Drugs & Health Blog

What We Know—and Don’t Know—About Kratom

The NIDA Blog Team

UPDATE (January 2017): The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sought public comment on its decision to add kratom to Schedule I. The comment period has closed. The Drugs & Health Blog will provide an update when more information is available.

UPDATE (September 2016): On August 31, 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) published in a notice of intent to temporarily place two opioid-like chemicals found in the kratom plant, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, in Schedule I.

Substances with a Schedule I classification, according to the DEA, could easily be abused and don’t currently have an accepted medical use in the U.S. (Other Schedule I substances include heroin, marijuana, and LSD.)

The DEA received numerous comments from researchers, members of the public, and congress expressing concerns about this action. In response the DEA has withdrawn its notice of intent and is soliciting public comments on this issue. Instructions for providing comments can be found here.


Kratom is a tropical tree found in Southeast Asia, with leaves that contain some of the same chemicals found in opioids. Some people—especially in areas of the world where kratom trees are common—use it as a stimulant.

Kratom isn’t currently an illegal substance, and has been easy to order on the Internet in recent years. In spite of its easy availability, however, we’re still learning about kratom’s effects on a person’s brain and body. Here are some things we know about kratom—and just as important, what isn’t known yet.

What’s known about it

  • People have used kratom leaves as a stimulant, for pain relief, or to improve mood. The leaves have a bitter taste, and are sometimes made into powder for tea, chewed or smoked, or eaten in food.
  • Kratom may also be sold as a leaf, powder (sometimes in packets labeled “not for human consumption”), or extract, with names like Herbal Speedball, Biak-biak, Ketum, Kahuam, Itrhang, or Thom. 
  • If you consume kratom, you could have some uncomfortable and possibly dangerous side effects: nausea, itching, sweating, increased sensitivity to sunburn, loss of appetite, and, for some users, psychotic symptoms (bizarre behavior, strange beliefs, hearing voices, etc.).
  • Kratom users might also experience long-lasting health effects: difficulty sleeping (insomnia), frequent urination, darkening of the skin, dry mouth, and anorexia (an intense fear of gaining weight, which can lead a person to dramatically reduce the amount of food they eat and resist maintaining a healthy weight).
  • Commercial forms of kratom are sometimes laced with other compounds that have caused deaths.

What we don’t know

  • It isn’t clear yet whether kratom is addictive, but users can become dependent on it: Their bodies will have side effects if they try to stop using it.  Some users have reported becoming addicted to kratom, which means they go to great lengths to keep using it, even when there are negative consequences for their relationships, jobs, or health. Plus, a study in Thailand has found that people who use kratom over a period of several years have a much higher risk of using other substances—especially heroin, MDMA, and meth.
  • If kratom is addictive, we don’t know yet which kinds of treatment could help with the addiction.
  • It’s impossible to know what other ingredients may be mixed in with kratom that’s sold commercially. For this reason, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned people not to use any products labeled as containing kratom.

Consider the potential risks before you decide to use any drug. As with synthetic marijuana and other unregulated drugs, what we don’t know about kratom could end up being the most important information of all.

Tags: 
Opioids
Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.

Comments

I love alcohol
I loved alcohol for a long time. It made feel out going and fun. However, after collage I used it too much and it was no longer fun, it was necessary. This is no fun.
Alcoholism kills and destroys families. Kratom SAVES!
My 21 year old son was addicted to opiates. Went to rehab and sober living and was clean for 9 months. Tried Kratom and became addicted. Drank 4 bottles at a time. He is back in rehab again and has been there for 8 months. Kratom does not save. It destroys. It is not a safe alternative. It is another addictive substance that should be banned. I am a loving mom and would hate to see my son use this again or for someone else son to struggle. Life is precious.
Your son is the one with the problem, no one forced him to take Kratom, he is a drug addict he shouldn't take anything, he obviously can't handle it, if he starts drinking heavily, should the DEA ban alcohol too? Its him not the Kratom, think before you speak.
wow, do you know how insensitive that comment is. Yes it may be his fault he started drugs, but its not his fault that Kratom is a highly addictive drug, and he so happened to get addicted to it. Just because he got addicted to Kratom, doesn't mean he is a drug addict. I do agree that hw cant handle it, but do you have to be so rude about it? That is her SON, of course she is worried and wants to ban it, that drug destroyed her sons life and she doesn't want to have anyone go through that pain. YOU should think before you speak, or at least find a way to be less rude. Whether Kratom should be banned or not, I have my own opinion that I will keep to myself, but I think it shouldn't be so easy to get that a teenager could get to it and become addicted.
That's not good for you
What the heck is alcohol??!?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has some useful info on how alcohol affects people: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body

