The Simple Guide to Kratom

Uses, Effects, Safety, and Legal Status – Is it just a harmless traditional medicine or a deadly risk?

By Peter Jones – Mental Health Consultant and Contributor for Rehabs Asia.


What is Kratom?

Kratom (mitrogynia speciose) is a tree indigenous to Southeast Asia. Kratom trees can grow up to nine meters in height and their leaves are prized for having unique properties. People of Southeast Asia have been using Kratom for centuries but it remains illegal in Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia.

The leaf is commonly chewed but it has become used in other ways since being introduced to Europe. Kratom is now available as powder, dried leaves, enhanced leaves, and resin. I’ve even received word that it has now been turned into some kind of intravenous injection.

Young kratom tree

Effects of Kratom

While kratom does work as a stimulant at a low dose, it adopts more of a sedative effect like an opiate at larger doses. The leaves have these properties thanks to the alkaloids they contain, in particular the mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. Mitragynine is an opioid agonist like “real” opiates like heroin.

There are differences between kratom and opiates though. Opiates will attach themselves to the mu opioid receptors of the brain, whereas mitragynine sticks to the delta opioid receptors to produce stimulating effects.

As mitragynine levels rise though, it begins binding to the mu opioid receptors and triggers a sedative effect. Kratom is known to produce side effects depending on the size of the dose, and there are long-term effects of habitual kratom use.

Why Do People Use Kratom?

Kratom leaves are traditionally used as a medicine. It is used to treat diarrhea, manage pain as an analgesic, and treat opiate addiction. The leaves are also used by Thai agricultural workers as a stimulant. It allows them to make it through hours of backbreaking labor out in the fields.

The primary reasons people use kratom include;

  • Anti-diarrhea
  • Analgesic pain relief
  • Opiate addiction treatment
  • A mild stimulant to get through manual labor
Kratom Leaves

The Legal Status

Kratom use is illegal across South-East Asia except in Thailand where a recent change in the law seeks to decriminalise Kratom leaves and view it as a potential cash crop to boost the grass roots economy.

It can also be legally possessed and used in a number of European countries (with the exception of Romania and Finland, where it is a controlled substance).

Is Kratom Safe?

The safety of Kratom is an important consideration after its legality. After all, tobacco and alcohol are legal but can’t be considered completely safe. Kratom is safe as long as it is used in responsible moderation but, just like any other drug, there are dangers associated with abusing kratom.

Combining kratom with other medications and drugs – whether prescribed or not – also comes with dangers that should be avoided.

The symptoms of an overdose of kratom include projectile vomiting and extreme nausea, as well as a need to lie down in order to mitigate those effects. There are no documented fatalities associated with kratom overdose.

Is Kratom Addictive?

To put it simply; yes.

I spoke with recovering addict Daniel Hunt who said this:

I managed to stay sober for three years, never touching a drop of alcohol and going about my life. Things had gone back to normal. Then the alcohol cravings came back one day. Alcohol was calling to me and I was a slave to it.

Weeks went by without any release from the cravings and, no matter how much I told myself that I didn’t need to drink, my heart was saying otherwise. It seemed like relapse was inevitable.

Then kratom came along to crash the party. I was immediately taken with kratom, all thoughts of alcohol long forgotten. Kratom was the answer that I had been looking for all that time, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

I soon found myself consuming 25g of dried kratom leaf a day just to get through the day. I wasn’t chasing a buzz; I was just trying to prevent the depression, apathy, and insomnia that came when withdrawing from kratom.

I’m still amazed by how relatively unknown kratom is in the UK and US. It’s a plant that offers psychoactive properties and is completely legal (for the most part) and cheap. I know how promising that sounds, because it sounded that way to me too.

Unfortunately, I had no idea that it could become such an addictive substance if abused.

Powdered kratom

If you’ve got any addiction problems in your past like I do, then I advise you to avoid taking kratom. You can – and will – become addicted and – as we’ll get into some other time – kratom addiction is not something you want to go through. It might not be as bad as other opiate addictions, but it’s still far from fun.

Are you Addicted to Kratom?

Kratom addiction, much like any kind of addiction, is a medical problem that responds well to the appropriate medical treatment. It is possible to manage kratom addiction. If you need help with kratom addiction and abuse then you shouldn’t be ashamed.

If you feel that you’ve got a problem with Kratom, then please don’t hesitate to leave a comment with your experiences or questions. We are here to help and we try to answer any questions quickly.

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