Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a tree in the coffee family, found in Thailand and neighboring countries. Traditionally, in Southeast Asia, people have chewed its leaves or made them into a tea that is used to fight fatigue and improve work productivity. Kratom has also traditionally been used during religious ceremonies and to treat symptoms such as pain and diarrhea, sometimes as a substitute for opium.
Two compounds from kratom, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, interact with opioid receptors in the brain. People who use kratom have reported both stimulant-like effects (increased energy, alertness, rapid heart rate) and effects like those of opioids and sedatives (relaxation, pain relief, confusion).
Some people in Western countries use kratom to try to treat pain or manage opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Research on kratom is in its early stages. Much remains to be learned about the short- and long-term effects of kratom in the body, its safety, and whether it may have therapeutic uses.
- Although people may use kratom to try to overcome opioid addiction, kratom itself may have the potential to be addictive. Regular kratom users may experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using it.
- A variety of side effects of kratom have been reported. They include mild effects, such as nausea, constipation, dizziness, and drowsiness, and rare but serious effects such as seizures, high blood pressure, and liver problems.
- Fatal overdoses from kratom alone appear to be extremely rare. The use of kratom in combination with other drugs has been linked to deaths and severe adverse effects such as liver problems. More research is needed on drug interactions involving kratom.
- The long-term effects of kratom use are not well understood. There have been reports that long-term use of large doses of kratom may cause serious liver problems in some people.
- Harmful contaminants such as heavy metals and disease-causing bacteria have been found in some kratom products.
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