Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa)

What is Kratom?

Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea. Its scientific name is Mitragyna speciosa. The active compounds found in kratom leaves are known as alkaloids, including mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. These active compounds are responsible for the plant’s psychoactive opioid and stimulant-like effects which can lead to psychological and physiological dependence, addiction, and kratom withdrawal.

Kratom has been used for centuries to relieve pain, increase energy, and enhance mood. Over the last couple of decades, kratom has gained popularity in the Western world as a recreational drug for its euphoric effects. Additionally, many companies make claims and market kratom for treating physical, mental, and substance use conditions, so people have been using kratom to self-manage anxiety, depression, pain, and opioid withdrawal symptoms. However, its safety and effectiveness are still subject to ongoing research.

How is Kratom Consumed?

For centuries, people from Southeast Asia have commonly consumed kratom by chewing on the leaves or by ingesting it in tea form. In the Western world, people consume kratom by oral ingestion in the form of tea, capsule, powder, liquid, resins, and tinctures.

Kratom powder is commonly mixed with sweet foods, smoothies, or citric juices such as grapefruit, orange, lemon, or lime juice. Mixing the powder with citric juices enhances the potency and activates the compounds for faster effect. The toss-and-wash method involves taking a spoon full of kratom powder then washing it down with water or juice.

Capsules are popular because they are convenient and easy to take on the go. Kratom liquid has been marketed to treat muscle pain, weight gain, gastrointestinal dysfunction, and mood disorders. Resins and tinctures are more concentrated and therefore more potent in smaller amounts.

Is Kratom Legal?

Although kratom has been banned in several countries and states in the United States, it is available online and in several states in the United States. Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, San Diego, California; Sarasota County, Florida; and Denver, Colorado have banned the sale or possession of kratom. As of December 2022, thirty-two states do not control or regulate kratom.

Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah have passed the Kratom Consumer Protection Act. The American Kratom Association who advocates for American kratom users developed the Kratom Consumer Protection Act to discourage states from banning kratom altogether. The Act mandates that kratom vendors may not:

  • Legally prepare, distribute, or sell an adulterated or contaminated kratom product.
  • Sell kratom products legally without labels containing the amount of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine in the product.
  • Sell kratom products to individuals under the age of eighteen.

Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Oregon, and South Dakota regulate the possession, manufacture, distribution, and selling of kratom products with age restrictions to individuals older than age 18 or 21. However, these states do not mandate a product label requirement.

How Does it Affect the Brain?

The scientific evidence on kratom effects is limited, and much of what is known about the drug comes from anecdotal reports and case studies.

The specific effects on the brain depend on the dosage and the individual’s unique physiology. At lower doses, Kratom can stimulate the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine, leading to increased focus, energy, and mood enhancement. At higher doses, it can produce opioid like sedative effects, leading to relaxation, pain relief, and a sense of well-being.

What Are Negative Health Effects of Kratom?

Nausea and vomiting

The exact mechanism is not fully understood, but it is thought to be related to Kratom effects on the digestive system. In addition, some people may be more sensitive to the psychoactive compounds in kratom, and these compounds can cause an imbalance in the body’s chemistry, leading to nausea and vomiting.

Loss of appetite and weight loss

The alkaloids in kratom interact with the opioid receptors in the brain and gastrointestinal tract. This interaction can lead to a decrease in appetite and a feeling of fullness, which can contribute to weight loss. Additionally, some users report feeling nauseous or experiencing vomiting, which can also contribute to a loss of appetite and weight loss.


Kratom can slow down digestion, leading to constipation and other digestive problems.


Kratom can cause dehydration, which can lead to electrolyte imbalances and seizures.


Kratom may lower the seizure threshold in certain individuals, making them more susceptible to seizures. It may interact with other drugs including prescription medications and illicit substances. These interactions can increase the risk of seizures, especially if the person is taking high doses or combining it with other substances.

Liver damage

Kratom use can cause liver damage by triggering oxidative stress, which can damage liver cells and lead to inflammation, scarring, and liver failure.

Kidney damage

Kratom use can cause kidney injury by affecting the way kidneys filter waste from the blood. It may also cause damage to the kidneys by increasing blood pressure and reducing blood flow to the kidneys.

Respiratory depression

Kratom can slow down breathing and cause respiratory depression at high doses, which can be dangerous and potentially fatal.

Agitation and irritability

Kratom use can affect the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine and serotonin, which play a role in mood regulation. At higher doses, it may also cause symptoms such as tremors, rapid heartbeat, and sweating, which can contribute to feelings of agitation and irritability.


Kratom use can cause psychotic symptoms, including hallucinations and delusions. Some studies suggest that its psychoactive effects may be due to its interaction with various neurotransmitters including the dopaminergic, serotonergic, and adrenergic systems. Furthermore, it is thought that the risk of psychosis may be increased in individuals who have a history of mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or in those who use high doses or use it frequently.

