How Safe is Kratom?
Kratom or Mitragyna Speciosa is a type of tropical evergreen tree that grows predominantly in the Southeast Asia regions of Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Thailand. This tree is part of the Rubiaceae family, which also contains trees such as gardenia and coffee.
Southeast Asia Natives typically get kratom into their systems by either chewing on its leaves or boiling the leaves to make kratom tea. On this side of the world, however, you have a variety of methods you can use, which include direct ingestion of kratom powder, popping kratom capsules, and even using kratom tinctures.
Regardless of the method that you use, the common effects of kratom use include stimulation or an energy boost at low doses, and sedation at higher doses. Due to those effects, kratom is commonly used to alleviate pain and depression, as a stimulant and nootropic, and in treating opiate withdrawal.
In Southeast Asia, natives have been using kratom for centuries for its stimulation properties. Most of these individuals are blue-collar workers who typically work in farms, where they found that using kratom provided them with an energy boost, as well as reduced susceptibility to fatigue. At the moment, however, some of the countries in this region have banned kratom use.
As mentioned, most people in the western hemisphere use kratom for its medicinal properties. However, the use and effectiveness of kratom for those purposes is something that is yet to be backed by scientific research. Additionally, the FDA has concerns that kratom use can result in adverse effects and complications. As a result, the FDA is yet to approve the use of kratom for any purpose.
In light of such revelations, it begs the question: How safe is kratom? This article will take an in-depth look at this herb to see whether using kratom can be hazardous to your health.
In February 2018, the FDA released a report that was based on clinical analysis of kratom. The report revealed that kratom has opioid-like properties. The report goes on to reveal that these properties result from the actions of the over 20 different types of alkaloids present in kratom leaves. Kratom’s powerful analgesic properties, result from the actions of mitragynine, which is an indole alkaloid that bears a structure similar to that of yohimbine.
Mitragynine is a kappa-opioid receptor agonist that is up to 13 times more powerful than morphine, which is one of the most potent opioids known to man. Studies using animal test subjects show that mitragynine’s pharmacological actions occur at the delta and mu-opioid receptors, as well as the noradrenergic and serotonergic pathways in the spinal cord.
The stimulant effects of kratom occur at the post-synaptic alpha-2 adrenergic receptors.
Other animal studies reveal that kratom’s opioid-receptor effects can be reversed using an opioid antagonist such as naloxone.
Those studies also show that the intensity of the effects depends on the amount of dose taken.
The Effects and Actions of Kratom
As mentioned, hardly any clinical research has been done on the effects of kratom on human subjects. As such, most of the effects that kratom is famous for are based on anecdotal reports.
These reports show that kratom has the unique capability of yielding both stimulant and depressant effects. At lower doses, kratom has stimulant effects, while higher doses produce depressant effects on the central nervous system. The stimulant effects typically manifest themselves as an increase in alertness or a boost in physical energy. The depressant effects of kratom, on the other hand, manifest themselves in an enhanced state of sedation. Nonetheless, these effects can vary widely depending on the strain that you are using.
Most kratom enthusiasts report experiencing a significant decrease in stress and anxiety levels, pain relief, and an increased ability to handle the symptoms of opiate withdrawal whenever they use kratom at higher doses.
In addition to stimulating and sedative properties, other anecdotal reports state that kratom has anti-inflammatory, antihypertensive (can lower blood pressure), antitussive (cough suppressant), antidiarrheal, and antipyretic (reduces fever) properties. Other reports imply that kratom enhances sexual performance by boosting libido. Nevertheless, none of these claims have backing from scientific research.
This is not to say, however, that kratom does not yield said effects; it is only that clinical studies have not been done to validate those claims.
What are the Potential Side Effects of Kratom Use?
Just as with any substance that affects your body’s biochemistry, kratom also comes with its host of side effects, based on anecdotal reports.
Most of the kratom’s side effects usually manifest themselves when you exceed the recommended dosage. However, some users report experiencing ill effects even at low doses. For example, some report experiencing a significant decrease in appetite, poor coordination, being easily agitated, and even tremors.
The more common side effects of using kratom, however, include nausea, constipation, sweating, and a dry mouth. All of these usually result from exceeding your dosage.
Mixing kratom with other drugs can also trigger adverse side effects. There is also the possibility of overdosing on kratom. Such a case usually results in the individual falling unconscious. Kratom use is also linked to addiction.
Kratom Use and Addiction
Studies done on rats and mice suggest that kratom use can quickly develop into a habit, but again, there’s limited scientific research on the subject of kratom addiction. As such, all the information we have regarding this subject is based on anecdotal reports from kratom users who say that their kratom use eventually resulted in an addiction to the substance.
According to the FDA, this addiction could be caused by the action of kratom’s alkaloids, whose mechanism of action is similar to those of opioids. As such, they may also come with an inherent risk for abuse, which is what typically leads to addiction.
In regions where kratom is used religiously, such as Southeast Asia, kratom users have been observed to experience symptoms that are similar to those of opioid withdrawal whenever they try to stop using the herb.
However, these withdrawal symptoms seem to vary in their severity among individuals. This is perhaps because kratom strains vary in potency. Thus, someone who has a dependence on a potent strain of kratom is likely to experience severer symptoms than one who is dependent on a less potent strain. Kratom withdrawal symptoms can also be both physical, as well as psychological.
The most common physical symptoms of kratom withdrawal include:
- Muscle pains
- Abdominal pain
Common psychological symptoms of kratom withdrawal include:
Potential Consequences of Combining Kratom with Other Drugs
In the February 2018 report by the FDA, they revealed that there were 44 deaths linked to kratom use. However, in 43 of those cases, it was discovered that the deceased had combined kratom with either prescription or illegal drugs.
Nonetheless, the role that kratom played in those deaths is not yet understood. However, it does seem as though combining kratom with prescription medication or hard drugs can be fatal. Also, it still isn’t clear which drugs can be used safely while using kratom. More research is necessary to understand how kratom interacts with the various types of drugs and medications.
How Safe is Kratom Really?
Despite scientific research on kratom being limited, more and more people are using kratom. And this is because of one simple reason; it does deliver on its promises. Numerous consumer reviews online indicate that using kratom can improve the quality of your life immensely. Most people who use kratom do not report experiencing adverse effects after taking the herb.
Issues regarding its safety seem to emanate from kratom being classified under the dietary supplements category. Here are some things you should know about dietary supplements:
- Federal laws do not require supplement manufacturers or distributors to prove that their wares are safe before selling them. As such, some unscrupulous vendors sell low-quality/bad kratom, which can harm the user.
- Dietary supplements are not meant for medicinal purposes. However, there is always the likelihood that combining them with another drug could have disastrous effects.
Kratom by itself is not dangerous to your health. However, being an unregulated substance, it is susceptible to being altered by crooked individuals or misused by users.
Using Kratom Safely
As per consumer reports, kratom only poses a threat to your health if you consume an inauthentic/low-quality product, or if you exceed your dosage.
Therefore, to avoid the problems that come with kratom use, do the following:
- Check with your doctor whether kratom is safe for you, especially if you are on medication
- Only obtain your kratom from a legitimate vendor. Check out online reviews before purchasing from them.
- Stick to the recommended dosage guidelines.
Most kratom users enjoy the herb tremendously. As such, there’s no reason for you not to as well. Following the rules of kratom use should ensure that you do not have any problems with the herb.