Kratom: Some Say the Latest "Legal Drug" Is a Harmless Herbal Tonic. The DEA Says It's Far More Sinister

At first glance, the dark green leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa tree look no more remarkable than mint leaves. They're large, somewhat oval in shape, and smooth to the touch. The trees are indigenous to Southeast Asia, and their leaves, known as kratom, have been used as a traditional medicine in Thailand and Asian countries for centuries. Kratom made its way to the United States as an herbal medicine decades ago but has become something else in the past few years: the latest popular consumable in the "legal drug" market of the United States.

Unlike previous hot products at head shops, like spice and "bath salts" (which contain synthetic compounds made in labs), kratom is completely organic. It has its share of proponents, who espouse its supposed medicinal benefits, and opponents who say it's a dangerous drug. Kratom is currently legal to buy and sell in the states and won't show up on standard drug tests.

Kratom is sold as raw or crushed leaves that can be smoked or steeped for tea, and also in gel caps. Potencies and strains vary, as do prices (generally $15 to $50 per five-gram packet, or $18 to $25 for about 50 capsules). Doses generally range from two to 10 grams. It's widely available online through sites like thekratomking.com, kratom.pro, Phoenix-based site kratommarket.com, and at various head shops around the Valley and United States.

Packets of Kratom, such as this one, are sold online and at head shops.
Packets of Kratom, such as this one, are sold online and at head shops.

Though it is currently uncontrolled in the states, kratom has been banned in Bhutan, Australia, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), and Thailand, where it is reportedly the third most popular drug, behind meth and marijuana.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Office of Diversion Control lists kratom as a "Drug and Chemical of Concern" and says there's no legitimate medical use for kratom in the United States. A DEA report issued in December 2010 says pharmacology studies show that kratom has "opioid-like activity in animals," reducing pain, producing "sedative and euphoric effects," and a host of side effects including nausea, constipation, loss of appetite, and even "psychotic symptoms" in "kratom addicts," including "hallucinations, delusion, and confusion."

Dr. Frank LoVecchio, co-medical director of the Banner Good Samaritan Poison & Drug Information Center based here in Arizona, says he's treated five patients who used kratom and hasn't seen any terrible side effects.

"For every one or two patients I see that come in, there are probably dozens who do it and don't get into trouble," LoVecchio says. "In the few cases I've seen, it doesn't cause crazy symptoms. People get a little sleepy. I'm not sure what would happen if somebody OD'd." (To date, there's never been a reported fatal overdose of kratom.)

So far, there have been only a handful of scientific studies on kratom's effects on mammals. What is known is that there are more than 25 naturally occurring alkaloids in kratom leaves, and the two believed to be most active on opium receptors in the human brain are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. A study by Doctor K.L.R. Jansen and Professor C.J. Prast, published in 1988 in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, reports that kratom showed opiate-like effects (such as analgesia and cough suppression) in animals. These effects were confirmed by recent research at the Universiti Sains Malaysia and the December 2010 report published by the DEA.

Though these alkaloids act on opiate receptors, the chemical structure of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine in kratom are different from the structure of morphine, which is the most abundant alkaloid in opium. Kratom alkaloids will not cause a false-positive drug test for opiates, according to LoVecchio, provided the kratom used was pure. And as with any unregulated product, that's no guarantee. "I'd be curious if the stuff they're selling on the Internet is actually kratom or crushed-up Percocet or something," he says.

LoVecchio says pure kratom "will be missed on drugs of abuse screen, but . . . we can find this on a urine comprehensive drug screen." But such tests are not always performed, LoVecchio adds, because they're so expensive.

In addition to the risk of buying contaminated kratom products, there's also the matter of potential addiction. A 2004 study on the tolerance and withdrawal effects of kratom in mice conducted jointly by the Josai International University in Japan and Chulalongkorn University in Thailand concluded that tolerance to 7-hydroxymitragynine developed "as occurs to morphine," and there was evidence of cross-tolerance to morphine, as well. Withdrawal symptoms also were observed.

