The abuse potential of kratom according the 8 factors of the controlled substances act: implications for regulation and research

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2018 Feb;235(2):573-589. doi: 10.1007/s00213-017-4813-4. Epub 2017 Dec 23.


Rationale: Consideration by the US Drug Enforcement Administration and Food and Drug Administration of placing kratom into Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) requires its evaluation of abuse potential in the context of public health.

Objective: The objective of the study is to provide a review of kratom abuse potential and its evaluation according to the 8 factors of the CSA.

Results: Kratom leaves and extracts have been used for centuries in Southeast Asia and elsewhere to manage pain and other disorders and, by mid-twentieth century, to manage opioid withdrawal. Kratom has some opioid effects but low respiratory depression and abuse potential compared to opioids of abuse. This appears due to its non-opioid-derived and resembling molecular structure recently referred to as biased agonists. By the early 2000s, kratom was increasingly used in the US as a natural remedy to improve mood and quality of life and as substitutes for prescription and illicit opioids for managing pain and opioid withdrawal by people seeking abstinence from opioids. There has been no documented threat to public health that would appear to warrant emergency scheduling of the products and placement in Schedule I of the CSA carries risks of creating serious public health problems.

Conclusions: Although kratom appears to have pharmacological properties that support some level of scheduling, if it was an approved drug, placing it into Schedule I, thus banning it, risks creating public health problems that do not presently exist. Furthermore, appropriate regulation by FDA is vital to ensure appropriate and safe use.

Keywords: Abuse potential; Analgesic; Controlled Substances Act; Dependence; Dietary ingredient; Food and Drug Administration; Kratom; Mitragynine; Opioid; Withdrawal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Biomedical Research / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Biomedical Research / trends
  • Controlled Substances / administration & dosage
  • Controlled Substances / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Mitragyna* / chemistry
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / psychology
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Secologanin Tryptamine Alkaloids / administration & dosage
  • Secologanin Tryptamine Alkaloids / adverse effects*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration / legislation & jurisprudence*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Controlled Substances
  • Secologanin Tryptamine Alkaloids
  • mitragynine