What is Kratom?

Kratom is a tropical tree whose leaves are prized for their unique properties. More on why people use Kratom, Kratom effects, legality of Kratom, and Kratom addiction here.

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What is Kratom exactly….?

Kratom (Mitrogynia Speciosa) is indigenous to Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia. It is a large tree that can grow up to 9m in height and its leaves are prized for their unique properties. Despite being used by the native peoples of these countries for centuries, Kratom is illegal in all three.

The leaf is usually chewed, but since its adoption in Europe, Kratom has taken many other forms. It is now possible to buy dried leaves, powder, tinctures, resin, enhanced leaves, and word has reached me that somebody has managed to create a form of Kratom suitable for intravenous injection.

Why do people use Kratom?

Traditionally Kratom leaves have been used as a medicine; as a treatment for diarrhea, as an analgesic (pain control) and as a way to treat addiction to opiates. It is also used by Thai agricultural workers, who take advantage of its properties as a stimulant at low doses, thus enabling them to work long, backbreaking hours in the fields. Main reasons people have used Kratom include:

  • analgesic pain relief
  • anti diarrhea properties
  • mild stimulant for manual labor
  • opiate addiction treatment

Kratom effects

While acting as a stimulant at low doses, at higher doses Kratom has more of a sedative opiate-like effect. What gives it these properties are the alkaloids it contains, more specifically two, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. Mitragynine is an opioid agonist, as are the ‘real’ opiates such as heroin. However, there is a difference in that opium and its ilk latch on to the mu opioid receptors in the brain while mitragynine prefers the delta opioid receptors thus producing a stimulant like effect. But when the level of mitragynine rises, it starts to bind to the mu opioid receptors creating the sedative effect.  Dose dependent Kratom side effects are typical of the drug, and long term effects are present after habitual use of Kratom.

Is Kratom legal?

Despite being illegal in South-East Asia, Kratom is legal to possess and use in many European countries (bar Romania and it is controlled in Finland) and the U.S., though in the latter it has been placed under watch by the FDA.

Kratom safety

So, if Kratom is legal is Kratom also safe? Alcohol and tobacco are legal. They are not safe. Kratom can be safe and beneficial if used responsibly but, like all drugs, Kratom abuse has its dangers. Mixing Kratom with other drugs/medications (prescribed or otherwise) also presents its own dangers and should be avoided at all costs. Furthermore, the consequences of a Kratom overdose are extreme nausea, projectile vomiting and the intense need to lie down to assuage the first two consequences. There have been no documented fatalities from Kratom overdose.

Is Kratom addictive?


For three years alcohol had not been an issue, I’d toddled along doing what needed to be done, and not needed a drink to do it. Life had in a sense returned to normal. Then, for many reasons, the cravings returned. Yes, alcohol wanted her wily way with me again and she was not one to take no for an answer. Weeks passed without respite from her sweet whisperings and as much as I told myself I didn’t need her my heart was saying something else. Relapse seemed just a matter of time. But then I hadn’t figured on Kratom gate crashing the party. She sauntered in, flashed her big leafy eyes at me and I was smitten. Alcohol? What alcohol? Kratom, the answer to my drink drenched nightmares, the ointment for my angst, where had you been all my life? And so began my ‘Kratom period’.

By the end of my Kratom ‘period’, I was shoveling 25g of dried leaf a day into my stomach just to function. I was chasing no buzz; keeping at bay the crippling depression, insomnia and apathy that Kratom withdrawal involves had become my raison d’etre.

It still amazes me that Kratom is still relatively unknown of in the U.S. and U.K. Here is a plant that has very definite psychoactive properties, that is legal to possess and supply (in most countries), and cheap. Sounds promising, at least it did to me. Unfortunately, What I didn’t know is that Kratom is addictive when abused. If like me, you have any history at all of addiction stay well clear of Kratom. You will get addicted and, as you will learn in a later post, Kratom addiction is not fun, maybe not in the same horribleness league as the big opiate boys, but nevertheless it has its moments.

Are you addicted to Kratom?

Kratom addiction, like any other substance use problem is a medical condition that responds well to appropriate medical treatment and can be managed successfully. If you are looking for help with Kratom abuse or addiction…there is no reason to be ashamed! You can find answers to your many questions and learn what happens during addiction treatment programs in our comprehensive guide on Treatment and Help for Kratom Addiction.

If you think that you might have a problem with Kratom, please post your experiences or questions below. We are here to help and will try to answer your questions personally and promptly.

About the author
Charles Somerville is the writer of The Alcoholism Guide, a website that looks at alcoholism in all its forms and the effects of alcohol abuse on mental and physical health.
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