drugs are ba-good
According to the Wisconsin Watchdog, Dr. Jack Henningfield, former chief of the Clinical Pharmacology Research Branch at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and currently adjunct professor of behavioral biology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and vice president of health policy and abuse liability at Pinney Associates, which provides scientific consulting on issues of public health, had the following to say about katom: Anyone looking for a high, legal or otherwise, is going to be disappointed by kratom “Kratom has what is known as a ceiling effect. That is, the pain relief it provides in larger doses has a definite limit. No matter how much you take, it is never going to reproduce the effect of a morphine-like opiate,” “The best comparison is caffeine. People drink coffee or cola to get the stimulant effect of caffeine. But even drinking a lot of coffee is never going to produce the stimulant effect of amphetamines because caffeine also has a ceiling effect.” “My team and I reviewed the medical literature to determine the potential for abuse of kratom,” “It’s a natural substance, a non-opioid that provides an alerting effect in low doses and a mild opiate-like effect in higher doses. Again, the best comparison is caffeine. Some people may come to depend on it for its effects, but it doesn’t pose a real danger of addiction or other severe adverse effects.” “It’s a natural substance, a non-opioid that provides an alerting effect in low doses and a mild opiate-like effect in higher doses. Again, the best comparison is caffeine. Some people may come to depend on it for its effects, but it doesn’t pose a real danger of addiction or other severe adverse effects.” “It can be scheduled, but just because something can be scheduled doesn’t mean it should be. Caffeine could be scheduled. Nicotine gum could be scheduled. You could make the case that nutmeg meets the criteria for being scheduled. But nobody bothers scheduling these things because they don’t pose a serious public health problem. Neither does kratom,”
Thank you. Kratom saves. Pharmaceuticals and cigarettes and alcohol DESTROY.
Not true. Krater is dangerous.
good
Thank you
Thank you for posting this. I'm glad somebody shared some true information unlike this article
You are wrong. Until you have watched a child struggle with addiction to opiates. Go to rehab....be sober for 8 months then try Kratom only to struggle with addiction again, I am convinced you do not have a real understanding of this substance. It is highly addictive...not an alternative for opiate addicts. It is dangerous and deadly. I pray it is not allowed to be sold in our country again. Life is a precious gift.
Life is a precious gift. Did Kratom kill your son? Did he overdose? Alcohol is bad, but should it be made illegal because some people abuse it, and some people die from it? It might have been best for your son to have stayed clean. He got addicted to Kratom because he has an addictive personality. Kratom has saved so many lives. I know many people who were addicts or had other illnesses and severe chronic pain, and Kratom helps them maintain a consistent, more productive lifestyle. To say that Kratom should be banned because your son got "addicted" to it is close-minded and very selfish...Truly. Like you said "life is a precious gift". The world does not revolve around you and your son. Other people have mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, husbands, and wives who have benefited SO much from Kratom. Their lives are precious too. Maybe not to you, but to them, to their family. Please open your mind to this. Type in #iamkratom and you'll find all the information you need. There are plenty of people and their testimonials out their who have proved my point over and over. It's there if you look! Addiction is a sad thing and I hope your son finds his way out of it and is able to maintain a happy, healthy, sober lifestyle, and I also hope that people who benefit from Kratom get to continue doing so as long as they desire. Thank you. <3
Kratom does save lives, it does have good qualities. But guess what, so does cocaine. Are we just going to legalize that because it has good qualities in medicine? No. why? because it is addictive and has many bad sides to it. This woman watched her son go through the bad part of Kratom. Have some resect will you? If that was your son, you would be saying the exact same thing, and don't deny it. Don't ever say that other people lives are not precious to her, how heartless does that sound? Very. Now you are not heartless, obviously, because you care about the lives that Kratom saves. Now she is and isn't wrong by saying Kratom should be banned. It should be banned from use other than medical and rehabilitation. It should only be used for that purpose, so less kids like her son get their hands on it and get addictive. Just please, try to be empathetic and understanding before you go out and say that this woman doesn't care about the people being saved and that the world revolves around her and her son. It would make you seem like a better person. This site is for opinions, not harsh cyber bullying telling other people their opinions are wrong. An opinion is not right or wrong, you are not right in another persons eyes and they are not right in your eyes, but don't call them out. we all earned this in school, find a respectful and un harsh way to voice your opinions. I'm not taking sides, but I hate to see how the world cant find respectful ways to talk to each other. Thanks, I hope I didn't hurt only made you realize what the other person may be feeling.
21 is not a kid lol 12 is a kid
You don't seek to ban something just because it's addictive. That in and of itself is not a valid or logical reason to seek the restriction of any herbal supplements . The only time it should be banned if there is undeniable proof that the supplement is causing harm
I disagree with your findings simply because I've seen my sibling at first hand. Kratom does indeed pose a real danger of addiction and adverse effects. When detoxing off of Kratom, my sister had the chills, sweating, her nose running profusely, lack of appetite, nausea. She tried to detox herself for 2 weeks. She wasn't successful. She went to urgent care and is now in the hospital detoxing w/ controlled amounts of Adivan. She said, "with out a doubt, Kratom is 10 times harder to detox from compared to Herion.
Just a few years ago, you guys funded a study of kratom, and the lead investigator touted it as having a lot of potential for treating opioid addiction: http://news.olemiss.edu/new-hope-for-addicts/ So how much is Chuck paying you guys to sweep all that under the rug?

