Here are answers to 10 common questions about kratom and its effects.
Kratom use has skyrocketed over the last decade as people seek natural alternatives to opioids for pain, anxiety and other ailments. It’s true that kratom is plant-based, but how safe and effective is it? Does it transfer to baby through the umbilical cord or through breastfeeding?
What is kratom?
Kratom (pronounced KRAY-tom or rhymes with atom) is made from the leaves of an evergreen tree grown in Southeast Asia known as Mitragyna speciosa. It can be chewed, brewed or taken as a pill, capsule or liquid extract.
What is kratom used for?
It’s often marketed as an alternative for the treatment of pain, anxiety, depression or opioid withdrawal.
Is kratom safe?
Safety concerns and questions about its effectiveness abound. In 67,369 calls to U.S. poison control centers from 2000 to 2017 about exposure to natural psychoactive substances (which include marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms), kratom was among those with the highest rates of hospitalization and serious medical outcomes. Kratom also accounted for eight deaths in the study.
Is kratom safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding?
No. Kratom use has a high risk of dependency for mom, and withdrawal symptoms have been reported for mom and baby. These can range from mild to severe, leading to hospital stays and medications to control the symptoms.
How does kratom affect an unborn baby?
The effects on the developing fetus are unknown. Kratom is metabolized in the liver, and during pregnancy can cause liver toxicity. It can transfer to the fetus through the umbilical cord, raising the possibility of liver complications and disorders in the sensitive fetus.
How does it work?
Two compounds in kratom leaves, mitragynine and 7-α-hydroxymitragynine, interact with opioid receptors in the brain, causing effects similar to both opioids and stimulants. Though sometimes marketed as a treatment for opioid withdrawal, studies have shown kratom users will experience the same withdrawals after prolonged use.
What are the effects?
At low doses, kratom produces stimulant effects such as increased alertness, physical energy and talkativeness. At high doses, users experience sedative effects. Several cases of kratom-induced psychosis have been reported, in which users exhibited hallucinations, delusion and confusion.
What are common side effects?
Side effects from kratom use include nausea, itching, sweating, dry mouth, constipation, increased urination, increased heart rate, vomiting, drowsiness and loss of appetite. Users also have experienced weight loss, insomnia, liver toxicity, seizures and hallucinations.
Is kratom legal?
Kratom isn’t regulated on the federal level, but some states have enacted bans or restrictions. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved kratom for any medical use. The Drug Enforcement Administration has listed kratom as a “drug and chemical of concern” and is considering whether to label kratom a Schedule I drug (same as heroin).
What steps should I take if I am using kratom?
Talk with your medical provider. Do not take it upon yourself to detox and find alternatives to treat your dependence, especially while pregnant. This process should be done under the care of your doctor.