Kratom as a substitute for opioids: Results from an online survey

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2019 Sep 1;202:24-32. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2019.05.005. Epub 2019 Jun 29.

Abstract

Background: Kratom is a South Eastern Asian tree whose leaves are used to make tea-like brews or swallowed in powdered form for various health and well-being reasons including to relieve pain and opioid withdrawal. It is important to learn more about the potential public health impact of kratom in the context of the opioid epidemic.

Methods: An anonymous online survey of kratom users (2867 current users and 157 former users) was conducted in September 2017 through the American Kratom Association and associated social media sites.

Results: Kratom was used primarily to relieve pain (endorsed by 48% of respondents), for anxiety, PTSD, or depression (22%), to increase energy or focus (10%) and to help cut down on opioid use and/or relieve withdrawal (10%). Over 90% of respondents who used it in place of opioids indicated that it was helpful to relieve pain, reduce opioid use, and relieve withdrawal. The reported incidence of bad adverse reactions was 13%, and reactions were overwhelmingly mild and self-managed.

Conclusions: Respondents reported using kratom for conditions which often require use of opioids, including pain and reduction of opioid use. The high self-reported efficacy and low incidence of adverse reactions associated with kratom use suggest that it may provide a potential alternative to opioids for some persons even though it has not been evaluated in multi-center clinical trials or approved for any therapeutic purpose. Further study of kratom, including systematic characterization of its safety and efficacy for various conditions is warranted.

Keywords: Kratom; Opioids; Pain; Survey.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Anxiety / drug therapy
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mitragyna*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Self Medication / methods
  • Self Medication / statistics & numerical data*
  • Self Report
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / drug therapy*

Substances

  • Analgesics, Opioid