include the following:
- Alabama: Kratom has been treated as a Schedule I controlled substance since May 2016.
- Arkansas: The banning of kratom took effect on February 2016.
- Indiana: Kratom has been incorrectly identified as a synthetic drug, thereby categorizing kratom under synthetic controlled substances.
- Vermont: One of the primary alkaloids of kratom (hydroxymitragynine) has been classified as a regulated substance.
- Wisconsin: The primary kratom alkaloids mitragynine and hydroxymitragynine have been classified as Schedule I.