Kratom is a tropical tree (Mitragyna speciosa) native to Southeast Asia, with leaves that contain compounds that can have psychotropic (mind-altering) effects.
It’s currently not an illegal substance and has been easy to order on the internet. It is sometimes sold as a green powder in packets labeled “not for human consumption.” It is also sometimes sold as an extract or gum.
How Do People Use Mitragyna speciosa?
Most people take kratom as a pill, capsule, or extract. However, some people chew its leaves or brew the dried or powdered leaves as tea. Sometimes the leaves are smoked or eaten in food.
How Does Kratom Affect The Brain?
Kratom can cause effects similar to both opioids and stimulants. Two compounds in kratom leaves, mitragynine, and hydroxy mitragynine, interact with opioid receptors in the brain, producing sedation, pleasure, and decreased pain, especially when users consume large amounts of the plant. Mitragynine also interacts with other receptor systems in the brain to produce stimulant effects. However, Mitragyna speciosa can also cause uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous side effects.
Side Effects And Safety Concerns
Although people who take Mitragyna speciosa believe in its value, researchers who have studied Mitragyna speciosa think its side effects and safety problems more than offset any potential benefits. For example, poison control centers in the United States received about 1,800 reports involving the use of Mitragyna speciosa from 2011 through 2019, including descriptions of death. Almost half of these exposures resulted in serious adverse outcomes such as seizures and high blood pressure.
Kratom has several known side effects, including:
- Weight Loss
- Dry Mouth
- Chills, Nausea, and Vomiting
- Changes in urine and Constipation
- Liver Damage
- Muscle Pain
In addition, kratom also affects the mind and nervous system:
- Hallucinations and Delusion
- Depression and Delusion
- Breathing Suppression
- Seizure, Coma, and Death
Mitragyna speciosa takes effect after five to 10 minutes, and its effects last two to five hours. The results of kratom become stronger as the quantity taken increases. In animals, kratom appears to be more potent than morphine.
Many problems with pain medications occur when these drugs are used at high doses or over a long period. It’s not known precisely what level of Mitragyna speciosa is toxic in people, but as with pain medications and recreational drugs, it is possible to overdose on Mitragyna speciosa.
Side Effects Of Kratom
These are the reported side effects of kratom:
- Dry Mouth
- Increased urination
- Loss of Appetite
Symptoms of psychosis have been reported in some users.
Is Kratom Overdose Possible?
There have been multiple reports of deaths in people who had ingested Mitragyna speciosa, but most have involved other substances. 9 of the 11 deaths reported in this study involved kratom plus other drugs and medicines, such as diphenhydramine (an antihistamine), alcohol, caffeine, benzodiazepines, fentanyl, and cocaine.
Two deaths were reported following exposure from Mitragyna speciosa alone, with no other reported. In 2017, the FDA identified at least 44 deaths related to Mitragyna speciosa, with at least one case investigated the possible use of pure Mitragyna speciosa. The FDA reports note that many of the deaths associated with kratom appeared to have resulted from adulterated products or taking kratom with other potent substances. This includes illicit drugs, opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, gabapentin, and over-the-counter medications, such as cough syrup. People should consult with their health care provider about the safety of mixing kratom with other medicines.
Is Kratom Addictive?
Like other drugs with opioid-like effects, Mitragyna speciosa might cause dependence, which means users will feel physical withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the medication. However, some users have reported becoming addicted to kratom.
- Muscle Aches
- Emotional Changes
- Runny Nose
- Jerky Movements
Is It Safe?
The FDA says there are no FDA-approved uses for Mitragyna speciosa and has serious concerns about it. In recent years, the agency has cracked down on companies that sell Mitragyna speciosa to treat withdrawal from opioids and other conditions. They also warn that some Mitragyna speciosa products may be tainted with harmful bacteria like salmonella.
The agency also has reported at least 44 deaths among people who used Mitragyna speciosa. However, many of them took other drugs or used kratom that was contaminated with other substances.
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