The abuse of psychotropic substances is a well-known phenomenon, and many of them are usually associated with ancestral traditions and home remedies. This is the case of Mitragyna speciosa (kratom), a tropical tree used to improve work performance and to withstand great heat. According to several published studies, the main reasons for kratom consumption involve improving sexual performance and endurance, but also social and recreational uses for the feeling of happiness and euphoria; it is also used for medical purposes as a pain reliever, and in the treatment of diarrhea, fever, diabetes, and hypertension. However, this plant has gained more popularity amongst young people over the last years. Since it is available on the internet for purchase, its use is now widely as a drug of abuse, namely as a new psychoactive substance, being a cheaper alternative to opioids that does not require medical prescription in most countries. According to internet surveys by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction in 2008 and 2011, kratom was one of the most widely supplied new psychoactive substances. The composition of kratom is complex; in fact, more than 40 different alkaloids have been identified in Mitragyna speciosa so far, the major constituent being mitragynine, which is exclusive to this plant. Besides mitragynine, alkaloids such as corynantheidine and 7-hydroxamitragynine also present pharmacological effects, a feature that may be attributed to the remaining constituents as well. The main goal of this review is not only to understand the origin, chemistry, consumption, and analytical methodologies for analysis and mechanism of action, but also the use of secondary metabolites of kratom as therapeutic drugs and the assessment of potential risks associated with its consumption, in order to aid health professionals, toxicologists, and police authorities in cases where this plant is present.
Keywords: Mitragyna speciosa; analysis; kratom; secondary metabolites; therapeutic uses; toxicology.