Scientists learn about kratom consumers across the U.S., lab researchers conducted an anonymous, cross-sectional, online survey of 2800 users who buy kratom products online, in 2018 . Chronic pain in the previous 4 months was reported by 70%. General mental and physical health levels were close to the U.S. population average. Major reasons for kratom use included:
- To relieve pain, 92%
- To reduce depression, 44%
- To lessen anxiety, 77%
- To reduce or stop opioid use, 98% reported effectiveness for opioid withdrawal, 90% for craving reduction, and 76% for pain relief.
Most kratom consumers used kratom more than 100 times during their lives. Kratom related withdrawal symptoms were reported by 11%, and most users did not meet DSM-5 criteria for a kratom-related substance use disorder. Respondents were decidedly unconcerned about their kratom powder use and felt that pain relief treatment was effective. Very few reported adverse effects, typically mild and short term. Claire Wilcox, MD reviewing Garcia-Romeu A et al. Drug Alcohol Depend 2020 Mar 1
A new research study that included a survey of kratom users found that the psychoactive compound with opioid-receptor mediated effects, may have a lower rate of harm vs prescription narcotics for treating pain, anxiety, depression, and addiction.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins university school of Medicine published their findings in the February 3 online issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
“Although our findings show kratom to be relatively safe according to these self-reports, unregulated medicinal supplements raise concerns with respect to contamination or higher doses of the active chemicals, which could increase negative side effects and harmful responses,” said lead author Albert Garcia-Romeu, PhD, in a press release. “This is why we advocate for the FDA to regulate kratom, which would require testing for impurities and maintaining safe levels of the active chemicals.”
What exactly is kratom Powder?
Kratom is a tropical plant related to coffee trees and grown mostly in Southeast Asia and Indonesia, but people in the US can easily buy it online or in corner smoke shops.
Kratom contains the alkaloid mitragynine which acts on the brain’s opiate receptors and chemically alters mood. Users consume it by either, capsules,powder, eating its ground leaves in food or brewing them in tea.
In small doses, kratom is mainly used as an energy and mood booster in Asia where use has long been widespread. In larger doses, kratom pills are used for pain or recreationally like drinking alcohol.
According to the American Kratom Association, between 11-17 million people in the US regularly use a variety of kratom products, but some reports have linked its use to hallucinations, seizures, and liver damage when combined with alcohol or other harder drugs.
The new survey findings suggest that organic maeng da kratom doesn’t belong in the category of a Schedule I drug, because there seems to be relatively low rate of abuse potential, and there may be health and medical applications to study, including as a possible treatment for pain and opioid use disorder.
Is Kratom Safer than Opiates?
Survey participants reported using kratom to treat opiate withdrawal, and 45% of those participants reported going at least 1 year without taking prescription narcotic medication or heroin.
“Notably there’s been fewer than 100 kratom-related deaths reported in a comparable period, and most of these involved mixing with other drugs or in combination with preexisting health conditions,” said Garcia-Romeu
Researchers called for more rigorous clinical research to be done to test kratom for potential therapeutic benefits, potential for behavioral intoxication, and adverse side effects to help inform government policy and regulation.
Kratom users should be cautious and not mix it with other drugs or alcohol and to talk with their physician before taking any supplements, the press release noted.