LoVecchio says that two of the kratom users he's treated (both younger men) "said they really wanted to get back on it. The withdrawal is described as similar to opiate withdrawal."

Withdrawal from opiate addiction can be rough, says Lloyd Vacovsky, founder and director of Assisted Recovery Centers of America, who's been treating opiate addicts for more than 15 years. "The detox is what keeps most people addicted," he says, speaking from his Phoenix area office. "The withdrawal with opiates is nasty — it can take two weeks. One minute, you've got diarrhea. The next minute, you're vomiting, and then you've got chills. People crave the opiates, 'just once, to feel normal.' The fear of withdrawal and not feeling normal supersedes the fear of having to go through detox all over again."

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29 comments
markmezi
markmezi

Kratom is old and is not a new drug. Wow

KratomOnline
KratomOnline

Really enjoyed the article - you did a great job of giving some objective information from both sides while backing it up with information from real users. Certainly it's something that the Kratom industry should be worried about that anyone is calling the Poison Center after taking this herb. We can't really judge the legitimacy of these calls, but it's certainly bad both from a health standpoint as well as a PR standpoint.

One major problem that the industry faces right now is a lack of standardization in terms of doses and usage instructions. One company might sell a regular strength powder where you would need to take 8 or more capsules to see the results. Another might sell a high strength extract where one should not take more than one or two capsules or else they will start to see side effects.

The issue is that since the FDA does now allow these products to be packaged and labelled for human consumption, vendors cannot include a "Suggested Dosage" on the label. That is likely contributing to some people taking too much out of a lack of knowledge. In this instance, it really does seem that FDA rules are getting in the way of healthy and safe usage rather than promoting or supporting it.

http://kratomonline.org

KratomOnline
KratomOnline

Really enjoyed the article - you did a great job of giving some objective information from both sides while backing it up with information from real users. Certainly it's something that the Kratom industry and we at http://kratomonline.org should be worried about that anyone is calling the Poison Center after taking this herb. We can't really judge the legitimacy of these calls, but it's certainly bad both from a health standpoint as well as a PR standpoint.

One major problem that the industry faces right now is a lack of standardization in terms of doses and usage instructions. One company might sell a regular strength powder where you would need to take 8 or more capsules to see the results. Another might sell a high strength extract where one should not take more than one or two capsules or else they will start to see side effects.

The issue is that since the FDA does now allow these products to be packaged and labelled for human consumption, vendors cannot include a "Suggested Dosage" on the label. That is likely contributing to some people taking too much out of a lack of knowledge. In this instance, it really does seem that FDA rules are getting in the way of healthy and safe usage rather than promoting or supporting it.

shrimpy
shrimpy

funny, the background on this page is a Bud Light ad...

oranecorby
oranecorby

me, offering to you, to buy Kratom from Indonesia (Borneo)
If you are interested please send an e-mail to me ...
oranecorby@gmail.com

icculus17
icculus17 topcommenter

so it has less side effects than the meds I see peddled on TV everyday, but those are "safe" ?

clintonglenn2010
clintonglenn2010

FUCK the dea. Of course its sinister to them. So is marijuana...fucking pigs. 


Voiceofphoenix
Voiceofphoenix

I agree with one of the people on the board, companies like kratomphoenix.com are doing us a favor trying to help people get off those damn things if you know what I mean. Thanks guys, Kratom is harmless, and is a better alternative to any other meds. 

pejmuntax
pejmuntax

Im not sure if my last message made it, but I was saying places like kratomphoenix.com a local kratom company in phoenix is doing the public a favor. Getting people to go natural instead of these stupid pharma companies.

budgates142002
budgates142002

there's no legitimate medical use for kratom in the United States.???? BULLL SHIT!@ i stoped reading there this is complete crap. If the Fucking retarded DEA would quit cracking down because theres a few stupid fucks out there that abuse things let em, let em kill themselves, Then people who have say fibromyalgia and a hypsersensativity to pain and Nothing to control pain because of it might be able to get something from these new retarded doctors.

