If you've never heard of kratom, doing a quick google search will tell you that it’s unsafe, ineffective, and highly addictive. When I first began learning about kratom, I was scared after reading articles about it: they have even claimed that kratom has caused overdose deaths! That’s definitely not something I would want myself or my family consuming. At this point (~2017) I had already started drinking kratom tea, and it was hard for me to understand how the mild and pleasant effects could be so dangerous. I am a university educated board certified music therapist, a healthcare professional who was working at a hospice at the time. I started digging deeper and this is what I found:
The scientific name for kratom is mytragyna speciosa. It’s a tropical evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia, and it’s actually in the same family as the coffee plant (although it does not contain any caffeine). Kratom has been used for hundreds of years as an herbal supplement in traditional medicines, and in recent years it has begun gaining traction in the United States for its numerous claimed benefits including relief from chronic pain, mood elevation, increased focus and energy, and even as a potential aid in the treatment of depression and anxiety. Kratom works as a partial mu-opioid receptor agonist similar to chocolate, coffee, and exercise. Additionally, the DEA and FDA are responsible for contributing to false information and hysteria surrounding this safe herbal supplement, claiming it IS an opioid or a “synthetic drug”.
Don't get it twisted: The DEA is right in trying to combat the ongoing opioid crisis. In 2018 alone approximately 70,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. It’s a huge problem and it should not be taken lightly. People are taking prescription medication more than ever for various ailments, and some of these medications come with serious side effects and the potential for addiction; and even overdose. However, this wouldn’t be the first time that our government has been misguided. As an example, marijuana has been shown to be medically beneficial for many conditions and it has changed thousands of people’s lives in a positive way. Despite studies showing its effectiveness, it was not until very recently that medical marijuana has become available in certain states, and the DEA spent decades trying to demonize an essentially harmless substance. I see many parallels when comparing medical marijuana to kratom: both are safe, natural, and effective. Both have been used safely for hundreds if not thousands of years. So where did all of these alarm bells come from regarding kratom? I found a couple different potential culprits. Let’s discuss them.
First of all, like anything else, kratom should be sold safely and responsibly. Unfortunately there are numerous adulterated kratom products on the market often sold at quick markets and gas stations as well as a lack of third party lab testing in some kava bars. There have been some outbreaks of salmonella poisoning that may or may not have been linked to kratom consumption. This could have been easily avoided if the supplier had gotten their kratom lab tested for purity, like we do here at Pause.. I started looking into these alleged “kratom overdose deaths” and found that the National Institutes on Drug Abuse agree that kratom use does not cause overdose deaths. So where are these stats coming from? The vast majority of the 91 overdoses where kratom was involved are attributed to polydrug use, and kratom just happened to be there too. Kratom was involved in less than 1% of the more than 27,000 documented fatal overdoses in 2019. Another extremely unfortunate death that has been attributed to kratom is the 2014 suicide where the individual had kratom in their system at the time of death.
To put these numbers into further perspective, more than 95,000 Americans lose their lives each year to excessive alcohol use. That’s over 260 deaths each and every day. "But alcohol is legal! Everybody drinks! Just don’t drive drunk!" I just can’t help but feel that its quite hypocritical when people claim that kratom is dangerous yet they’re drinking alcohol every evening. In the US, you need to be 21 years or older to purchase or consume alcohol. You need to be 18 years or older to purchase or consume kratom. Everybody in this equation is an adult who must have some level of personal responsibility. While some individuals are able to enjoy an alcoholic beverage several times a week with friends or at dinner, some people become addicted to alcohol and it can destroy their lives, and the lives of others. We don’t let those people “ruin it for the rest of us”, do we?
Check out the facts I’ve gathered below from the American Kratom Association:
DISPELLING THE FDA MYTHS:
“There are 44 kratom associated deaths between 2009-2016”- No documented fatalities can be liked to use of the natural kratom plant. The deaths “associated with kratom use” include polydrug use, underlying medical conditions, or the use of adulterated kratom products. The National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA) agree that kratom use does not cause overdose deaths.
“Kratom’s primary alkaloids, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine are dangerous opioids and have the same effects of opioids like heroin”- MG and 7-HMG bind to mu-opioid receptors in the brain; they are only partial agonists with lower dependence and abuse potential. Scientific evidence demonstrates that kratom does not cause respiratory depression like classic opioids (a common cause of fatal ovedoses).
“Kratom is highly addictive and is abused as a drug”- Life coffee, tea, and other caffeinated drinks, consumers can develop a dependency on kratom, which is vastly different from an addiction. The Hemby study in June 2018 concluded “MG does not have abuse potential and reduces morphine intake” and the Yue study in July 2018 reported “limited abuse liability ad potential for matragynine treatment to specifically reduce opioid abuse”.
“The kratom industry has no production standards or consumer safety protocols”- There are kratom consumer advocacy groups and kratom manufacturer trade associations committed to providing consumers with safe, high quality kratom products. We support adherence to FDA product testing protocols that meet or exceed Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) guideline and appropriate are restrictions. Additionally, the kratom we serve at Pause… has been third party lab tested for safety.
To wrap everything up I would like to share my personal experience with kratom. I have been consuming Kratom for about three years now, pretty regularly. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis when I was 6 years old and I have been on prescription medication for 20 years, never really feeling in full control of my health. Despite the doctors telling me my labwork was coming back normal, I never felt like I had enough energy to get through the day. When my father passed away when I was 14 years old, I began struggling with depression and anxiety. Unfortunately at this point I believe this is something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life... and that's okay. I sure as hell know I'm not the only one. When I discovered kratom I realized how helpful it was as a tool to help combat my low moods and lack of energy. For me, kratom is part of my holistic approach to health and it has greatly improved my quality of life over the past few years.
Kratom can be habit forming, much like coffee. We encourage our
customers to consume kratom safely and responsibly. We would never recommend kratom extract or even some of our stronger kratom powder drinks to people who have never had kratom before. Kratom can be beneficial for a wide variety of people for a multitude of reasons. Don’t believe everything you hear without doing independent research. Kratom may not be for everyone, but for myself, my family, and many of our customers, it works.