Kratom: Everything you Wanted to Know about Kratom
My experience with Kratom
Several months ago, I tried kratom for the first time (read about it here). My experience with kratom allowed me to drink a tolerable tea that provided several hours of pain relief. Unfortunately, the strain I selected provided psychotropic symptoms that disallowed me from using it on a daily basis.
While I continued to research the benefits of kratom, I stopped using it on a daily basis due to a lack of knowledge.
Fast forward to a couple months ago…
I spoke with The Kratom Konnection who sells high quality kratom product. I was able to ask about its use for pain relief. This company prides itself on selling only the highest quality, fresh product to ensure that the primary alkaloids do not deteriorate. I was educated on the different strains and what each strain is used to assist. Being unaware of the numerous number of strains available, I was quite intrigued to learn that many can be used on a daily basis, as heavy psychotropic side effects are not commonly experienced.
The following four strains were sampled:
- White Maeng Da
- Red Hulu
- Red Borneo
What was immediately noticeable was the quality of the powder – it was fresh! Since it was fresher than the prior product I tried, I decided to take a smaller amount. Good call on my part because the fresher the powder, the stronger the potency
While my experience with kratom has been positive due to slowly titrating to an appropriate dose, there has been much negative publicity around kratom in recent weeks after the FDA released a statement indicating kratom was just as dangerous as opioids.
In writing this article, I read through the FDA’s comments and was surprised any attention was being paid to it. This is not a new development – the FDA Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, together with the establishment have been strong opponents for quite some time. Whether the concern is legitimate or coming from a fear that pharmaceutical companies will lose a substantial chunk of profit, has yet to be determined. The statements creating a fuss are from Scott Gottlieb, M.D., in which he stated that kratom “has similar effects to narcotics like opioids and carries similar risks of abuse, addiction, and in some cases, death.”
What is Kratom?
Kratom is a herbal product derived from the leaves from the kratom tree (Mitragyna speciosa). It is native to Thailand, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. Over the last decade, this herbal pain reliever’s popularity has increased exponentially due to user claims of its therapeutic effects in treating pain, anxiety, depression, and opioid withdrawal.
Kratom is included in a newly-defined class of drug called New Psychoactive Substances, so-named by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. In the 2013 World Drug Report, kratom is on this list along with khat (another plant, this one from East Africa), Salvia divinorum (a plant that is widely available in the US), and synthetics ketamine, mephedrone and others.
Because of its similarities to opiates without the same narcotic side effects, this herbal supplement is heavily promoted as a legal, undetectable, safe drug that can be used to come off stronger drugs. It is not yet illegal in the US but the breakdown products of kratom can be detected with some drug tests which is good to be aware. While it has been used for many years in Southeast Asia as an anti-diarrheal medicine, a painkiller and a recreational drug, it is still relatively new to the United States and Europe.
Although the FDA has taken a clear-cut position in opposition to kratom, the American Kratom Association (AKA) has been working to educate and raise awareness of kratom’s beneficial uses, when taken appropriately. The AKA holds that kratom does not cause the same lethal respiratory depressing effects as narcotic-like opioids. “In stark contract, among millions of users of kratom in America, probably dating back to the 1990s and earlier, there has not been a single documented actual kratom-caused overdose death.” In response to a handful of recent alleged kratom overdoses, the AKA has said, “[t]he handful of possible kratom-associated deaths in the United States involved people taking multiple drugs, with apparent causes of death varying widely.”
The main issue causing concerns appears to be lack of education. It has different effects on the user based on the dosage amounts — in low doses, it’s a stimulant and in high doses it acts like a sedative. There are three (3) cases in which it has been ruled as the cause of death:
- Guy Garcia, 2013, acute mitragynine toxicity
- Christopher Waldron, 2017, thyroid and heart condition, muscle relaxer, prescription antidepressant and Kratom
- Sergeant Matthew Dana, 2017, hemorrhagic pulmonary edema due to Kratom overdose, accidental.
As with any herbal supplement, care has to be taken.
Recent news reports may be cause for pause, but keep in mind it is always more salacious to cover negative experiences, such as death. Calls to U.S. poison control centers about kratom increased 10-fold from 2010 to 2015, according to the FDA. Gottlieb said the agency also is aware of 36 deaths associated with kratom products. The deaths were not all ruled as kratom-overdoses, as many individuals had multiple narcotics in their system.
Nonetheless, the positive attributes and benefits of this herbal supplement should be receiving more press. Apart from assisting addicts to come off heavy narcotics, kratom has been used by many chronic pain sufferers as a non-opiate alternative for relief.
In a prior interview, Tim Davis, of Baltimore, Md., spent the day with WUSA-9 and shared his experience with kratom. Prior to trying it, kratom has assisted him get off prescription pain pills used to treat his back pain.
“Me being a father, I have a job, I have so much stuff that I need to do. I gotta get up you know. My kids want to play I can’t be in pain in bed, I was like hey, do I take these pain pills and be a better person,” said Davis.
Davis said the first time he took Kratom it “took all the pain away, it took all the feelings from the pills away.”
Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration had planned to ban the plant by adding it to a list of illegal drugs that includes marijuana, heroin and LSD. The DEA slowly backed away from that plan last October after a flood of public complaints including a letter signed by 62 members of Congress and a protest at the White House organized by the AKA.
The group has said categorizing kratom as an illegal substance would stymie medical research into its potential therapeutic uses. The DEA said last October it would delay a decision until the FDA issued a recommendation.
As pointed out by Herman, too much of a good thing is not always good.
“I don’t know anything that can’t be dangerous but historically it has not been,” Herman said
While kratom is beneficial when used appropriately, it has to be taken in small doses until one’s tolerance is determined. If one takes too much, or too much too quickly, there may be some unpleasant side effects.
Reported side effects:
- Sensitivity to sunburn
- Dry mouth
- Increased urination
- Loss of appetite
- Psychotic symptoms
Currently, the AKA has initiated a formal dispute resolution petition with the US Department of Health and Human Services alleging that the FDA advisory is based on “weak scientific basis” and seeking to have it overturned.
“For years, the FDA has published scientifically inaccurate information on the health effects of consuming kratom, directly influencing regulatory actions by the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration], states, and various local government entities. AKA believes the FDA health advisory on kratom will lead to more state and local bans, all based on discredited, incomplete, and mischaracterized scientific claims,” the statement reads.
At the end of the day, when you deal with chronic pain on a daily basis, you will try anything that promises to help. I am not a doctor and can only share my experience with you. While I have reacted well to it, you should contact your physician before starting this or any other health regime.
If you have tried kratom, I would love to hear from you! Please share your experiences below.