Qualitative content analysis of public responses to an FDA inquiry on the impact of scheduling changes to kratom

Int J Drug Policy. 2022 Oct:108:103817. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2022.103817. Epub 2022 Aug 8.


Background: The legal status of kratom in the United States is complex and varies by state. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration have repeatedly subjected kratom to regulatory review. However, there hasn't been a systematic review of the public's perception of kratom. The present study analyzed open-ended responses from the public to an FDA solicitation for information regarding kratom with the goal of providing a comprehensive assessment of motives for kratom use.

Methods: To guide decisions regarding kratom regulation, the FDA solicited comments regarding kratom abuse potential, medical usefulness, and impact of scheduling changes from July through August 2021 and posted them to the Federal Register website. We analyzed comments posted during the first 6 weeks of comment solicitation (6,353) using an inductive approach via qualitative content analysis.

Results: Respondents reported 106 independent health-related reasons for kratom use, with most categorized as mental health, pain management, substance use disorder, or miscellaneous purposes that included increasing focus, treating insomnia, and decreasing fatigue. Neurological diseases and digestive disorders were also reported. Relatively few (< 2%) responses reported recreational use, abuse potential, or adverse effects of kratom.

Conclusions: Although kratom is not approved as a safe and effective therapy for any indication, individuals use kratom for a broad spectrum of health-related purposes. Limitations of this study include potential bias for respondents with perceived positive experiences using kratom, lack of demographics data, and lack of independent verification of claims made by respondents. Regardless, this study reflects perceptions regarding the therapeutic uses of kratom and provides insight into potential individual-level consequences of regulating kratom in the U.S. It is important to study the public's perception of kratom use, which can aid regulatory purposes and provide clinically important information on individuals' use and valuation of kratom.

Keywords: Emerging drugs of abuse; Federal regulation; Food and drug administration; Kratom; Mitragyna speciosa; Mitragynine.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mitragyna* / adverse effects
  • Pain Management
  • Substance-Related Disorders*
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration