Changing trends in the use of kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) in Southeast Asia

Hum Psychopharmacol. 2017 May;32(3). doi: 10.1002/hup.2582. Epub 2017 May 24.


Objective: Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa. Korth) is an indigenous medicinal plant of Southeast Asia. This review paper aims to describe the trends of kratom use in Southeast Asia.

Design: A literature review search was conducted through ScienceDirect, Scopus, ProMed and Google Scholar. Twenty-five articles illustrating kratom use in humans in Southeast Asia were reviewed.

Results: Kratom has long been used by rural populations in Southeast Asia as a remedy for common ailments, to fight fatigue from hard manual work, as a drink during social interaction among men, and in village religious functions. Studies based on self-reports suggest that prolonged kratom use does not result in serious health risks or impair social functioning. Two recent trends have also emerged: (a) Kratom is reportedly being used to ease withdrawal from opioid dependence in rural settings; whereas (b) in urban areas, adulterated kratom cocktails are being consumed by younger people to induce euphoria.

Conclusions: Legal sanctions appear to have preceded serious scientific investigations into the claimed benefits of ketum. More objective-controlled trials and experiments on humans need to be conducted to validate self-report claims by kratom users in the community.

Keywords: Malaysia; Thailand; kratom; mitragynine; opiate.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asia, Southeastern / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Mitragyna*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Plants, Medicinal / adverse effects
  • Secologanin Tryptamine Alkaloids / adverse effects*
  • Secologanin Tryptamine Alkaloids / therapeutic use*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / epidemiology*


  • Secologanin Tryptamine Alkaloids
  • mitragynine