MarkTwain
MarkTwain

Running fast and loose with "facts" for an article can hurt a lot of people.  We learned that in 1935 when scientists already knew that marijuana was not only safe when used responsibly, it was by far more effective and safe for medicinal purposes than anything Big Pharma had planned for us.


But big pharma needed time (to isolate the active alkoliods) so the government helped finance a film "Reefer Madness" in which this herb (clearly called a drug) was heralded as not only dangerous but turning people into serial killers etc. 

With all respect to Yogi Berra, its "Deja Vu All Over Again".  Big pharma knows there are two alkaloids in the herb (not drug but herb) Kratom, and they do not like the fact that consumers are getting it cheaply and they are not getting a cut.


It works.  There is no high, at least not for me, but I take it as is suggested.  For people expecting a high, you'll be disappointed.   Some have reported a high but it is at a very high dosage.  I don't "go there". I use it for chronic pain, in which strong meds were prescribed that nearly killed me.

Kratom is in the coffee family. Of COURSE its "habit-forming".  So do we now close all the Starbucks?  

Why don't we leave kratom alone. It works. It's a perfect analgesic in that it does not cause any "drug-like" effects, nobody has ever overdosed on it, and there has not been one report of death in 1000 years on it (unless mixed with drugs).  Can you say that about hydrocodone?  Tramadol?  Oxycodone? I don't think so.  And it works almost as well; and you don't have to take more and more and more to get the same results. 


Of COURSE the govt is going to go after it.  After all, look how many it has gotten off of drugs.  They are living a normal life now, and their chronic pain is gone.

Should it be restricted to adults only?  My opinion is yes, but I don't make the laws.  I only think so because more kids are likely to over-use it; but think how many adults do that as well. There are thousands of herbs on the market more dangerous than kratom.  But kratom, like marijuana, have unique healing powers. 


Stay out of this one Big Pharma.  You ruined too many people's life with your marijuana ban for a century.  And now you are trying the same with kratom.


And by the way, I don't smoke pot. No tobacco, and I don't drink.  I'm an "average joe" executive in a mid-size town.  I have no criminal record nor do I plan one. 

Chances are though, with the pain I was enduring, and all the drugs I was having to take for it, that might not have been the case in time.


So thanks to kratom, a lot of very positive things happened in my life.  But don't believe me.  You could ask my loving wife or any of my friends.  They are quite relieved as am I that the pain is gone. 

DO NOT TAKE THIS AWAY.  We will fight it like NORML fought marijuana. You can have your pain drugs,  your heroin, your morphine, etc etc etc.  

Oh, and there are no hallucinations....well maybe one....for a moment, I thought I was reading a fair/balanced article that had not bought into the "Kratom Madness" but just another two bit journalistic piece who lumps it in with chemicals like spice etc.

Kratom is grown 100% organically and is a plant.  If you have any faith in God, you have to believe, if He is a good God, he would not throw us onto a strange planet, enable us to get diseased, in pain, etc, and not provide natural healing.  

I still believe in doctors for various ailments. For instance I have heart disease and I wouldn't miss my Crestor or bp meds or cardiologist appointment for anything.  I know my mortality.

He is thrilled I'm off the pain meds and on kratom. I'm now mountain climbing/hiking at age 59. Before kratom, I could barely walk across the room. 

So think twice before writing about something of which you truly no nothing about except what you've seen written.  When used responsibly it is not only harmless, it is beneficial, a very strong antioxidant that boosts the immune system.  

