Objective: The increasingly widespread use of kratom in the United States has raised concerns about its safety as well as spurring research into potential applications of its active ingredients in medical treatments.
Methods: We reviewed the literature published over the past 20 years, including peer-reviewed publications and data released by United States government health agencies to provide an overview of this topic.
Results: A variety of potentially beneficial and adverse effects of kratom use related to its opioid and stimulant properties have been documented, including addiction and withdrawal. Preliminary research in animals and case reports in humans have suggested medical utility for kratom in treating alcohol and opioid use disorders, pain, depression, and anxiety. However, the lack of controlled, standardized studies limits the clinical utility of this agent and is a barrier to safe consumption.
Conclusions: Historically, kratom has been used for medical purposes and for the treatment of alcohol and substance use disorders. The currently available literature suggests a potential for similar clinical applications. However, without controlled research studies or regulation, kratom poses numerous health risks to consumers.
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