Kratom is a tropical tree (Mitragyna speciosa) native to Southeast Asia, with leaves that contain compounds that may have psychotropic (mind-altering) effects.
Kratom is not an illegal substance at the moment and has been easy to order on the Internet. It is sometimes sold as green powder in packets labeled 'not for human consumption.' It is also sometimes sold as an extract or gum.
Kratom can cause effects similar to opioids and stimulants. Two compounds in the kratom leaves, mitragynine and 7-5-007-hydroxymitragynine, interact with the brain's opioid receptors, producing sedation, pleasure and reduced pain, especially when users consume large amounts of the plant. Mitragynine also interacts with other brain receptor systems to produce stimulating effects. When kratom is taken in small quantities, users report increased energy, sociability, and alertness instead of sedation. However, kratom can also cause unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side effects.
There have been multiple reports of deaths in people who have ingested kratom, but most have been involved in other substances. A 2019 paper analyzing data from the National Poison Data System found that there were 11 deaths associated with kratom exposure between 2011 and 2017. Nine of the 11 deaths reported in this study included kratom plus other drugs and medicines such as diphenhydramine (an antihistamine), alcohol , caffeine, benzodiazepines, fentanyl and cocaine. Two deaths were reported following exposure from kratom alone with no other substances reported. * In 2017, the FDA identified at least 44 deaths related to kratom, with at least one case being investigated as possible use of pure kratom.
The FDA reports note that many of the kratom-associated deaths appear to have resulted from adulterated products or from the use of kratom with other potent substances, including illicit drugs, opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, gabapentin, and over-the-counter drugs such as cough syrup. There have also been some reports of kratom packaged as dietary supplements or dietary ingredients laced with other compounds that have caused death. People should check with their health care providers about the safety of kratoma mixing with other medicines.
Like other opioid-like drugs, kratom may cause dependence, which means that users will feel physical withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug. Some users reported becoming addicted to kratom. Symptoms of withdrawal include:
There are no specific treatments for kratom addiction. Some people seeking treatment have found that behavioral therapy is helpful. Scientists need further research to determine how effective this treatment option is.
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