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Kratom, Mitragyna speciosa, is an evergreen tree in the coffee family. It’s a stimulant. But it’s also an opioid.
The commercial marketplace for plants from all over the world has been booming in the last decade. Every possible ethno(and entheo-)botanical you can imagine is available at your fingertips. There are a few psychoactive plants that have found incredibly widespread popularity amongst this multitude of phytodiversity. One of which is Kratom.
Kratom is an evergreen plant in the coffee family that originates in Southeast Asia. It is a stimulant at lower doses and a sedative at higher doses. It’s popularity is on the rise due to its incredible ability to positively impact mood and relieve pain. However, kratom’s main alkaloids–mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine–are opioid agonists. Kratom is an opioid plant.
Yet, unlike pharmaceutical opioids, there is something incredibly unique about kratom in that it seems to provide the positive opioid effects of boosting mood, relieving pain, and relaxing the mind and body, yet does not suppress the respiratory system and is far less addictive than pharmaceuticals. It’s easy to buy, easy to use, and provides (mostly) positive benefits for most people. Because of this, there is a subculture of people who are using it as a replacement to get off of pharmaceutical opiates. But it goes beyond this. There are also cultures of people who use it as a health supplement, others who use it as a nootropic, and others who use it just for a damn good time. Some data suggests there are 5 million people who use kratom regularly in the United States alone!
Kratom is widely used and, typically, positive for those who use it. However, it is still an opioid that we know very little about scientifically. It still poses a risk of addiction (and physical dependence), potential liver toxicity, and has potentially dangerous interactions with other drugs. It is this risk potential that led the DEA in 2018 to attempt to schedule Kratom (so far unsuccessfully due to grassroots activism.) But, is the prohibition really the best way to curb its potential harmfulness? Likely not. Education and quality control is.
In an effort to spread education on this widely used, but generally not well-understood plant, Adventures Through The Mind is happy to feature Dr. Oliver Grundmann.
Oliver Grundmann, PhD, is a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the College of Pharmacy, University of Florida. From an early age, he was interested in plants and their ethnobotanical uses which motivated him to study pharmacy in his native of Germany. He then continued his studies on the neuropharmacology and specifically antidepressant and anxiolytic effects of plant extracts during his graduate work. He has been an author on 17 different research papers about Kratom since 2016.
Dr. Grundmann is on the show to talk all about Kratom. We discuss its traditional cultural use, legal history, pharmacology, modern cultural use, preparation best practices, its benefits and its risks, and how to safely start using kratom.
Enjoy![edited Friday, May 8th to correct for confusing opiate with opioid]
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- What is kratom?
- Kratom’s cultural traditions and history of use
- Is its prohibition being lobbied by the drug trade?
- Traditional preparations of kratom
- Pharmacology and effects in the brain
- G proteins, opioid receptors, and the beta-arrestin 2 pathway
- How kratom gives you an opioid high without suppressing breathing
- The differing addictive potentials of Kratom’s alkaloids, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine
- What opioid receptor is being activated with kratom?
- Is kratom addictive? What are the symptoms of withdrawal?
- Doctors might give you methadone for kratom withdrawal
- The difference between addiction and dependence
- How good therapy might mean nothing for addiction if there are no social supports to help people into healthier social-economic circumstances
- Why people use kratom and how effective it is according to the research
- Adverse effects | kratom side effects
- Is kratom toxic for the liver? Yes, but it’s not that simple.
- How to know if you have an addiction to kratom
- What to watch out for when first starting with kratom
- How to get the most out of your kratom (skip the OJ!)
- Do different strains make a difference?
- Is the DEA trying to suppress kratom to protect the profits of big pharma?
- The importance of more research
- Further links and resources
This page has more info on Dr. Oliver Grundmann’s kratom research but also his larger body of work as well.
This website is an excellent source on current kratom information, politics, and community activism. They also have a reliable list of “approved vendors”.
r/Kratom – a subreddit (discussion forum) dedicated to discussing kratom use