Kratom is a tree native to Southeast Asia. It is found throughout much of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Borneo. Kratom’s scientific name is Mitragyna speciosa and it shares the same family as the coffee tree (Rubiaceae). There is evidence that kratom has been used by the inhabitants of Southeast Asia predating recorded history. Its uses vary within herbal medicine circles. It is used as a stimulant at low doses and a sedative at high doses. It is used in treating pain, as a medicine for diarrhea, and more recently kratom is being used as a treatment for opiate addiction and withdrawal.

It’s this latter use that has really begun to interest people as the opiate epidemic has been growing at an exponential level. More and more people searching for natural ways to relieve their opiate withdrawal symptoms has resulted in many people hearing of kratom for the first time. This, of course, has led to a lot of questions about the substance which I hope to help you answer here.

Is kratom legal?

Throughout most of the United States, the sale and use of kratom is legal. There are individual states that have made the use and possession of kratom illegal, as well as some individual towns and cities within other states. Read this for more about the legal status of kratom.

How is kratom taken?

In its native areas, kratom leaves are often chewed fresh off the plant. Dried leaves are sometimes also chewed. They can be fairly tough, so most prefer to grind them up into a powder for easier consumption.

In its powdered form, kratom can be added to water or other liquids and ingested as a drink. It is often mixed with flavored drinks to mask the flavor.

Dried kratom leaves are popular to use to make a tea with. Many people prefer this method and find it easier to take than the powdered form mixed with water. Some people prefer to mix it with black tea to or other herbal teas to improve the taste.

Although kratom can be smoked, it rarely is. The kratom leaves necessay to constitute what is considered to be a typical dosage is just too much to smoke easily.

A paste-like extract can be made by evaporating the water after making kratom tea. The extract can be formed into pellets to be swallowed or dissolved in hot water to again make a tea.

What are the effects of kratom?

Kratom is a unusual in that at lower doses it is typically found to be stimulating, but at higher doses it is sedating. Many report its effects to be similar to what you would feel taking opiate drugs. On the chemical level, kratom contains alkaloids that act as opiate receptor agonists, so it is not at all surprising that it would produce similar effects to opiates.

Although it has not been scientifically proven, kratom does appear to be much less addictive than opiates. That is not to say that it cannot be addictive at all, but developing an addiction is not as likely as it is with opiates. That makes kratom an attractive option for treating people combating opiate addiction.

As a stimulant, people report that they are more alert, have more physical energy, are more focused when it comes to completing monotonous tasks, and feel more talkative and sociable. Some people find the effects to be too unpleasant and too much like having “coffee jitters”.

Kratom at a sedative level will make one less sensitive to physical or emotional pain and provide a feeling of calm. Some itching and/or sweating is not uncommon. Occasionally, bouts of nausea may be experienced, but usually pass rather quickly. Constricted pupils are also a common side effect.

How long do the effects of kratom last?

Kratom’s effects will usually last for about 5-6 hours, but will vary based on the dosage taken, the strain of kratom used, and the individual’s body chemistry. Effects will start to be felt around 30 minutes after taking it on an empty stomach and in up to 90 minutes on a full stomach. Again, there will be some variation based on the person taking it, the dosage, and the strain involved. Also if using a capsule form of kratom, one can expect the onset of its effects to be delayed as it takes the body additional time to dissolve the capsule.

Can I take kratom to treat pain?

Because kratom binds to opiate receptors in a similar way to opiate medications, many people have experienced an analgesic (painkilling) effect using kratom and found it to be effective in treating pain.

Is kratom addictive or habit forming?

This one is a little bit more of a grey area. Is it as addictive as opiate painkillers? Most evidence points to it not being as addictive as those. However, it is habit forming in the same way that coffee or tobacco cigarettes are habit forming. If used frequently, and especially daily, for an extended period of time, it could become a habit that is hard to break free from.

If kratom is used recreationally in a responsible manner, it is unlikely that one will develop a dependence on it.

Someone using kratom to treat chronic pain or to repress opiate withdrawal symptoms as they overcome opiate addiction is going to likely have to take it on a daily basis. In those cases, one should try to avoid prolonged usage and stop taking kratom as soon as possible.

Can one develop a tolerance to kratom?

When used regularly, one will develop a tolerance to the effects of kratom, much like with regular use of just about any other drug. If you drink one cup of coffee every morning, eventually you will need to drink a cup every morning to feel “normal”, and likely a cup and a half or two cups to experience any kind of a pick me up from the caffeine.  Your experience with kratom, if it is used several times a week or more, will be similar.

In addition, because kratom acts as a opioid agonist, one could also be developing a tolerance to opioid prescription painkillers at the same time. The opposite would also be true. If you have developed a tolerance to opiates from using something like hydrocodone, methadone, or heroin, you may experience the same sort of tolerance effect to kratom and need more of it to feel its effects.

Does the color of the central leaf vein indicate the potency and/or quality of the variety of kratom?

The central leaf vein of kratom can be various shades of green or red. There are several variables impacting the color including genetics, the environment it grows in, and the amount of sunlight it receives. The same exact kratom tree can have leaves with multiple color veins. There has been no proven relationship between the vein colors and potency or quality.

Are there any risks to taking kratom I should worry about?

Like any drug, frequent use can cause it to become habit forming. If used frequently and then abruptly stopped, one might experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those one would experience in opiate withdrawal.

Some people do experience some side effects from using kratom such as nausea, dizziness, hot/cold sweats, and sleepiness. Because it can have sedative effects at higher dosages, you should follow the same guidelines as you would taking any other sedative such as not driving or operating heavy machinery.

There have been no published studies on the effects of kratom on pregnancy. It is unknown if kratom will cause birth defects or premature terminations. Anyone who is pregnant or think they may become pregnant should not use kratom.

Can kratom be combined safely with other substances?

Combining drugs can always be a risk. There is not a lot of research on kratom’s interactions with other substances, but there are some known combinations that you should avoid.

Do not combine kratom with amphetamines, large amounts of caffeine, or cocaine. The combination can cause your blood pressure to increase to a dangerous level.

Avoid mixing kratom with alcohol, benzodiazepines, or any other medications that depress the nervous system. Opiates have that effect, so if you are using kratom in conjunction with tapering off of opiates, you must be careful with the dosages. Taking too much can cause respiratory distress.

If you combine kratom with smoking tobacco or cannabis, the biggest risk is falling asleep while holding a lit cigarette or anything else you are smoking with.

If you are on any other medications, you should consult with your physician before taking kratom to be certain there is no possibility of harmful interactions.