Market and Trade of Kratom
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a tropical tree in the coffee family Rubiaceae that’s used for medicinal and recreational purposes. It contains the alkaloid mitragynine, which acts on brain opiate receptors to alter mood and increase energy. People use it in Asia as a stimulant like coffee, to relieve pain and for anxiety, and recreationally in the form of tea. It’s also been sold as a legal supplement.
Research on kratom has been limited, and its safety is not known. It is currently unregulated, and the quality of kratom products price varies widely. This results in inconsistent concentrations of the putative active ingredients, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. The primary way kratom is used is orally as a powder, tablet, capsule, or raw leaves (mostly dried) and concentrated liquid extracts that are dissolved in a beverage and consumed several times daily at doses of 3-5 g.
Despite its lack of scientific proof, kratom is widely available for sale in the United States and has been reported to be used by self-treating patients for a variety of conditions. Surveys and case reports suggest it may be useful as a replacement for dangerous drugs in nonmedical settings such as methamphetamine, benzodiazepines and heroin; as a pain reliever, especially of chronic opioid use withdrawal; and as a cognitive enhancer and anxiolytic. It is also reported to improve sexual performance and alleviate psychiatric symptoms including anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In humans, oral kratom doses of a few grams produce invigoration and feelings of euphoria within 10 minutes. Effects can last up to one and a half hours, and users often report increased work capacity, alertness, sociability and improved sexual desire. Other effects include a loss of appetite, tiredness, constipation, and skin irritation. Some reports describe sedative effects similar to morphine, but at lower doses.
Researchers warn that kratom should not be considered a safe alternative to illicit drug use or prescription medications, and that it has the potential to cause addiction. They recommend that people who are considering kratom consult a health care provider for advice and support.
Instead of turning to a drug with a dubious legal status, experts urge those with chronic pain and anxiety to try a wide range of treatment options that are safer. They include acupuncture, exercise, yoga, massage therapy, CBD products and meditation. They also suggest that people seeking relief from a depressive or anxiety disorder consider psychiatric care.