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What is kratom?
Kratom, or Mitragyna speciosa, is a tropical tree belonging to the coffee family that’s been used in traditional medicine since the 19th century. It’s a diverse drug that produces a different high depending on the dosage: at a low dose it has stimulatory effects, whereas at higher doses, opioid-like sedative and euphoric effects occur.
Historically, kratom leaves have been used by Thai and Malaysian workers to increase energy and stamina and to deal with fatigue. Nowadays, its psychotropic (mind-altering) properties are used as an alternative to treat muscle pain, diarrhoea and opioid withdrawal. Kratom can be consumed as a pill, extract, chewed, or infused in water. In the US, kratom is sold as an alternative medicine and can be found in health and alternative medicine stores.
Sources 1: DEA; 2: Warner et al., 2016
Kratom can take up to 90 minutes to have an effect, be patient and don’t exceed the recommended dosage.
Alcohol can increase the intended and negative side effects of kratom, making it a potentially lethal combination.
Kratom is a diuretic, so it increases the amount of urine you produce. Make sure you drink plenty of water to avoid negative side effects.
Substitutes and adulterants of Kratom
Sometimes the drugs we think we are buying turn out to be something very different. Knowing the common substitutes and adulterants that dealers swap or add into the drug is an easy way to protect yourself and your friends.
Commercial versions of kratom are usually combined with other drugs and substances. A good example is krypton, which is sold as a stronger version of kratom. This is a very dangerous substitute because it contains both kratom and an additional opiate compound related to tramadol. This drug preparation can cause respiratory failure and lead to death.
Another common substitute of kratom is akuamma. Some report it has similar but stronger effects to kratom, those being relaxing, euphoric and relatively long lasting (4-5 hours). Akuamma, however, has a higher potential to cause dependence as withdrawal symptoms are often stronger.
References 3: Unintentional fatal intoxications with mitragynine and O-desmethyltramadol from the herbal blend Krypton.
Effects of Kratom
Here are the most common effects, not everyone necessarily experiences all of them every time they consume the drug and other effects not listed might be felt. The likelihood of experiencing negative effects is far greater at high doses.
At low doses, kratom has stimulant-like effects, similar to those of caffeine. However, when taken in higher doses, kratom has sedative effects.
The effects are (from positive to negative):
At low doses (1-5g)
- Increased alertness and physical energy
- Sociable behavior
- Heightened libido
- Fast heart rate
At high doses (5g+)
- Loss of appetite
- Dry mouth
- Increased urination
- Low blood pressure
- Loss of muscle coordination
Dose and onset of Kratom
How? How Much? When? For how Long?
These are important considerations. The way you consume kratom can vastly impact the experience. The same applies to the dose taken, and even then the effects from a given dose of kratom will vary depending on many factors such as your weight, gender, metabolism, and tolerance from previous use. Read our section on dosing for more information.
How you take Kratom matters...
From the least to the most harmful way.
Eating or drinking
Dried leaves can be chewed, but because the texture is dry and tough, the leaves are commonly crushed into a powder for easier ingestion. Kratom has a strong taste, therefore, the powder is mixed with sweet liquids like fruit juice or milk. Alternatively, Kratom powder can be added to foods like yogurt or applesauce.
The ‘toss and wash’ method is also quite popular. More info on this method can be found here.
Commonly, Kratom is infused in hot water. Many claim that both the euphoric and mood boosting effects of kratom are enhanced with this method in comparison to taking powder. This is because of the rapid digestion and absorption of Kratom alkaloids. However, it is thought that the pain relieving properties of Kratom are reduced.
Others prefer to take kratom in the form of pills or capsules, much like other supplements. This is a safer option as dosing is more controlled.
Smoking and snorting
You should avoid snorting or smoking kratom because both methods increase the speed at which the drug reaches your bloodstream, making it more addictive and thus increasing the risk of overdose and death. These methods may also damage your nose, throat and upper respiratory system. Damage can range from a nosebleed to a respiratory tract infection or even blood clots in the lungs.
More information on the various ways to consume kratom can be found on The Kratom's user guide.
When it comes to dosing, it is important to note that Kratom has an uncommonly broad range of effects, meaning it acts in different ways depending on how much you take of it.
- 1 to 4 grams can produce subtle, stimulant effects.
- 4 to 6 grams can produce analgesic, stimulant or sedative effects.
- 6 to 8 grams can produce strong analgesic or sedative effects.
- 8 or more grams can produce very strong analgesic and sedative effects, which can be really dangerous and are not recommended.
Kratom extract (oral dosage)
- Threshold: 1g
- Light: 1-2g
- Common: 2-4g
- Strong: 2-6g
- Heavy: 5-8g
Kratom tea (infused)
- Threshold: 1 g
- Light: 3 g
- Common 5 g
- Strong: 10 g
- Heavy: 11+ g
When do the effects of Kratom kick in and for how long?
