As kratom use continues to rise in popularity in western culture, the safety of the substance has come to be debated by medical professionals and individuals alike. Risks exist through purchasing, as manufacturing is not currently regulated by the FDA, as well as using, for the reason that Kratom and its effects have not been fully clinically trialed. Certain populations, such as pregnant women and those under the influence of other substances, may be at higher risk for adverse effects. However, by being an informed consumer and practicing responsible use, many people have used kratom without incident, and have experienced benefits.
Research has found that mitragyna speciosa, whose common name is “kratom,” has two main compounds: alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine were found to have potential for producing analgesic effects, though further research is necessary to fully demonstrate and quantify this potential. It was found in the same study that these compounds are chemical agonists, meaning they activate or block specific receptors in the brain, which in turn are believed to play a role in managing certain sensations or behaviors in humans. For instance, some pain medication blocks receptors in the brain, reducing perception of pain. Different agonists may control different responses, so extensive research is needed to understand these pathways and the interactions of chemicals with the brain.
The degree to which kratom — or the active chemicals which naturally occur in kratom — is an agonist is not yet definitively known, as kratom has not been clinically trialed. This means there haven’t been sufficient peer-reviewed studies of kratom’s potential applications as a pain management tool across varied populations, or information about long-term side effects. Even so, based on surveys of kratom users, this potential for relief from physical discomfort has been the primary factor behind kratom’s popularity.
Without adequate clinical trials, the applications of kratom are ambiguous in the healthcare community, and its recreational or supplementary effects rely heavily on individual use patterns, such as dosage.
As with any chemically active substance, proper dosage is incredibly important for using kratom responsibly, and there are many things that can affect dosage levels from person to person. Different strains of kratom can affect dosage, as different strains may be stronger than others. Your age, weight, and tolerance level can also affect your proper dosage level, as well as the substance’s effects on you. It is generally recommended to start small and increase kratom use incrementally and in small quantities, as overuse may lead to harmful side effects and health risks.
There is evidence that suggests that regularly using kratom during pregnancy can cause withdrawals, or neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in newborns. NAS is seen in babies whose mother was under the influence of substances — this can include prescribed medications, such as certain antidepressants or pain medications — during part or all of her pregnancy. It is a dangerous condition, and can cause a host of problems before and after birth, including but not limited to:
NAS affects each baby differently depending on the type of substance, length of exposure, and pre-existing risks, if any. For these reasons, it is not recommended that pregnant women take kratom during pregnancy, and if you have concerns about NAS, you should consult your OBGYN.
The US National Library of Medicine published “A Case of Kratom Overdose in a Pediatric Patient” in August 2020. This case involved a 15-year-old female who had ingested 500 mg of kratom in the form of capsules. This is well above the maximum recommendations found online of 50 mg. The patient was admitted to the Emergency Room, and presented with a negative urine drug screening as well as symptoms including:
The case states that symptoms had resolved 14 hours after ingestion, and no further incident related to kratom ingestion was reported.
There have been cases of fatal overdoses where kratom was present, but according to cases studied by the CDC’s Unintentional Drug Overdose Study in 2016/2017 and the Journal of Forensic Science, other substances were present at the time of death, including; fentanyl, cocaine, benzodiazepines, methamphetamines, alcohol, heroin, and prescription opioids.
For this reason, you should exercise caution when using kratom with other substances, including any prescribed medications, and contact your doctor or an emergency hotline if you experience any symptoms of overdose.
Users of kratom have reported relief from symptoms associated with physical discomfort and uneasy feelings, as well as feeling increases in energy and mood improvements. For these reasons, among a variety of others, you might be interested in trying kratom for yourself. If you aren’t currently at high risk for adverse effects due to a pre-existing condition or pregnancy, then you may be able to safely enjoy kratom by following suggestions for responsible use and understanding the possible side-effects. It’s important to note that while kratom is federally legal, legislation varies from state-to-state, so make sure you know the current legislation in your state before you buy. You will also want to be sure to use a reputable retailer to ensure you get a pure, unadulterated product you can safely use. Knowing where to buy kratom and how to find a trustworthy retailer can be an essential way to ensure you get real kratom.