What is Kratom?
“Kratom” refers to both Mitragyna speciosa, a tree native to Southeast Asia, and to products derived from its leaves that are marketed as herbal supplements. Kratom leaves contain many chemical compounds (known as bioactive alkaloids) that can affect the body. The most well-studied compounds related to kratom are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine.
Much is still unknown about chemical compounds related to kratom, the short- and long-term health and safety impacts of kratom use and kratom’s potential therapeutic uses. NIDA supports and conducts research on kratom and related chemical compounds to help inform kratom policy and health decision-making around kratom use.
While kratom or its related compounds have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as safe and effective for any medical use, people report using kratom products to alleviate drug withdrawal symptoms and cravings (particularly for opioids), to alleviate pain and to help manage mental health problems. NIDA is particularly interested in studying how kratom use may impact opioid use, which continues to drive the drug overdose epidemic in the United States.
People typically use kratom by swallowing raw plant matter in capsule or powder form, mixing kratom powder into food or drinks, brewing the leaves as a tea, or taking liquid kratom extract. People who use kratom report both stimulant-like effects (increased energy, alertness and rapid heart rate) and effects that are similar to opioids and sedatives (relaxation, pain relief and confusion). Studies and case reports have also indicated rare adverse effects may be associated with kratom or individual kratom compounds.
Is Kratom Safe?
U.S. and international agencies have expressed concern that kratom products may cause serious harm.1 There are no uses for kratom approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the FDA has warned consumers not to use kratom products because of potential adverse effects.
The FDA, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NIDA support and conduct research to measure and better understand the short- and long-term safety risks of kratom use and inform policy around kratom regulation.
Currently, several safety issues related to kratom have been identified:
- Kratom products may contain harmful contaminants.
- Adverse effects range from mild to severe.
- A very small number of deaths have been linked to kratom products compared to deaths from other drugs.
- Drug interactions may influence effects.
- Long-term health and safety effects are not well understood.
- Effects on pregnancy are not well understood.
- Safety effects of intoxication are not well understood.