This article originally appeared on Addiction Professional. Over the past few years we have been hearing about Kratom in the substance abuse industry. Proponents believe it can be an effective opiate substitute. Additionally they believe that it can help with opiate withdrawal. Where is it Sold One Florida company that sells it is named […]
This article originally appeared on Addiction Professional.
Over the past few years we have been hearing about Kratom in the substance abuse industry. Proponents believe it can be an effective opiate substitute. Additionally they believe that it can help with opiate withdrawal.
Where is it Sold
One Florida company that sells it is named Kavasutra. The owner of it previously sold synthetic marijuana (also known as K2, Space, or Spice). He continued to do so even after it was federally banned in 2012. He eventually served 10 months in jail for doing so.
The drug is also sold in other states in a variety of forms. A bar called Krave sells it in a non-alcoholic drink called Ketum to customers in North Carolina. VivaZen is a drink sold in Alabama gas stations and head shops. Its maker claims that “it’s a plant” and that “VivaZen is non-habit forming”. Treatment providers and companies that sell it for recreation employ various marketing terms. These terms include “safe, plant, natural” and “legal high.”
Introduction to Kratom
I first heard about kratom in September 2013. A new student had moved into the Rutgers Recovery House just before the start of school. Multiple residents called me throughout the Labor Day weekend to tell me that they thought he was high on opiates. I had him report to the Rutgers Counseling Center and we sent him to get drug tested. He passed. A few days later, multiple students called me again to tell me that the young man in question seemed high. I had him tested again. He passed.
Another male resident who had been clean from heroin for about 18 months pulled me aside and said he suspected the young man was using kratom. He told me that it was made from Thai leaves. Additionally he told me it had effects that were similar to those from opiates. The lab that Rutgers used did not test for kratom. A few months later, the young man tested positive for opiates. Before we sent him away to treatment, he admitted that he had been using kratom interchangeably with heroin for a few months.
Leaves from the mitragyna speciose tree in Southeast Asia are used to make Kratom. It has been used by the natives of Southeast Asia for hundreds of years. However the first written description of it hails from Dutch botanist Pieter Korthals in 1839. It is a relative of the coffee tree. It works as a stimulant in small doses and a sedative in larger ones.
The leaves from the tree contain more than 40 different chemical compounds including mitragynine. This is the compound that scientists believe causes euphoric effects. Tests have confirmed that mitragynine content is strongest in trees that naturally grow in Southeast Asia.
Kratom users report euphoric sensations similar to those from opiates, without the same level of intensity. When they use it during opiate withdrawal, some users state that it lessens craving and pain. For those who use it just to get high or as an opiate substitute, the reported immediate side effects. These side effects include insomnia, nausea, sweating, runny nose, constipation and a loss of appetite. Common kratom withdrawal effects are muscle aches, diarrhea, mood swings, delusions and hallucinations.
Kratum in Thailand
Kratom has been used in Thailand for centuries as both a recreational drug and as medicine. Natives near the border of Malaysia used it to treat coughs, diarrhea and muscle aches. Interestingly heroin was similarly marketed in the United States in the late 1890s and early 1900s. The Kratom Act of 1943 made it illegal in Thailand. Use diminished but continued.
Kratom has seen a resurgence in Thailand in the 21st century. It is part of a popular drug cocktail called Yaba. This cocktail is popular with young people and bandits. Yaba has four ingredients: kratom leaves, cola, cough syrup and boiling water. At an addiction conference that I keynoted in Southern Thailand, kratom and Yaba were among the main concerns brought up by doctors, therapists, nurses, military members, clergy, and the politicians who were in attendance.
In addition to Thailand, kratom is currently illegal in Malaysia, Myanmar, Finland, Poland, Lithuania and Australia. It is illegal in Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming. There are legislative proposals to ban it in Florida, New Jersey and a few other states.
One group that is fighting the banning of kratom is the American Kratom Association. This consumer group that claims the substance is a better alternative to methadone and is also a “natural painkiller”. Another kratom advocate is the Botanical Legal Defense (BLD). This group fights regulation of dietary supplements. The BLD claims that it defeated a kratom ban in Arizona.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the import of kratom in 2014. However there is no full-scale ban. Some Internet sites claim that there are FDA clinical trials involving kratom, but I can not find evidence of that. Without a federal ban, the use of kratom will increase.