Thanks for sending us information on rodent research being done related to the botanical kratom. This research was funded by NIH and details are available on the public NIH research database here: https://projectreporter.nih.gov/project_info_description.cfm?aid=9144822...
Unfortunately there have not yet been any definitive studies that show effective medical use of kratom in humans and there is some anecdotal evidence that people can become addicted to this botanical. Before approving a medicine, the FDA requires solid scientific research in humans demonstrating it is safe and effective for specific medical conditions. We have more information on kratom on our Web site:
https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/kratom
Here is some information from the FDA: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cms_ia/importalert_1137.html
And from CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6529a4.htm

Until you ban substances proven to kill, like alcohol and cigarettes, let me, a legal adult, make the choice to take a leaf instead of five prescription meds.
This
You mean the FDA SQUASHES or BANS scientific data. Let's be honest. What's next on the list of banned substances? The Aloe Cactus? I'm sure that makers of neo sporin are losing money because of it. What the heck, stick it in schedule one along with cannabis and kratom! Meanwhile, we Americans will be smoking and drinking ourselves to DEATH! Who needs terrorists? The FDA/ DEA cause more death and suffering than ANY enemy of the state! YOUR BEST THINKING HAS GOT US HERE. DON'T DOUBLE DOWN ON STUPIDITY!!
THAT'S RIGHT
Oh my god your awesome that was the most accurate state ment possibly spoken about those two nim rodes I'm glad to know there's someone out there who still has a brain
So, because this is for teens you think they are clueless enough to not read the insane bias in this "reporting"? I hate to break it to you, but it is completely insulting that you think teens wouldn't be able to spot that you basically wrote an article that sounded really scary, but didn't actually say anything. "Rodent research"? But if it supported what you were paid to argue you would call it a scientific study, right? Bottom line for all teens, if you go into a shop looking for something to get you high, it is likely dangerous. If you buy any of the not actually Kratom substances listed here, they are likely dangerous. In this day and age you cannot rely on a publication like this or your government to give you the whole story. Instead, be a savvy consumer and do well rounded research. If you are looking for something that will alter your mind or make you high, Kratom isn't it. If someone is selling you something and they say it is Kratom and that it will have any of those effects than it is not pure Kratom. What that means is that you should run the other way because you don't know what is in it. Just like you don't accept an opened drink from someone you don't know at a party, don't consume things that you don't know what is in them. There is little reason for you to take Kratom as a teen and if you are a parent and your child is having trouble with something they believe to be Kratom, first, it has been altered in some way. Second, your child was looking for drugs and don't fool yourself into thinking that they thought it was safe. If they thought it was safe, why the heck would a teen take the substance. It is used mostly by people over the age of 40 for chronic pain and is preferred because of the lack of mind altering and lack of high. Think of actual Kratom like a mixture of caffeine and willow bark because that is what it is.
Thanks
To NIDAminds (huh?): Hang on there, aren't we in the middle of an "OPIOID EPIDEMIC"? Even IF there is some anecdotal evidence that people can become addicted to this botanical, wouldn't a naturally occurring botanical be much more favorable than junkies dropping like fly's? You're actually saying that "anecdotal possibilities" outweigh the certainty of DEATH and destruction that we are currently witnessing? REALLY?
This.
Thanks for this article showing the propaganda these guys are peddleing!
I hope you got a nice bonus to write this biased trash.
You just know "The NIDA Blog Team" did
So basically is a type of painkiller from what we know?

