Purpose: This article reviews the pharmacology, clinical utility, adverse effects, and abuse potential of kratom.
Summary: The leaves of Mitragyna speciosa contain the biologically active alkaloids of kratom. Kratom exerts opioid and α-2 receptor agonistic effects as well as antiinflammatory and parasympathetic-impeding effects. There are no published human pharmacologic, pharmacokinetic, or drug interaction studies on kratom or mitragynine, making it virtually impossible to fully understand kratom's therapeutic potential and risks and the populations most likely to benefit or experience harm from its use. Kratom has been used to ameliorate opioid withdrawal symptoms but also induces withdrawal. Human pharmacologic, pharmacokinetic, and clinical data are of low quality, precluding any firm conclusions regarding safety and efficacy. Respiratory depression has not been commonly reported, but kratom does cause a host of adverse effects without clear guidance for how they should be treated. There are numerous assessments where people have been unable to stop using kratom therapy, and withdrawal signs and symptoms are problematic. Kratom does not appear in normal drug screens and, when taken with other substances of abuse, may not be recognized. Thirty-six deaths have been attributed to kratom, and the Food and Drug Administration issued a public health warning about the substance in November 2017.
Conclusion: Kratom exerts opioid and α-2 receptor agonistic effects as well as antiinflammatory and parasympathetic-impeding effects. Human pharmacologic, pharmacokinetic, and clinical data are of low quality, precluding any firm conclusions regarding safety and efficacy.
Keywords: Mitragyna speciosa; addiction; herb; kratom; opioids.
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