Kratom Dependence and Treatment Options: A Comprehensive Review of the Literature

Curr Drug Targets. 2020;21(15):1566-1579. doi: 10.2174/1389450121666200719011653.


Kratom, or Mitragyna speciosa Korth., is a tropical plant prevalent in Southeast Asia, and it is utilized as a traditional remedy for symptomatic relief of various illnesses. It has been labeled as an atypical opioid with significant narcotic-like properties, capable of inducing kratom dependence among those who misuse or abuse it. The prevalence of kratom use has drastically increased worldwide, raising concerns among healthcare providers, particularly regarding the availability of efficacious treatment options for kratom dependence. This manuscript provides a comprehensive narrative review of literature focusing on the psychoactive alkaloids of kratom, the possible neurobiological and pathophysiological models underlying the occurrence of kratom dependence, and the clinical presentations and effective treatment options available for kratom dependence. The psychoactive alkaloids of kratom, such as mitragynine (MG) and 7-hydroxymitragynine (7-HMG), act as partial mu opioid agonists and induce kratom dependence. As a result, regular kratom use leads to withdrawal symptoms on abstinence, along with craving, tolerance, and cross-tolerance to morphine. The psychological withdrawal symptoms reported include depressed mood, anxiety, restlessness, irritability, and feeling tense, while the physical withdrawal symptoms are myalgia and body ache, joint pain, lacrimation, running nose, yawning, insomnia, diarrhea, feverish sensation, loss of appetite, tremors, itching over the body, loss of concentration, and chills. Neonatal withdrawal symptoms, such as oral intolerance, restlessness, irritability, and vomiting, are also reported in newborns of women who are on regular kratom use. Sublingual buprenorphine-naloxone (Suboxone) is reported as a promising treatment for detoxification and maintenance replacement therapy for kratom-dependent users. Alternative treatments for in-patient detoxification include intravenous clonidine and a combination of oral dihydrocodeine and lofexidine. We conclude by adding a note on the research gap concerning kratom dependence, which future studies should focus on.

Keywords: 7-hydroxymitragynine; Kratom; kratom dependence; kratom withdrawal; mitragynine; neurobiology of kratom dependence; pathophysiology of kratom dependence; treatment of kratom dependence.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / adverse effects*
  • Alkaloids / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Mitragyna / adverse effects*
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Psychotropic Drugs / adverse effects*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / pharmacology
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Substance-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology


  • Alkaloids
  • Plant Extracts
  • Psychotropic Drugs