The START time below is when you will usually begin to feel the effects of kratom from the time when you first take it. DURATION is roughly the length of time you will experience the effects, after which the effects will start to wear off and you might start to feel the comedown effects.
Kratom has a wide range of effects, depending on the dosage. At small doses, it’s a stimulant and at larger doses it acts as a sedative. The stimulatory effects may be shorter than the sedative ones, as the stimulatory effects tend to appear faster and fade earlier.
- START: 10-15 minutes
- DURATION: 2 - 4 hours
- PEAK: 1 - 2 hours
- AFTER EFFECT: 3 - 6 hours
Kratom drug interactions
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Harm reduction for Kratom
There are certain precautions you should take before doing Kratom. The advice below helps you to be physically and mentally prepared before doing it. Furthermore, we want you to be safe, and just in case you have a bad experience or some of the unwanted side effects associated with Kratom, we have also provided information on how to take care of yourself when you are in full swing. Finally, there are those uncomfortable or undesirable effects after the high have worn out, we will provide you with some practical tips on how to have a better calm down and help you to reduce the harm done to your body and brain.
Check the source
Other kratom products are sold as adulterated kratom. This implies they already contain opiates such as morphine, fentanyl or hydrocodone. Opiates such as morphine and fentanyl are powerful, meaning they should never be taken in combination with kratom. You should, therefore, only buy kratom products from a reliable company or sellers. Try to compare the reviews posted online about the product.
It is usually advised that kratom should be taken on an empty stomach, as being full can increase the risk of feeling nauseous and having a bad trip. You should, however, make sure you have plenty of nutritious food up to 3 hours before taking the drug.
You should always start with a low dose, especially if you are new to the drug or you are testing a different strand for the first time. You should also accurately weight the drug in order to control how much of it you are taking, especially because of the variety of effects it produces at different doses.
It is likely that you will get very thirsty during the onset, so try to have water around. You can reduce the risk of nausea by swallowing kratom gradually with small sips of water, however it is tempting to knock it back in one gulp to avoid the bitter taste.
This is especially recommended for users who are not familiarized with the drug, as having a sober friend could help dealing with a bad trip when taking too much.
Set yourself a limit
Try not to consume kratom more than once or twice a week, as this could cause the development of tolerance. As with many other drugs, if you use kratom on a daily basis you will eventually need to take increasingly larger doses to obtain the same level of effects. Tolerance is not likely to develop when kratom is taken responsibly.
Risks of Kratom
Dependence, tolerance and withdrawal
Whilst Kratom is not thought to have a strong dependency potential, especially when taken at low doses, when you take something regularly a habitual addiction can form. With a habitual addiction comes an increasing tolerance that demands bigger doses. This is why we recommend that you leave plenty of time between drug-taking experiences - the longer, the better. If you’re struggling with kratom, take a look at this thread.
Tolerance can easily be built after prolonged use, causing the need to take more drug to achieve desired effects. This can also cause withdrawal symptoms when stopping intake. These include: runny nose, slight muscle pains.
The DEA states that kratom abuse can lead to addiction, which can lead to developing psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations, delusion, and confusion. Not everyone will experience addiction in the same way, however, there are several hallmark symptoms which include:
- Tolerance, dependence, withdrawal
- Secretiveness, stealing, and/or lying
- Trouble scaling back or stopping drug
- Dropping and losing interest in hobbies, job/school and activities
- Vast amounts of time spent getting, using, and recovering from the drug
- Changes in mood, sleeping patterns, weight, activity levels
- Increased muscle spasms and pain
- Hot flashes, fever, watery eyes, runny nose
Read more about the possible risks of kratom here
Studies of frequent kratom users in Thailand and Malaysia have suggested the existence of long-term side effects associated with the use of high doses of kratom for a prolonged period of time. These include:
- Weight loss
- Dark spots (hyperpigmentation) on the skin
- Appetite loss
- Frequent urination
- Dry mouth
- Tremors or shaking
Read the complete study here.
How long will kratom stay in my system?
Currently, more research is needed in order to determine kratom’s exact half-life i.e. the time it takes for the drug’s blood concentration to be reduced by half. As with many other drug, how long kratom stays in your system will depend on factors such as:
- Strain of kratom
- Frequency of use
- Body fat
- Water and food intake
- Metabolic rate
However, based on current research, it is thought that the main alkaloid found in kratom, mitragynine, has a half-life of approximately 23-24 hours.
This means that after you take kratom, it takes a whole day to eliminate 50% of the drug from your system.This implies it should take around five days for kratom to be fully cleared your system.
Does kratom show up in a drug test?
A big reason why some decide to take kratom as opposed to other opioids is because they believe it does not show up in drug tests. While it is true that most standard drug tests such as SAMHSA-5 can not detect kratom, there are some kratom alkaloids that can be detected on certain drug tests, such as urine or blood tests.
