What is Kratom?
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a tropical plant that has traditionally been used as an opium alternative and substitute. This remarkable plant has gone largly unnoticed by the general public but among opiophiles online there has been much discussion. Kratom is going to be of interest for people detoxing. If you want to get off dope or oxy or whatever kratom might be worth looking into. It is also of interest to those trying to get off methadone or suboxone. If you have a tolerance to opioids kratom is not likely to get you high but it can make a big difference when detoxing. Beyond its potential for users to develop dependence kratom carries little or no long term health risks, much like opium.
I put links to two papers on Kratom below. The first (Takayama 2004) is a review of the chemistry and pharmacology of the major alkaloids in kratom. The major opioid effects are due primarily to two alkaloids mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. Compared to morphine mitragynine has only one-fourth the potency but 7-hydroxymitragynine has 13 times morphine's potency! Samples analyzed show of the total alkaloidal content in kratom extracts 66% is mitragynine while only 2% is 7-hydroxymitragynine.
The second paper (Tanguay 2011) is specifically about the kratom legislation and policy in Thailand. I linked to it because it also has a lot of background on traditional use, kratom use in the contempory drug culture in Thailand (they drink kratom tea in an iced cocktail with cough syrup and coke, it's called 4x100) and use by opiate dependent persons. It also has some good pictures. A sample quote : “I was using heroin for about seven years. I knew that I needed to quit because I was hurting people around me and getting in trouble with the police quite often. I tried so many times to quit – I tried methadone at least 12 times and twice checked myself into a drug treatment centre run by the military, but nothing worked. Then I moved down South and started to chew kratom and was able to stop using heroin. Heroin users in this area all know that kratom is a great way to deal with drug dependence.”
We live in an opiophobic culture. Perhaps predictably the growing popularity of kratom with opiophiles has already brought heat down on the plant. It is listed on the DEA's Drugs and Chemicals of Concern. It's hard to see what their concern is as kratom is rarely linked to any health or crime problems. Perhaps they see it as interfering with their campaign to make opiate user's lives as miserable as possible.
Articles like this one claim that kratom is "vigorously marketed" and we should "...ban it until a study proves to me that there is a benefit..." As usual included are reports from emergency room staff and poison control centers, by reviewing only the worst cases, give a grim picture. There were probably tons of kratom leaves consumed in 2011 but only 6 emergencies involving kratom. To the author's credit she does give some space to the benefits of kratom. I just wish there were people in positions of power who respected the rights of an individual to be soveign over their own body and mind.
Kratom has been lumped in the same catagory as other "legal highs" like "spice" (synthetic cannabinoids) and "bath salts" (amphetamine analogs). Currently pure alkaloidal 7-hydroxymitragynine is too expensive to compete with other popular opioids . As interest in kratom grows it is only a matter of time as extraction methods get more efficient and methods of synthesizing it from mitragynine are developed it will drop in price. At 13 times the potency of morphine the per gram cost can be 13 times as high and it would have essentially the same value. If it gets low enough to compete with heroin or pharmaceuticals eventually someone will try to make money dealing it on the street. While injectable kratom might sound interesting I fear this would signal the beginning of the end of kratom.
When I get the time I will post more info on the pharmacology of kratom and chemistry of mitragynine alkaloids. Also coming up a guide to detoxing with kratom.
Chemistry and Pharmacology of Analgesic Indole Alkaloids from the Rubiaceous Plant, Mitragyna speciosa. Chem. Pharm. Bull. 52(8) 916—928 (2004) Hiromitsu Takayama [Link]
Kratom in Thailand Decriminalisation and Community Control? By Pascal Tanguay. Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 13. April 2011 [Link]