Is Kratom Addictive?

Yes, like opioids, kratom can be addictive. Its alkaloids, particularly mitragynine, interact with the brain’s dopamine receptors, which are associated with pleasure and reward. This can lead to a cycle of increasing use to achieve the desired effects resulting in changes to the brain’s structure and function. A strong physical and psychological dependence occurs and addiction, also known as substance use disorder develops. This creates a compulsion to use, meaning the individual is unable to cut back or quit, even when it negatively impacts their life. When a person stops using it, Kratom withdrawal may occur including:

Not everyone who uses kratom will become addicted, and the risk of addiction may be influenced by individual factors such as genetics, mental health, and environmental factors.

What is the Treatment for Kratom Addiction?

Kratom addiction can be challenging to overcome, but there are various treatment options available to help individuals struggling with addiction. Here are some steps people can take to get treatment:

Consult a healthcare professional

The first step towards treatment is to consult with a healthcare professional, who can provide a proper assessment and diagnosis of the addiction. They can recommend an appropriate treatment plan based on individual needs.

Inpatient or Outpatient Treatment

Treatment can be done on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Inpatient treatment involves staying in a rehabilitation center for a certain period, while outpatient treatment involves visiting the center for therapy and/or medication management.

Behavioral therapy

Behavioral therapy is a vital part of addiction treatment. It helps individuals to identify triggers and develop coping mechanisms to manage cravings and triggers. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management are two types of behavioral therapy that are effective for treating kratom addiction.

Medication treatment

There is currently no medication that has been approved by the FDA specifically for the treatment of Kratom addiction. However, there are several medications that have been used to manage kratom withdrawal and reduce cravings. These medications include:

  • Buprenorphine-naloxone: A medication that is commonly used to treat opioid addiction, buprenorphine-naloxone, also known as Suboxone, has been shown to be effective in managing Kratom withdrawal and reducing cravings.
  • Clonidine: This medication is used to treat high blood pressure, but it can also help manage Kratom withdrawal including anxiety, agitation, and sweating.
  • Gabapentin: This medication is used to treat nerve pain, but it can also help manage symptoms of withdrawal such as anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness.
  • Naltrexone: This medication is used to block the effects of opioids, and it may be helpful in reducing cravings for kratom.

Support groups

Support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and SMART Recovery can be helpful for people in recovery from kratom addiction. These groups provide a sense of community, encouragement, and accountability.


Points to Remember

  • Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia, whose leaves have been used for centuries to alleviate pain, boost energy, and improve mood.
  • The legal status of kratom varies by country and states in the United States.
  • Kratom can cause a range of effects depending on the dose, strain, and individual. At low doses, it acts as a stimulant, while at higher doses, it can have opioid like sedative effects.
  • Kratom can cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, dehydration, seizures, liver damage, kidney damage, respiratory depression, and psychosis.
  • Kratom can be dangerous if it is contaminated with other substances, such as opioids or synthetic drugs, or if it is consumed in excessive amounts. Additionally, it should not be used in combination with other substances, such as alcohol or prescription drugs, as this can increase the risk of adverse effects.
  • Kratom can be addictive, especially for those who use it frequently or in large doses. Kratom contains compounds that bind to the same receptors in the brain as opioids, which can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms if use is stopped abruptly.
  • Treatment for Kratom addiction typically involves a combination of behavioral therapy and medication treatment. Behavioral therapy helps individuals identify and change the behaviors that led to addiction, while medications may help reduce cravings and manage Kratom withdrawal.

Sources: National Institute on Drug Abuse; Mayo Clinic; Legislative Analysis and Public Policy Association; and The U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Top view of Mitragyna Speciosa or Kratom leaves with a teacup and a book on a wooden table

Kratom- Harmful Contaminants

Kratom products have been found to contain various harmful contaminants, including heavy metals and disease-causing bacteria. Some of the most common contaminants found include:

Heavy Metals: Kratom products may contain high levels of heavy metals, such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium. These metals can accumulate in the body over time and cause a range of health problems, including neurological damage, organ damage, and cancer.

Salmonella: Kratom products have been linked to outbreaks of salmonella infections, which can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. Salmonella is a bacteria commonly found in contaminated food and water.

E. coli: Some kratom products have also been found to contain E. coli bacteria, which can cause serious gastrointestinal illness, including diarrhea and dehydration.

Other bacteria: Other types of harmful bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, have also been found in some kratom products. These bacteria can cause a range of infections, from mild skin infections to life-threatening bloodstream infections.

Struggling with Kratom Addiction?

If you or a loved one is struggling with a Kratom Addiction, call Solstice Health & Wellness to schedule an appointment, or to learn more about addiction recovery services, contact us.

*Please do not submit any Protected Health Information (PHI).

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