Kratom – A relative new drug in Washington State is becoming popular


A heads up to parents and health care providers: I’ve recently had a surge of patients who come in or call us at Urgent Care due to the dangerous and addictive effects of Kratom, so I thought it was important to mention this drug since I’ve just recently learned about it.

Kratom has been used for many years in Southeast Asia as a painkiller, recreational drug and to treat diarrhea.  The substance originates from the leaves of the Kratom tree. In Washington State, it is sold in a capsule filled with the powdered leaf material.  It may also be chopped up and used to make tea, or smoked.

Kratom is in a newly defined class of drugs called “New Psychoactive Substances” named by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.  It is listed in the same class of drugs as Khat (a plant from east Africa), Salvia divinorum (plant widely available in the USA), and synthetics Ketamine and Mephedrone.

Since Kratom is not technically considered illegal (yet), it is being sold at many recreational Marijuana shops in town, despite the dangerous and addictive effects that it has.  In Thailand, where it is widely used, it is illegal – in 2011, more than 13,000 people were arrested for Kratom-related crimes.

The effects of Kratom come on rather quickly and last between 5-7 hours.  It is abused for it’s sedative or stimulative effects.  At low dosages it is a stimulant, making a person more talkative, sociable, and energetic, but at higher doses it creates lethargy and euphoria.  The experience and effects are not pleasant for every user.

Possible Undesirable effects:  Nervousness, nausea & vomiting (can be severe), sweating, itching, constipation, delusions, lethargy, respiratory depression, tremors, aggressive behavior, psychotic episodes, hallucinations, paranoia.

Possible Addiction effects:  Loss of sexual desire, weight loss, darkening of skin on face, cravings for more of the drug.

Possible Withdrawl effects:  Diarrhea, muscle pain, tremors, restless & sleeplessness, severe depression, crying, panic episodes, sudden mood swings, irritability.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was initially moving to ban its sale as of Sept. 30, citing an “imminent hazard to public safety.” In August, the DEA announced that it would make Kratom a Schedule 1 drug — the same as heroin, LSD, Marijuana, and Ecstasy. More recently, the DEA has however withdrawn its intent to make Kratom a Schedule 1 drug, and established a public comment period through Dec. 1. This is according to a preliminary document available on the Federal Register website and set to be published on Oct. 13. After the public comment period, the DEA could proceed with banning Kratom, (which would trigger another comment period,) take no action, or temporarily make Kratom a Schedule 1 drug.

If you or someone you know is having health problems due to Kratom, I recommend consulting your healthcare provider.

This document is for informational purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual patient.  If you have questions please contact your medical provider.

I hope that you have found this information useful.  Wishing you the best of health,

Scott Rennie, DO