Head shops, gas stations and novelty stores have become popular locations for those seeking a legal form of substance mimicking drugs such as spice, salvia, bath salts and now a new, less-known substance called Kratom. Vendors are legally allowed to sell this substance like most new mind-altering substances that have not yet been made illegal by the government. This drug has been said to have stimulating, sedating and euphoric effects on the body and even acts as a painkiller if taken in high enough doses. It is said to be non-habit-forming, but one of its compounds has been known to cause withdrawal symptoms upon abstinence and users can build a tolerance to the substance.
Kratom is a plant that grows in the wild, marshy regions of Asia and the Pacific Rim and has been used in Thailand for centuries as a stimulant to allow people to work longer. Its use is similar to that of coca leaves chewed by native South Americans which are used as the base for cocaine production. Kratom can be consumed in many ways. The primary compounds are found in the plants’ leaves and can be smoked, brewed as tea, made into an extract or eaten. Fresh leaves are more potent to consume but in the U.S. dried leaves are more commonly found since the plant is imported from halfway across the world.
Kratom contains two mind-altering compounds, mitragynine and 7-hydromitragynine. Mitragynine, the more abundant substance in the plant, is reported to have stimulant-like effects at lower doses and are more opiate-like at higher doses. The other compound 7-hydromitragynine has confirmed opioid effects and comes with the common side effects of opioid use. This compound can also cause withdrawal syndrome from discontinuing consumption. Ingesting Kratom has multiple effects on the body good and bad. Stimulation and sedation along with opioid effects and feelings of euphoria make this drug desirable to users. On the other side it can produce dizziness, nausea and vomiting and produces a hangover similar to alcohol. Users also describe a possibly perceived increase in body temperature and start to feel hot and sweaty. They may also experience mild depression during and/or after the effects of the drug.
Kratom can currently be purchased in America in a variety of store locations and over the internet but is not currently a considered a “controlled substance.” It is not illegal in any way, although it has been made illegal in countries like Malaysia and Thailand. Little is known about Kratom use and reports are varied from not being harmful to users and only creating subtle effects, to individuals in South Florida seeking drug treatment for an addiction to the substance claiming it worse than heroin. There is no clear answer but many people are turning to it as an alternative to opiates due to the fact that is it virtually undetectable on drug tests. There have been reports saying it can cause a false-positive opiate reading but the chance of this is slim.
It seems this drug is on the rise and it’s primarily for users seeking alternatives to opioids that will not affect urinary analysis results. There is very little research done on Kratom and its continued use, but as the drug continues to grow in popularity, the results of habitual use will become more apparent.