In vitro and in vivo pharmacology of kratom

Adv Pharmacol. 2022;93:35-76. doi: 10.1016/bs.apha.2021.10.001. Epub 2021 Dec 13.


Kratom products have been historically and anecdotally used in south Asian countries for centuries to manage pain and opioid withdrawal. The use of kratom products has dramatically increased in the United States. More than 45 kratom alkaloids have been isolated, yet the overall pharmacology of the individual alkaloids is still not well characterized. The purpose of this chapter is to summarize in vitro and in vivo opioid activities of the primary kratom alkaloid mitragynine and its more potent metabolite 7-hydroxymitragynine. Following are experimental procedures described to characterize opioid receptor activity; receptor binding and functional assays, antinociceptive assays, operant conditioning assays, and respiratory plethysmography. The capacity of kratom alkaloids to confer tolerance and physical dependence as well as their pharmacokinetic properties are also summarized. The data reviewed here suggest that kratom products and mitragynine possess low efficacy agonist activity at the mu-opioid receptor in vivo. In addition, kratom products and mitragynine have been demonstrated to antagonize the effects of high efficacy mu-opioid agonists. The data further suggest that 7-hydroxymitragynine formed in vivo by metabolism of mitragynine may be minimally involved in the overall behavioral profile of mitragynine and kratom, whereas 7-hydroxymitragynine itself, at sufficiently high doses administered exogenously, shares many of the same abuse- and dependence-related behavioral effects associated with traditional opioid agonists. The apparent low efficacy of kratom products and mitragynine at mu-opioid receptors supports the development of these ligands as effective and potentially safe medications for opioid use disorder.

Keywords: 7-Hydroxymitragynine; Antinociception; Drug discrimination; Kratom; Mitragynine; Opioid; Place conditioning; Receptor binding; Schedule-controlled responding; Self-administration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Mitragyna* / chemistry
  • Substance-Related Disorders*


  • Analgesics, Opioid