Kratom, a stimulant from Southeast Asia, is becoming well known in the United states as a dietary supplement. The leaves from the tree Mitragyna speciosa are used as an opioid-like pain reliever. Critics worry the unregulated powder and tincture forms appearing in the U.S. haven’t been researched or regulated enough. Consumers may be exposed to contaminated products, leading some to harmful drug interactions and hospitalization.
Users can brew kratom leaves into a tea or can take it as a powder or liquid form. A national survey estimated kratom use as 4.1 percent or 10,500,000 kratom users in 2020. Another report estimated this number was closer to 15 million annual users. The most common demographics for this drug are white men and those with a mental illness, however, minorities, youth, and women are experimenting at increasing rates in our region.
Kratom users from various studies have reported they take it for pain relief or for an emotional or mental condition. Respondents also identified benefits including increased energy, increased focus, less depressed mood, lower levels of anxiety, reduced or stopped the use of opioid painkillers, and a reduction of PTSD symptoms. When users self-reported negative effects, they mentioned being dose-dependent as well as feelings of nausea, constipation, and dizziness.
A Mayo clinic study revealed that those that consume the drug for over six months experienced withdrawal symptoms similar to those that occur from opioid use and that infants born to those that used the drug during pregnancy may experience withdrawal symptoms.
The 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health study of 56,136 kratom users found the drug is common among people who use other drugs and particularly common among those who misuse prescription opioids. It is possible to overdose on kratom and treatment is similar to that for opioid overdose. One 2019 medical report listed kratom as the cause of death in 91 of 152 kratom positive decedents (out of 27,338 overdose deaths).
A map of the country shows that while kratom is legal at a national level, some states and cities have banned it including Arkansas, Alabama, Indiana, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Vermont, and the District of Columbia. Kratom is not scheduled under the US Controlled Substances Act but the DEA hasn’t found any legitimate medical use for Kratom. The FDA has signaled that kratom “should not be used to treat medical conditions, nor should it be used as an alternative to prescription opioids.”
A 2021 report showed kratom is an increasing problem here in Florida. The kratom-related calls to poison control in the state doubled from 2017 to 2019 and in 2020 Florida reported 246 kratom-related deaths. Hillsborough county reported the highest levels of exposure. While kratom is legal in the state, there is a city ban in Sarasota.
At Cove, we can help you find safe drug treatment options. We facilitate a complete evaluation of your behavioral health needs which includes a medical workup with diagnosis and treatment recommendations. Our team is trained to provide comprehensive mental health services with a focus on substance abuse and addiction disorders. If you are concerned about your behavioral health or have a young person or family member that you are concerned about, contact us today at www.covebh.org/contact or call us 813-384-4000.