Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) use in a sample of drug-dependent adolescents in rehabilitation for drug use in Malaysia

J Ethn Subst Abuse. 2023 Dec 23:1-16. doi: 10.1080/15332640.2023.2293941. Online ahead of print.


Background: Leaves derived from the Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) tree have been traditionally ingested for their curative properties by diverse groups of the population including people who use drugs (PWUDs) in Southeast Asia. This study investigated the motives for using kratom among drug-dependent adolescents.

Methods: Eighty adolescents who were undergoing mandatory drug rehabilitation volunteered to participate in this mixed-method, cross-sectional study. All respondents answered a semi-structured questionnaire while a few were interviewed in-depth.

Results: The majority were males (70%, n = 56/80). The respondents' mean age at admission was 18.2 years (SD = 1.40), and 65% were between 14 and 18 years old. Sixty-three percent (n = 50/80) had used crystal methamphetamine alone, while the rest had co-used crystal methamphetamine with heroin. About three-fifths (60%, n = 48/80) had a history of kratom use. Kratom was commonly used for many perceived benefits such as increasing energy, reducing crystal methamphetamine intake, intensifying euphoria, easing heroin withdrawal, as a heroin substitute and reducing heroin use. In addition, the multivariate analysis indicated that higher odds of kratom use were associated with those who were employed, used only crystal methamphetamine, were recent drug users, and had no prior incarceration history.

Conclusion: While kratom was being used for its multifold perceived benefits, it also functions as a means to self-treat withdrawal from illicit drug use among drug-dependent adolescents.

Keywords: Adolescent; Malaysia; crystal methamphetamine; heroin; kratom.