Kratom Urine Tests
Some kratom alkaloids may show up on certain urine tests. While research that indicates how long kratom would be detectable in a user’s urine is limited, there could be trace amounts detected in a urine test for over a week. For someone who doesn’t use kratom often or uses low doses, it probably wouldn't be detectable in their urine after a week.
Kratom Blood Tests
A blood test could identify the presence and quantity of Kratom, by showing the concentration levels of the drug. Blood tests can show concentration levels of kratom. In cases of heavy or long-term use, there would likely be metabolites that could show up in blood tests for several days following ingestion, but because blood tests provide a shorter window for substances to be detected, and they’re more invasive, it’s more likely that a urine test would be conducted.
References: 2: The pharmacology and toxicology of kratom: from traditional herb to drug of abuse 9: Kratom Drug Test: The Complete Guide in 2019
The Law on Kratom
- UK: Possession is legal, but possession with intent to supply is illegal. The sale, import, and export of kratom is prohibited under the Psychoactive Substances Act since March 2016.
- Germany: Not illegal, but it’s an unapproved medical drug making it illegal to buy, sell, import, or use it.
- France: Legal
- Netherlands: Legal
- Spain: Legal
- Russia: Illegal
- Italy: Illegal to possess, sell, or import.
- Ireland: Schedule 1 illegal drug.
- USA: legality varies by state.
Alabama - Schedule 1
Arkansas - Controlled Substance
California - Legal
Florida - Legal
Illinois - Legal (age restriction)
Indiana - Illegal
New York - Legal
Rhode Island - Illegal
Tennessee - Controlled Substance
Wisconsin - Illegal
- Canada: Selling or possessing kratom is illegal if there is an intention to ingest.
- Mexico: legal without restrictions.
ASIA AND AUSTRALIA
- Australia: Illegal
- New Zealand: Illegal
- Singapore: Illegal
- Hong Kong:
- Israel: Illegal
- Thailand: illegal since 1943. In 1979, reclassified as a Type 5 narcotic (the least restrictive and punitive level).
- South Africa: Legal
More information on kratom
Kratom is a herbal supplement, so it can't be unsafe.
Many people believe that since kratom is a herbal remedy, it's safe. It's important to keep in mind that herbal products aren’t reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before they hit the market. As a result, there’s no guarantee that a supplement will contain the ingredients listed on the label (or that those ingredients will appear in the indicated amounts). Adulteration and contamination with other drugs, herbs, and substances are possible.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. KRATOM (Mitragyna speciosa korth) (Street Names: Thang, Kakuam, Thom, Ketum, Biak). DEA; 2013. Available from: https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/kratom.pdf
- Warner M, Kaufman N, Grundmann O. The pharmacology and toxicology of kratom: from traditional herb to drug of abuse. International Journal of Legal Medicine [Internet]. 2015 [cited 9 February 2020];130(1):127-138. Available from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00414-015-1279-y
- Kronstrand R, Roman M, Thelander G, Eriksson A. Unintentional Fatal Intoxications with Mitragynine and O-Desmethyltramadol from the Herbal Blend Krypton. Journal of Analytical Toxicology [Internet]. 2011;35(4):242-247. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21513619
- The Ultimate Guide to Kratom - Experience, Benefits, & Side Effects [Internet]. The Third Wave. [cited 13 January 2020]. Available from: https://thethirdwave.co/psychedelics/kratom/
- Veltri C, Grundmann O. Current perspectives on the impact of Kratom use. Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation. 2019. 10: 23–31. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6612999/
- Siebert D. The Kratom User's Guide [Internet]. Sagewisdom.org. 2016 [cited 13 March 2020]. Available from: http://www.sagewisdom.org/kratomguide.html
- Erowid Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) Vault [Internet]. Erowid.org. 2018 [cited 13 March 2020]. Available from: https://www.erowid.org/plants/kratom/kratom.shtml
- Yazzie R. Kratom Drug Interaction Concerns: Be Aware Of These Combinations [Internet]. Addameer.info. 2018 [cited 13 March 2020]. Available from:
- Tackett M. Kratom Drug Test: The Complete Guide in 2019 [Internet]. Budsandblossomsco.com. 2019 [cited 13 March 2020]. Available from: https://www.budsandblossomsco.com/kratom/kratom-drug-test/
- A Guide to Kratom Legality: Where Is Kratom Legal? [Internet]. Speciosa Guide. 2018 [cited 13 March 2020]. Available from:
- Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 [Internet]. Legislation.gov.uk. 2016 [cited 13 March 2020]. Available from: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2016/2/contents
- The Legal Status of Kratom in South Africa: every key fact you need to know. [Internet] [cited 13 March 2020] Available from: http://purekratom.co.za/kratom-laws-south-africa/