Deciphering the Herbal Drug Kratom: Enemy or Ally?

Key Takeaways:

  • Kratom is a controversial herb that can activate opioid receptors, however, it is not necessarily as addictive as classic opioids.
  • It originates from Southeast Asia and is traditionally used to alleviate pain, improve vitality, and potentially aid in opioid detoxification.
  • Conclusions made by the FDA about the harmful effects of kratom are flagged as premature by some researchers, who emphasize the need for additional study to accurately assess both risks and benefits.
  • Kratom could potentially be a useful alternative for pain relief and mitigating withdrawal symptoms for opioid addicts, although excessive use can still result in dependency.
  • While some researchers question reports of deaths associated with kratom use due to simultaneous use of other substances, they advise increased regulation to ensure product purity and adult-only use.

Without a doubt, the herbal medicine known as kratom has sparked a tense debate. On the one hand, some regard it as a lethal opioid requiring strict laws, while on the other hand, various researchers deem it a misunderstood organic substance that can serve as a substitute for opioids for those in chronic pain. So what’s the reality of kratom?

Understanding Kratom’s Connection to Opioids

The debate ensues mostly due to kratom’s ability to activate opioid receptors in the brain. The most abundant compounds in kratom do indeed stimulate receptors within the brain that also interact with heroin, morphine, oxycodone and other opioids, leading to the claim that kratom is an opioid.

However, researchers caution against rapid judgments. They argue that the mere fact that kratom activates opioid receptors doesn’t necessarily render it as perilous or habit-forming as heroin or oxycodone. “There are plenty of plant-derived substances that operate on opioid receptors,” points out Marc Swogger, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center, who has conducted extensive research on kratom.

Kratom’s Origin and Uses

Kratom is a natural plant that originates from the Southeast Asian regions of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Traditionally sold as a dietary supplement, it is used primarily to alleviate pain and improve vitality. Additionally, some individuals laud kratom’s potential support in detoxification for opioid addicts.

In response to concerns regarding kratom and its potential harmful effects, supplement companies have faced increased pressure to withdraw all kratom products from the market following serious allegations, including 28 cases of salmonella poisoning linked to kratom-enriched dietary supplements.

Are We Jumping the Gun on Kratom?

Nevertheless, some researchers argue that conclusions made by the FDA are preliminary and necessitate further exploration to accurately assess the benefits as well as the risks of kratom.

Swogger and Scott Hemby, chair of basic pharmaceutical sciences at High Point University in North Carolina, both agree that it’s no secret that the significant compounds in kratom bind with the opioid receptors. However, some studies have exhibited that these compounds only partially bind to the receptors, therefore not leading to the extensive effect of drugs such as morphine.

Kratom as a Potential Alternatives for Opioid Withdrawal

The partial binding phenomenon emphasises kratom’s advertised position as an alternate remedy for pain relief, and its potential utility in mitigating withdrawal symptoms for opioid addicts seeking to stop their usage.

However, researchers continue to warn against excessive use of kratom as it may still result in dependency. While not demonstrating addiction on par with traditional opioids, there exists a withdrawal syndrome for those intensively using it.

Examining Varied Effects of Kratom’s Key Components

Further research conducted by Hemby highlighted dissimilar effects from the two primary components of kratom: mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. While mitragynine showed promising results in potentially reducing addiction to morphine, 7-hydroxymitragynine depicted the contrary—it in fact promoted the use of morphine.

Public reports align with such findings, with the experiences of individuals differing dramatically. Some claim the herb has been incredibly beneficial, while others report severe withdrawal symptoms likened to those from morphine.

Is Kratom Really Fatal?

Other contentions include those regarding the lethality of kratom. Despite reports of 44 deaths associated with kratom use, some researchers opine that these numbers are highly questionable, given the concurrent use of other substances at the time of death by these individuals.

Kratom: The Next Step Forward

Researchers advising a measured approach in policy making – driven by proven scientific data release – argue for increased regulation to ensure kratom product purity and that usage is restricted to adults only. Yet, completely banning kratom doesn’t seem logical, especially considering its potential as a safer alternative to opioids.

Additional Information

You can find more information on kratom here.


Greetings from the trails and tracks! I'm Tim, but most folks know me as TJ. I've spent the last 5 years diving deep into the world of content writing, with a particular penchant for nutrition and the intricate science behind it. Every bite we take, every nutrient we consume, tells a unique story – and I'm here to unravel it for you.Beyond my keyboard, you'll often find me on a winding hiking trail or pushing my limits on a long-distance run. These pursuits not only keep me fit but constantly remind me of the vital role nutrition plays in fueling our passions and adventures.Through my writings, I aim to bridge the gap between complex nutritional science and everyday eating habits. Whether you're looking for the latest research updates, practical diet tips, or stories from the running track, I'm committed to serving you content that's as engaging as it is enlightening.So, lace up your shoes, grab a healthy snack, and join me in this exploration of food, science, and the great outdoors. Together, we'll journey towards better health and incredible experiences!
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