Kratom Effects 101
Everything You Need to Know
Mitragyna speciosa is an evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia and belongs to the coffee family of Rubiaceae. Although Kratom’s name is used for the Mitragyna speciosa tree and its leaves, products made from the plant are also described as Krahtom, Ketum, or Kakuam in various Asian regions. Despite being cultivated and used for centuries by local communities, the supplement has had its fair share of controversy in the West.
Following the Vietnam War, large-scale immigration from Asia to the United States was in effect, which contributed to Kratom’s introduction in the West. Soldiers returning home also played a significant role in the herb’s widespread, sparking interest among scientific communities. Since then, Kratom’s effects remain severely under-researched without any conclusive clinical trials, which prompted the Food & Drug Administration to warn the public against its use.
Kratom gets its properties from the alkaline composition and complex chemical nature. The key alkaloids, 7-Hydroxymitragynine and Mitragynine, account for the effects by binding to the receptors in the brain.
In the medical community, pain is described in two ways: nociceptive and neuropathic. Neuropathic pain originates from chronic or long-term conditions like arthritis or cancer, whereas nociceptive pain stems from natural wear and tear of muscle or bone.
The limited preclinical research recognizes several active alkaloids in Kratom, properties accountable for the potential pain mitigating effects. Two key alkaloids, 7-Hydroxymitragynine and Mitragynine, interact with receptors in the brain. The neurotransmitter is an agonist to the μ-subtype opioid receptors. There are multiple strains of Kratom available, all of which have a distinct alkaline profile.
Anxiety is a natural response to stress. This mental condition manifests itself in both the emotional and physiological areas of life, characterized by excessive and unreasonable worry. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting over 40 million adults.
According to a study in 2014, Mitragynine proved to have Anxiolytic-like effects on mice, however, its effects on humans are inconclusive.
Is Kratom Risk-Free?
There are no risk-free substances, and Kratom is no different from other supplements or substances.
Kratom mixed with other herbal or medicinal agents can potentially be highly toxic.
According to a 2017 survey by John Hopkins, out of the 10 to 16 million regular Kratom users in the United States, there were approximately 700 cases referred to poison control centers for Kratom-related incidents. The manufacturing of adulterated forms of Kratom, widely available and uncontrolled via the internet, is related to fatal incidents. The research suggests that instead of outright banning Kratom, the FDA should change its policy to regulating Kratom production.
Albert Garcia-Romeu, Ph.D., instructor of psychiatry at John Hopkins, added that there had been a lot of fearmongering around Kratom as a drug. Compared to the 47,000 annual death due to the opioid crisis, there have been less than 100 deaths related to Kratom. No Kratom-related deaths have been recorded in its native land.
Kratom’s withdrawal symptoms are reported to be very subtle compared to opioids. Physiological signs include nausea, anxiety, hot flashes, and even diarrhea.
Withdrawal symptoms are highly subjective, and they may not be identical for each individual. Kratom laced with other chemicals and toxic substances may enhance the withdrawal effects.
Due to the lack of appropriate and consistent research, Kratom’s effects have not been comprehensively established. Legally regulating Kratom’s use would decrease the probability of adulterated or enhanced supplement manufacturing and distribution, which would minimize disastrous incidents. As Kratom and its products remain unregulated, users need to be cautious about the source from which they obtain the herb.