Discover Magazine takes a comprehensive look at kratom information

  •   Posted on: 2021-08-16
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Writer Gabe Allen took a comprehensive look at kratom, and published his findings Aug. 3 in Discover Magazine. Among the highlights of his article are:

  • Scottish explorer Duncan Macrae brought kratom to light for the west in the late 1990s, having found it in the jungles of Borneo. 

  • The Thai people had long used kratom to help with opium withdrawal. 

  • He settled on a milkshake as the most palatable way to ingest the dried leaves.

  • The pleasurable effects seemed to market themselves. By 2001, he exported seven tons of the plant to a warehouse in the U.S. to keep up with demand. 

  • By 2019, an estimated 2 million Americans used kratom. Consumers report using it for chronic pain, anxiety, depression and opioid withdrawal

  • The two primary psychoactive alkaloids found in the leaf are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. They act on opioid receptors in the brain, but the associated risks seem to be far less severe than those of opium-derived compounds.

  • U.S. companies have to be careful about making claims for kratom, as it is not an FDA-approved dietary supplement.

  • A Canadian study published in March of 2021 found that kratom vendors tend to emphasize the positive aspects of kratom, as might be expected. Conversely, the FDA has been faulted for misrepresenting scientific research. As has been mentioned elsewhere in other blog posts on this site, an FDA recommendation in 2016 cited 44 deaths “associated with the use of kratom.” Examination of their study showed that 43 involved additional substances. One death was caused by a gunshot wound to the chest.

  • The American Kratom Association (AKA) favors a regulatory approach. The organization successfully lobbied for a version of the Kratom Consumer Protection Act in five separate states. The act establishes strict rules for the purity and labeling of kratom products, and bans sales to minors.

  • Kratom on its own seems to have minimal mortality risk, according to a 2019 study in Preventative Medicine.

  • Kratom manufacture and delivery would likely benefit from regulation, to help avoid potential contamination. In 2018, 50 Americans were hospitalized after eating kratom that was contaminated with salmonella. The next year, unsafe levels of nickel were found in kratom from Indonesia, from WWII era grinding machines. In response, the AKA has developed a “Good Manufacturing Practices” program. Participating vendors go through an independent third-party audit and are awarded with a listing on the AKA’s website.

  • Even kratom’s advocates say the plant is somewhat addictive. The question is severity. is it more like coffee or heroin? Only 3% of roughly 2,800 surveyed in 2020 met the criteria for moderate or severe kratom use disorder.

  • The physiologically addictive properties of kratom seem to stem from the alkaloid 7-hydroxymitragynine. Kratom’s most abundant alkaloid is mitragynine. Some kratom companies are exploring mitragynine-only extracts. 

  • Opiate addicts self-report relief from using opiates by substituting kratom, according to several surveys. Clinical trials have yet to be conducted, although a trial is reported to be under way at an American university, the author found.

A link to the full article is here: https://www.discovermagazine.com/health/kratom-what-does-science-say-about-the-controversial-botanical