Despite its historical use, the studies surrounding Kratom and its effects on humans leave a lot to be desired. Most of what we know about it comes from lore, word of mouth, and the experiences of those that choose to explore the plant for themselves. In recent years, we have gained access to some research, which shows us that Kratom is incredibly complex.
Curious About Kratom But Unsure of What to Believe?
So far, more than 20 active compounds have been isolated from the plant, and we have a long way to go with understanding how they all work.
You’re not alone in being confused!
Reading through this post should help to give you some understanding of where Kratoms safety profile currently stands.
Lack of Regulation
In the United States, Kratom is not a controlled substance, which leaves it vulnerable to the same issues that other unregulated plants have.
To make matters worse, in the year 2014, the FDA banned the importation of Kratom, which makes procuring unadulterated plant material more difficult.
The market is saturated with people prioritizing profit over providing buyers with high-quality leaf.
Shady Companies and Synthetic Additives
If you spend time browsing Kratom related forums you’ll see a lot of people frowning upon buying it from headshops and gas stations.
The Kratom found in those places tends to not only be of lower quality but is also more likely to be adulterated.
It’s important to be aware of the possibility of running into research chemicals even with supposedly trustworthy sources.
Online specialty shops aren’t immune to this issue, which is why we often refer people to our article about finding the best retailers currently out there.
Side Effects and Safety Concerns
Kratom is typically marketed as being a safe alternative to a variety of other substances, but it’s not perfect and it does have the potential for severe side effects in some people.
Some reported side effects that researchers are investigating include:
- Dry mouth
- Slowed breathing
- Liver damage
It’s worth noting that the more severe side effects, like liver damage, are largely associated with batches contaminated with heavy metals and from mixing Kratom with other substances – although some may struggle with metabolizing the plant.
Many regular users of Kratom opt to receive liver function testing to be safe, as should you if you decide to consume this plant regularly.
While there are documented seizures associated with Kratom use, many pharmaceutical compounds that are similar in effect, like Hydrocodone, also list seizures as a potential side effect.
This indicates that the likelihood of this occurring may be higher for some individuals than others.
Kratom Drug Interactions
There’s a lot that we don’t know about the dozens of compounds found within Kratom. Mixing it with other substances holds the potential to have dangerous interactions.
Not only with recreational substances but with prescription medications, too.
Mixing Kratom with other “downers” like alcohol, opiates, and benzodiazepine is particularly dangerous and may reduce the threshold for respiratory depression, in turn increasing the overdose potential associated with those substances.
Taking Too Much Kratom
When you take too much Kratom, you’ll know shortly after due to the onset of some of the side effects mentioned above. Nausea, slowed breathing, and blurred vision are all telltale signs that you’ve ingested too much.
While Kratom taken on its own can affect an individual’s respiratory rate, whether or not this plant has the potential to suppress breathing to a fatal level, like with prescription and street opioids, is the subject of much debate.
Many argue that you would have to take an astronomical amount for that to occur, but at the end of the day, you know your body the best.
If you suspect an issue, it’s best to play it safe and seek medical attention.
Risks vs. Benefits
Kratom advocates across the globe believe that this plant provides invaluable relief from anxiety, pain, and depression, effectively reducing the need to become dependent on prescription medications that often have a wide range of side effects of their own.
Many addiction specialists also believe that the plant shows promising potential for combating opiate addiction and could potentially be a worthwhile tool for weaning addicted individuals off of “harsher” substances.
But it’s not that simple.
There’s No Existing Profile For Who is Likely to Experience Side Effects
Pharmaceutical compounds have the advantage of established prescribing protocols.
With Kratom, there are no guidelines for determining what makes some people more vulnerable than others to reacting negatively.
However, Kratom greatly improves the overall quality of life for many, and when stacked up to substances that provide similar relief, its safety profile seems much more promising.
Between the year 2016-2017, 152 unintentional overdose deaths occurred where Kratom was found in the system, but only 7 of those deaths occurred in people with no other known substances in their bodies.
145 of the reported individuals had additional substances in their system that are known to have high overdose potential, including:
- Fentanyl and related analogues
Other more socially acceptable substances that people commonly indulge in to reduce pain or improve mood kill tens of thousands every year.
Like alcohol, which leads to the deaths of an estimated 88,000 people annually, and prescription opioids which killed 20,000 people in the year 2016 alone.
When you take the lack of research surrounding Kratom into account, and the side effect potential that does exist, it is best to proceed with caution.
Ideally, consult with an open-minded health care professional before proceeding to get a more thorough understanding of where you might fall on the risk/benefit spectrum.
Have questions you think we can help with? Feel free to drop a comment!