Kratom, the False Alternative

An All-Natural Danger to the Public Health

What is Kratom? A plant native to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea, Mitragyna Speciose has been marketed years in the form of a botanical substance known as Kratom.

When consumed, Kratom provides stimulant and euphoric effects. For these reasons, it has a long history of use as an herbal medicine in Southeast Asia. Even so, it has been banned as an addictive drug in Thailand and Malaysia.

Currently, Kratom is not a controlled substance in the U.S. It can be found on the Internet and in head shops in the form of chopped leaves, capsules, and compressed tablets. While not illegal, Kratom has no FDA approved uses, only anecdotal evidence of any benefits, and real, demonstrated risks.

Is Kratom’s rise to popularity a case of false marketing?

What is the Attraction of Kratom?

With distrust in government and large institutions having grown over the years, people are often attracted to “natural remedies” and alternative medicines. Those who profit from Kratom know this and market it as a safe treatment with a variety of healing properties.

Let’s be clear, a product is not safe simply because it comes from a plant. There are many naturally occurring poisons, ranging from Hemlock to Castor beans (from which the nerve toxin Ricin is derived).

What is scientifically known about Kratom is that it has effects similar to narcotics, like opioids, carries a risk of addiction, and has been responsible for adverse health effects, including overdoes and deaths.

Nevertheless, there have been anecdotal reports of people using Kratom as a more natural method of easing withdrawal symptoms and getting off of more dangerous drugs, including heroin.

Of course, in the absence of any science, including FDA approved trials, there is no solid evidence supporting the idea that anyone has been aided by Kratom any more than they would have been by taking advantage of approved treatments in professional settings.

As for the FDA, their official stance on Kratom as of November, 2017, includes this statement “The FDA is devoted to expanding the development and use of medical therapy to assist in the treatment of opioid use disorder. However, an important part of our commitment to this effort means making sure patients have access to treatments that are proven to be safe and effective. There is no reliable evidence to support the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid use disorder.”

You can read more of the FDA’s public health advisory on Kratom on the FDA’s official website.

What are the Dangers of Kratom?

As an unregulated substance with psychoactive properties, one of Kratom’s biggest dangers is the same as that of any illicit drug, that there is no verification of the components of any dose. You simply don’t know what you’re getting.

Kratom Dangers include:

  • Side effects including tremors and loss of motor coordination, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Contains chemicals that interfere with drug metabolizing enzymes in the liver, resulting in dangerous interactions with other drugs and medications.
  • Kratom use can and has resulted in overdoes, including fatalities.
  • Several biologically active chemicals in Kratom bind to opioid receptors in the brain, leading to physical dependence and addiction.
  • Kratom in high doses causes seizures.
  • Kratom psychosis has been reported in addicts, with symptoms of confusion, hallucination, and delusion.

There is concern that Kratom could help expand the opioid crisis rather than help withdrawal efforts.

In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) proposed using its emergency scheduling authority to classify Kratom as a Schedule I drug. Public backlash resulted in the DEA withdrawing its notice of intent and instead entering a period of solicitation for further public comment. No final decision by the DEA has been published to date.

You can read more about the DEA’s battle with Kratom in the following article on the U.S. Pharmacist website: The DEA Changes its Mind on Kratom.

Kratom and Drug Testing

Kratom contains alkaloids which can bind to opioid receptors in the brain; however, they are not detectable through drug tests designed to show the presence of opioids. Nor will Kratom show up on the majority of standard drug tests.

Quantitative detection of Kratom (Mitragynine) is possible with advanced liquid chromatography testing.

At the current time, the safest and most effective way to withdraw from heroin and opioid use is to seek help from an experienced, licensed drug treatment center with a good reputation.

If your lab would like to know more about how DTPM can help with your drug testing equipment, supplies, and lab management concerns, call us today at 256-845-1261, or visit our website at