Sorry they let you loose with a laptop to write trash that is as useless as the journalists did who jumped on the "Reefer Madness" bandwagon.










tisnetworks
tisnetworks

I have been on Oxycontin for years to manage the pain in my back from a car accident. The pain never really goes away it simply dulls down a bit. After I decided I did not want to be taking pain killers anymore I tried Kratom. The pain pretty much non existent and on top of that I have no issues with constipation or just plain terrible withdraws when I miss a dose. I am happy with it thus far.

drkratom
drkratom

Kratom saved my life. My hips are completely bolted together along with my pelvis from a terrible motorcycle accident. I have been using kratom daily for a very long time. I also am the CEO of Mayan Kratom and have become the poster boy for kratom in the US. If anybody wants to learn the truth about kratom to to my website and watch all my youtube videos. www.mayankratom.com

NutmegKratom
NutmegKratom

Kratom is unfortunately marketed alongside dangerous and neurotoxic  synthetic chemicals, thus leading to hysterical news stories touting the dangers of kratom with no factual basis in reality.

desert_shaman2012
desert_shaman2012

This article is a b rated comedy at best, whoever wrote this is ether naive and uneducated or has a alternative agenda. Kratom is a wonderful plant. Humans are so misled at this time in history. Educated yourself and turn off that god damn TV!

phase_coherent
phase_coherent

Sinister, eh? That's kind of a strong word for a plant.

I'm starting to wonder if people who write stories like these are compensated by the government/big pharma. I've read more than one obviously biased story about more than one sinister or insidious material recently.

Obviously some legal highs are dangerous. More people die from alcohol every year than I can even count. And smoking? Well, at least there are some safer alternatives now for those of us who like nicotine.

An excess of just about everything will hurt or kill a person. And addiction is relative - I know many people who can not think straight in the morning until the have had their 1,3,7-trimethyl-1H-purine-2,6(3H,7H)-dione 3,7-dihydro-1,3,7-trimethyl-1H-purine-2,6-dione (or caffeine).

People are going to get high no matter the legal status of anything. And they should be able to if they want. If anything, the government should make it easier to get safe-ish drugs. Not harder. 

Also, I don't know what planet Dr. Frank LoVecchio resides on, but on the rock I'm from, crushed up percocet is a little more expensive than powdered plant leaves. It looks a little different, too. 

That man is a doctor? Wow. I should have gone to medical school.

 

 

ryheena
ryheena

Interesting that they feel like they need to provide statements that are based on absolutely no scientific proof.  Sanchez says "It is not good at all."  That is pure ignorance. I have taken Kratom hundreds of times without any negative consequences.  Maybe the writer should have done some researcher and find out if there was anyone that takes Kratom and experiences positive benefits.  A couple people took too much and now it is a huge concern.  A couple people drink too much Coffee and wind up in the hospital but we aren't making a big deal about that.

aaron5953
aaron5953

The DEA would outlaw anything that was marketed to "get someone high."  If tomatoes could do it, they'd outlaw those.  If it was peaches, they'd outlaw those.  Doesn't matter to them.  They're just there to squash anything that could help someone feel better.  If the pharma isn't involved in it, they make it illegal, because they don't have their fingers in the money pile.

cinimodblue
cinimodblue

my email is tartsnam@gmail.com (cinimoblue)

cinimodblue
cinimodblue

Man,if this stuff really helps people out who are fighting the battle of their lives.Ten why dont moe of us know?  If it really woks it's worth its weight in gold. I would like to her more from people who used it and and had help. as far as iam concerned it works or it dont!!!!   take a opiate and Bamm 20 mins later they work.These products here say the work ? ya mean take this and 20 mins later you are on your way with no withdraws? I would love to find a product that would cut these CHAINS !!!!

 

 

dissident2112
dissident2112

Well,it is just a matter of time before they make it  'American's newest drug scourge'.There are only a few countries where it is illegal.Thailand is one.For the simple reason that people use it to get off heroin/opium and that cuts into the governments monopoly and thier illegal profits.So sad,but expected

dissident2112
dissident2112

This is yet another instance of the DEA and federal government trying to justify their existence.They need to have an enemy,so they pick on God-given,harmless plants to scare the citizens into thinking that every plant is the new crack or meth.This is utterly ludicrous and anyone who believes this crap without doing their own research deserves to be forced to take dangerous,expensive prescription meds.Do your own due diligence people.The government LIES to you on a regular basis.Do not accept it

MarkTwain
MarkTwain

PS: By the way nearly 60 years later Big Pharma did finally isolate the alkaloids of marijuana and made a pill "Marinol" which has a high TCH level.  It was a total failure and does nothing for chemo patients.  And you know when/if they get ahold of kratom, we can and should expect the same.  God made the plants as they are for a reason.  Not to be destroyed and for profit-greed-gain.

