What is Kratom?
To start the topic on Kratom it first needs to be mentioned that the quality empirical research (meaning information written and published in peer-reviewed journals) is limited on this substance. Because of this, high quality information is greatly limited, and more research is needed to fully understand Kratom. With this being said, it is important to know that the dangers associated with Kratom are still being investigated scientifically. However, it is documented that there are considerable dangers associated with Kratom including physiological and psychological addiction, health concerns, long lasting side effects, and even reported fatal overdoses. Many countries in the world have already made the use and/or possession of Kratom or any mitragynine substance illegal.
Kratom or Mitragyna Speciosa Korth is the name of a tropical tree of the Rubiaceae family which is native to Southeast Asia, Thailand, New Guinea, and the Philippines. The Kratom tree can reach heights around 50 foot tall with a spread over 15 foot. The Kratom tree is related to the Coffee Tree in the Rubiacae family. Most commonly in the history of Kratom it has been used to make tea or is chewed. There is no reported date of the first usage of Kratom and it is speculated that it was decades if not centuries before 1836, which is the first time Kratom was documented in scientific literature.
Kratom has a long history in the countries of its origin and was first introduced to the United States in the early 1990s, but the use was of Kratom was uncommon. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes that the first known marketing of Kratom as a dietary supplement was on October 15, 1994. The Poison Control Center received only 13 calls regarding Kratom in 2011 which rose to 682 calls in 2017. The latest available data reports 1,262 calls regarding Kratom to the Poison Control Center in 2020. To put this in perspective there were 1,450 calls about Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD) and 546 about Phenylcyclohexylpiperidine (PCP) in 2020. This shows a growing trend in concerning usage and problems associated with the Kratom as it is reaching other more well know drugs for concerned calls.
How Does Kratom Affect the Body?
The main psychoactive components in the leaves of the Kratom tree are the alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. Both of these alkaloids are only found in the Kratom tree’s leaves. It has also been identified that speciociliatine, speciogynine, and paynantheine are also active substances in the Kratom leaves. Currently more research is being performed on the effects of Kratom on the body due to the increase in usage and misuse in other countries, such as the United States. Research as recent as three years ago is still on animal studies on the effects of this substance, such as how mitragynine can be turned into 7-hydroxymitragynine and that the binding of the mu-opioid receptors in the brain. What does this mean? It means that more research is needed to know the exact effects of Kratom and that there are changes in the body and how the substance affects people, largely varying by dosage.
There currently are no official pharmacological uses for Kratom in the United States among many other countries. It is important to understand with that statement that there are two main schools of thought with medicine, that of Western Medicine and that of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In Western Medicine there is a lack of sufficient research on Kratom to know of any beneficial uses of the botanical drug, as well as a lack of research on side effects and negative consequences for its usage. One thing that is being noticed more in the United States is the abuse of Kratom is leading to dependency on the substance as well as overdoses. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved Kratom for any medical purposes and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has placed Kratom on their drugs of concern watch list.
The original use of the tree was by the laborers of the areas where the tree grows. They would dry the leaves and make tea with them to help combat the fatigue of their work, similar to a strong coffee, which coffee tree is from the same family of Rubiaceae trees. In small doses Kratom will produce simulant-like effects. These laborers would also chew the dried leaves at time providing some minor relief from muscular strains. Other century old uses of the Kratom tree were to treat other medical conditions. One treatment was in Thailand, Kratom was used to treat morphine dependence. In Malaya they used Kratom as a substitute for opium. With the last two uses, it can easily be seen that Kratom in other doses has sedative effects like that of opiates. Others have used Kratom as a method to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms from chronic opioid use. As usage in the United States could be similar to the original usages in the tree’s home or origin. It is being noticed that many individuals are abusing the substance for the drug because of the effects it can produce.
How is Kratom Processed and Consumed
Traditionally Kratom leaves were harvested and dried before consumption. At times some may have chewed on fresh leaves from the tree. The leaves most commonly were used to make tea or used for chewing. On occasion it has been reported that individuals may smoke the dried leaves of the Kratom tree. The average tree leaf will vary in size between 0.43 and 1.7 grams per leaf. It was typical that the average dosage was one to three leaves at a time. This is important to remember for later when discussing dosage in Western countries like the United States. As for those addicted to Kratom in Asia it is reported that they would use Kratom three to ten times a day. The reported effects of Kratom are short lived and typically last at most one and a half hours.
In the United States Kratom is manufactured from the leaves of the plant and put into a variety of delivery methods. These range from capsules of powder, powder to make beverages, mini shots of a liquid, gummies, and honey sticks. All of these vary greatly in intensity and as it is not monitored by the FDA there is no set standard for measurements of active ingredients. All the forms of Kratom available in the United States are processed forms and not that of the raw leaves as traditionally used in the plants’ place of origin. That means most often the versions available in the United States are greatly more potent and may be mixed with other substances.
As mentioned earlier it has been reported that the average dosage of Kratom was one to three leaves. Each leaf does vary in size and there are differences in potency based on the trees. The trees in Thailand often have potencies of the mitragynine as up to 66% of the total alkaloids (remember that mitragynine is the substance causing the majority of the effects people desire from Kratom), with potencies as low 12% of the total alkaloids in the Malaysian trees. Other factors can affect potency such as the age of the tree, the environmental conditions it is in, the time of the harvest, among many other factors. Per the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction reported that the dosage of Kratom used in Southeast Asia is typically 22.5 to 25 mg of mitragynine at a time.
Compare the 22.5 to 25 mg of mitragynine Kratom to what is more condensed in the United States you will see where some points of concern could arise. From some basic research online of Kratom sellers there is a wide variety of concentrations, especially in the Kratom extract formulas. A commonly found dosage is 250 mg per 5 ml bottle with some exceeding 375 mg of mitragynine per bottle. That shows the concentration versions available in the United States are at levels ten times or more than that of what was used in Southeast Asia. These bottles of concentrate also list a warning of no more than three doses in a 24-hour time period. The European Monitoring Centre of Drugs and Drug Addiction reported that no more than three doses of Kratom tea at the 22.5 to 25 mg levels of mitragynine were needed to achieve the intended medicinal effects for individuals. Remember there are still no proven medicinal effects, what they were reporting was the desired medicinal effects of the individuals taking the medication. When you compare their levels of a maximum of 75 mg a day to what is being stated in the United States of 1,125 mg or more a day, you can easily see how problems can come about as this could be a great overconsumption and misuse of Kratom.
More on the topic of Kratom will be published on this website in the upcoming weeks including the topics on the legality of Kratom in the United States and across the world. The known side effects and withdrawal symptoms as well as the known addictive properties of Kratom will be discussed in detail. If you or someone you know has become addicted to Kratom and would like assistance with recovery from this addiction, please call Milestones Wellness Centers or complete the online form on this website and we will assist you in starting your recovery.