Kratom is a botanical substance coming from the plant Mitragyna speciosa native to places like Thailand and other regions of Southeast Asia.
Kratom abuse has been around for thousands of years, as indigenous people like laborers and farmers in Thailand and Malaysia reportedly chewed the leaves of the plant or brewed them in tea in order to combat fatigue, increase energy levels and productivity, and relieve pain or strained muscles, the DEA publishes.
Kratom can, in effect, make someone “high” when abused. In Thailand, it is considered a controlled substance and the third most commonly abused illegal drug, NBC News reports. In the United States, kratom is listed as a “drug of concern” by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), although the drug is not controlled or considered illegal in most states.
Kratom may be mixed with a caffeinated beverage, or codeine-containing cough syrup to create the drink called 4×100. Often consumed by young Muslims in southern Thailand, this drink is said to have effects similar to alcohol intoxication, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) reports. In the United States, kratom may be marketed as a dietary or nutritional supplement, or sold under the radar in tobacco or head shops, most commonly in a powder or tablet form. Kratom is known to have a variety of reported uses and desired effects, from sexual enhancement to pain relief to a “safe” and legal “high.” In North Carolina, New York, Colorado, and possibly more states, kratom may be sold as a drink called ketum in bars, The New York Times states.
Individuals seem to be regularly seeking a new method to get high. The uptick in kratom abuse and adverse reactions to the substance may have caused the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban its import in 2014.
Kratom may also be abused by those battling heroin or opioid addiction as a method of combating opioid withdrawal even though kratom carries a potential risk for dependence and addiction in and of itself.
The Nursing Show publishes that kratom likely takes effect within 5-15 minutes and remains effective for 2-5 hours after taking it. In low doses, kratom is considered to be a stimulant drug that increases sociability and alertness. In higher doses, kratom may have effects similar to those of opioid drugs. These effects include:
Additionally, kratom may produce a “high,” or rush of euphoria that is akin to the effects of opioid abuse. The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (NY OASIS) compares the interaction of kratom with opiate receptors in the brain to how morphine interacts with the brain. Opioid drugs bind to opioid receptors, which then creates a flood of some of the brain’s neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, that help to regulate mood and influence the decision-making process. When the level of these neurotransmitters is increased in the brain, it makes a person feel good, thereby elevating mood. Opioid abuse causes a high that leaves a person feeling euphoric, mellow, and less sensitive to pain.
Kratom abuse may have similar effects. In some cases, kratom exposure has resulted in psychosis. Symptoms of kratom-induced psychosis may include hallucinations, confusion, and delusion, the DEA reports.