Voiceofphoenix
Voiceofphoenix

@drkratom i would go with a local company like kratomphoenix.com They are local company based out in Phoenix


Ojqlnk2
Ojqlnk2

Of course u gonna brag about Ur products Mr CEO of the company. If there's no bad side effects, then have Ur products tested and to be sold in major stores instead of those small local stores that u and Ur kind Target.

aaron5953
aaron5953

@cinimodblue I have taken it.  6 grams at most at a time, (in one day,) because high doses have higher effects.  It is an expensive drug to use, also----and the effects it has on you are not anything like the "hallucination inducing or altered mental state" drugs that other drugs are like.  It might relieve pain, but I only took it, as some say, to feel more "normal."  It does give added focus, but it really depends on the person, I think, as to what type of effect it has on them.  The first time I took, it made me slightly nauseous about 4 hours afterwards, but it only lasted about 5 minutes and went away.  You can take Echinacea on an empty stomach and puke your guts out---but it's sold at where else?  Drug stores.  Pharma.  As usual.  More processing equals more chances for foreign matter to be ingested into the body unintentionally.  How is the NECC doing these days, anyway?  Have they been shut down yet?  People's blood are on their hands now.  I hope they can live with that.

Kratom can be addictive---that is one of the more serious drawbacks to it.  I have only taken it 3 or 4 times---don't have an intense desire to grab ahold of it, so guess it is better to stop before the usage, dosage, or addictive nature of it spikes like mad.  At this point, I can do with it or without it.

It's okay, but there's other natural stuff out there that has much more positive effects on the brain and the body...I think you can guess what that might be.

wheemsie
wheemsie

 @dissident2112  "The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Office of Diversion Control lists kratom as a "Drug and Chemical of Concern" and says there's no legitimate medical use for kratom in the United States."This is the biggest load of BULL**** I have ever heard. I am a 25 year old chronic pain sufferer (since i was 5) and all the doctors ever want to do is throw NARCOITICS at me. The insurance companies refuse to my doctor to fix the problem (outpatient surgery). After three straight years on 5 tramadol a day and a lortab and valium for bed I have lost all want to continue those meduications. the long term side effects ARE HORRIBLE. One time, I had some of my medication (half a bottle) stolen from me at work. Now this is not only a problem because I cannot function when I am in full blown pain, but having been on these medicaitons for so long I have major withdrawal symptoms. Doctors LITERALLY get you hooked on medication on purpose! Well - my doctor wouldn't refill my meds even though i'd never had anything like that happen before, so I started searching for ways to detox on the internet - that's how I learned about Kratom. I ordered express overnight, had it the next morning and didn't experience ONE withdrawal symptom. I have since switched from the narcotic medications to Kratom and have been taking it daily (when NEEDED) for about 6 months now. I have had had NO constipation, NO sexual side effects, NO withdrawal symptoms when I run out. I cannot BELIEVE the DEA is honestly painting this plant as so evil. It has saved me from being on man made pharmaceuticals on a daily basis. As far as them saying there is "no medical use in the US" - that is a flat out lie and I am living proof of that. As a chronic pain patient at such a young age, the idea of being on pills the rest of my life was daunting. krtom saved me from that. and on a daily basis, it saves me from debilitating pain. I think the DEA has a hand in the pharmaceutical companies and they understand that if the word gets out on kratom - plenty of Americans would rather choose an organic, natural path for legitamate pain relief and the pharmacautical companies would start losing money. think about it.

 
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