A sober look at kratom, a psychoactive plant that has many claimed benefits, and has also inspired a moral panic

If you call it an “herbal supplement” without specific health claims, the FDA shrugs (thank Orrin Hatch from Utah for that, good or ill). The DEA, obviously not. OTOH, the DEA is driven a lot more by politics without bothering Congress (again, good or ill.)


Suckered by succulents.


While a lot of the panic seems overblown, I wonder why the story completely left out people’s struggles with withdrawal. Perhaps it’s just the weird stuff in it, but there’s an entire reddit community dedicated to it and lots of advice online from people who had considered it safe and are now struggling with stopping. Clearly more research is needed before any conclusion can be drawn and there seem to be some great uses, but if anything I think the story kinda soft played in favor of kratom over gov’t agencies. Those agencies almost always being wrong in how they approach drugs doesn’t make kratom safe.


Well I remember him talking about taking Oxicontin in the past, so it makes sense this is sort of an “instead of” thing for him.

I think you are right that research would be good, but I don’t think that habit forming necessarily means unsafe. Unless we all think coffee is unsafe. Because I think over half the population would have a real struggle giving that stuff up.


I agree with you completely. I just thought that the article underplayed the possible risks and user experiences. Perhaps I’m just a worrier, but there seems to be a rush to prove the psychological benefit of certain drugs and the skepticism of the drug doing things like curing cancer isn’t applied. Drugs can cause negative psychological effects in some people and the loose attitude towards self medication is a bit odd considering the widely reported negative results of kratom in some people.

As for the coffee thing… I’m not a fan of that argument. Coffee is coffee and kratom is kratom. Just like how comparing weed to heroin is silly we should evaluate each of these independent of the other. Also, caffeine can be a hell of a drug depending on the person.

Author could have done a lot more with this article, starts promising then falls back on lazily over-citing the other article, which I read when it came out and also found to be outstanding. But this is a valuable piece from the “not judgmental about a new drug” crowd.

I started taking kratom for general wellness. I love opiod pills but have a brain enough to keep me from overindulging. Since taking kratom, which has not gotten me a third as high or lasted as long, I have had zero interest in a single pill. That doesn’t mean it cured an addiction, I never had one, but it fully suppressed my interest in other opiods.

Want to know what else happened? I wanted better mental wellness. I got that. I also lost 30 lbs effortlessly, because kratom also murdered my interest in drinking alcohol. I went from 2-3 strong beers a day (add ABV points per 12 oz beer, 20-27 pts a day) to half that in a month. I now drink at most 2-3 drinks per WEEK. I had no intent to lose weight or cut my non-problematic drinking by well over 80%, but that was like a free gift.

As for tolerance and addiction, if you’re a low level user (under 15g/day) and don’t have wildly addictive tendencies, you’ll be fine on both fronts. I can take days off - it seems quitting kratom is similar to quitting its botanical cousin coffee. Some unease, irritability and maybe headaches for a few days, then you’re totally fine.

OTOH, if you’re addictive, you can take 50+ grams per day and dig yourself into a very deep pit. In kratom’s case, it’s mostly about the user and not the substance. If you seek out reputable sellers, you’ll get clean kratom. If you pay twice as much as the cheap sites, you’ll get verified, organic, clean kratom.


I’m not trying to say that kratom is equivalent to coffee. I’m saying that for all I know it is pretty near equivalent to coffee and some people having trouble quitting doesn’t give me much information about how safe it is for that reason. I think that if it’s hard to quit, though, it would be nice if people knew that in advance. I imagine most people who start drinking coffee know that coffee is hard to quit (even if they don’t care).

Somewhat, except that CBD is not only non-psychoactive*, it actively reduces the psychoactivity of THC. Kratom is an opioid (well, it’s a plant that contains a smallish amount of a mildish opioid). So it’s definitely psychoactive.

* Not exactly non-psychoactive maybe? Causing THC to make you less high and specifically less edgy is a psycho-action, and when it’s consumed without accompanying THC it may also have subtle mood effects as well.

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I guess people weren’t enjoying it enough to make it worth banning.

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If it is too lame to destroy your life over then yeah, nothing to see here.

There’s a fair bit of research suggesting that CBD is anxiolytic and that its pain remediation is at least partly CNS.

However, I was mainly referring to the psycosociology of the public evolutions.

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IME, CBD without THC is a very mild but nevertheless effective anxiolytic.

And CBD with just a tiny bit of THC – not enough to make you high – is even more effective than CBD alone (also IME).

Mind you, it’s still not the “whack over the head with a rubber Relaxo-Mallet” of, say Xanax – more a sort of “warm robe and fuzzy slippers” kinda thing.

Now personally, I tend to class “mild anxiolytics” as “psychoactive” ("I Take Drugs Seriously"TM :wink:), but YMMV. I suspect some people translate “psychoactive” to “gets me high”; and it doesn’t, really. Just chills me out a bit.

(And I personally think a great many people in today’s society could benefit from a safe, mild, herbal anxiolytic. But again, YMMV.)


As a matter of fact, kratom is in the coffee family. So that’s a valid comparison.

And then the elm slipped us a mickey

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I’ve used kratom for 13 years, originally to quit alcohol and get off antidepressants. I continued taking it for back and muscle pain since I do manual labor, or at list I used to. After yes me from depression and anxiety I went on to start 2 businesses, successfully I might add. As I sit here in my big house overlooking my private lake, I reflect back and thank kratom. Without kratom I never would have kicked my bad habits and become successful. I want to add, my health is as perfect as it can get, give me your email and I’ll gladly share my past lab results with you, once and for all proving kratom is actually beneficial to your body, not harmful. I haven’t had so much as a cold in the past decade, something almost all kratom users report. Lastly, it doesn’t get you high, and only a certain dose will work. If you go beyond that you just get a headache and feel like crap. There is no possibility of overdose unless say, you ate an entire kratom tree.

God my spelling was horrendous. Kratom doesn’t make you better at proofreading, apparently :joy:

I’m 50ish and have taken Kratom off and on for almost 10 years. More off than on but I have mostly taken it for joint and muscle pain. I also take it occasionally for increased energy, mood elevation and anxiety. I don’t take opioids. It works as good or better for me than antidepressants and anti-anxieties if taken consistently and at lowest dose possible. The pain relief is good. The pain relief is particularly important because the Opioid epidemic has caused such a crackdown on legit Opiod users that without something to take, I would not be able to get out of bed due to arthritis pain and back pain, which is a problem with two young medically complex/special needs children requiring my full attention. Kratom does not alter my thinking. I go off it for months at a time with zero withdrawal. It’ll sure, I could cope just fine if it went away but i sure hope it doesn’t.

A quick scan of pubmed shows that the stuff is pretty dangerous. That doesn’t mean it should be banned, but comparisons with THC and coffee are misleading. For example, it killed Adrian Lamo:

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