Kratom has some mild pain relieving qualities for some people, but it also has potentially dangerous qualities, including the risk of addiction. Here is a fact sheet on what we know about kratom. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/kratom

That's govt. lies. Sorry, but have you detoxed from prescriptions? Kratom helps and it SAVED my life, personally. I'll die if you take my kratom away
No
IF YOU ARE AN ADULT AND YOU TOOK HEALH CLASS, THEN YOU KNOW THAT IN ANY GOOD DRUG, THERE ARE BAD SIDE EFFECTS. ok so it helped you, god bless that, but this site is basically telling you to be careful with Kratom and only use it when needed. As in only use it as a pain killer or whatever it does to save your life. I am a teen and I feel like you adults are all acting like freaking 2-year olds arguing over each others opinions. Um hello, these are opinions, and an opinion is not right or wrong. we are all different, we don't all think the same. I'm glad though that Kratom saved your life, but it destroyed others, and yes they may be druggies, but it still destroyed their lives. If it was all good, then taking it like drug addicts do would do NOTHING to the person. Just accept that Kratom IS a drug and it DOES have some bad side effects if you take it for a LONG PERIOD OF TIME AND IN HUGE DOSES. Its common sense. I know you have some, use it. I'm sorry if I sound disrespectful, but everyone is getting on my nerves from reading these comments. Please say your comments respectfully and if you have no respectful way to say it, then don't say it at all. Take thumper as an example, sense all you guys are acting like children. Thanks for letting me know how adults like you act in real life. I'll definitely keep that in mind for the future, since it looks like I'm the only mature one here.
Nobody smoke's Kratom! What are you peddling here?
An interesting substance, and a possible new danger to teens
Not at all dangerous if you're actually being a parent. Kratom is for 18+ years of age. If you wanna ban something actually dangerous, try alcohol and tobacco!
And kratom
Let's get this straight. No one I know smokes kratom. That's stupid. I've used it INStEAD of prescription drugs we KNOW are deadly, including klonopin, Ultram and Seroquel. It's NATURALLY lowered my chronic hypertension without the terrible side effects of Amlodipine. Never have I experienced NEGATIVE side effects from kratom. And the ONLY people to have bad effects always combined thekratom with other things, like prescriptions and alcohol. Kratom IS SAFE!! THOUSANDS OF YEARS PROVE IT! This potential ban is all about creating profit inducing prescription DRUGS! Leave my kratom alone ... Or I WILL eventually die from prescription narcotics.
Sure
I don't want to die. Please don't make me go back to my five prescription lifestyle. I'll die without my kratom, with its NO side effects, and positive life improvement
If you're going to call things "facts" please provide any verifiable sources for the blatantly false information on here. What substances are found in kratom that are found in opioids? Is there even one single case of psychosis actually proven to be associated with kratom?

Two compounds in kratom leaves, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, interact with opioid receptors in the brain. Here are some studies with more information:
- Trakulsrichai S, Tongpo A, Sriapha C, et al. Kratom abuse in Ramathibodi Poison Center, Thailand: a five-year experience. J Psychoactive Drugs 2013;45:404–8. (CrossRef: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02791072.2013.844532) (PubMed: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24592666)
- Forrester MB. Kratom exposures reported to Texas poison centers. J Addict Dis 2013;32:396–400. (CrossRef: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10550887.2013.854153) (PubMed: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24325774)

Pages

Add new comment