A New Fad: Kratom
Once standard counter displays at gas stations and tobacco shops, bath salts and synthetic marijuana, or “Spice”—now known to be extremely harmful to one’s health—are being replaced by a new drug fad: Kratom. Kratom is one name for the large oval leaves of the mitragyna speciosa tree, found in Southeast Asia. Often, in those cultures the leaves have been used widely for medicinal purposes, and now are banned due to misuse. This is currently the problem within the United States, as the leaves are instead used by many as a legal drug of choice—and unfortunately, it is 100 percent organic. Kratom creates a high similar to that of opiates, creating sedation effects, relaxation, and even euphoria. However, also similar to opiates, Kratom comes with several side effects, including nausea, dizziness, and even hallucinations. According to Forbes Magazine, Kratom is often sold as raw or crushed leaves, used for smoking or steeping in tea. Gel caps are also available.1 The potency and strain of the Kratom varies with the price, with the more expensive leading to the more intense effects.1 Currently, the DEA has classified Kratom as a “Drug and Chemical of Concern.”1
Kratom has a large and supportive following, of those who believe it is helpful in alleviating pain, increasing energy, and lessening anxiety.1 When Google’d, the first links that appear are for sites that sell the organic herb to whomever would like to order it. Unfortunately, as Kratom is a newcomer to the drug world, society is not completely aware of the dangerous effects this drug can have when misused. According to Forbes, in Australia, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand, Kratom is already the third most popular drug, behind meth and marijuana.1 It is also illegal.1 It is an addictive substance, with research to back the statement. The Phoenix New Times states that Josai International University in Japan and Chulalongkorn University in Thailand completed a study in 2004 which revealed that a tolerance to Kratom developed, similar to that of morphine, with withdrawal symptoms observed as well.1 MSNBC has stated that it is making its way into emergency rooms country-wide. Long-term effects are known to be nervousness, sleeplessness, loss of libido, constipation, and darkening of the skin complexion.2 According to MSNBC, some doctors describe Kratom withdrawal as similar to that of heroin.2 If overdose occurs, patients will experience respiratory depression, hallucinations, delusions, listlessness, tremors, aggression, and nausea.2
Kratom: Soon to be Illegal
Although there have been no fatalities reported from just Kratom alone,2 Justin M. Holler and colleagues discuss a fatality in which Kratom was involved in their article “A Drug Toxicity Death Involving Propylhexedrine and Mitragynine.” A 20-year-old Caucasian male was found dead in his home, surrounded by Kratom and several other herbal medicines.3 He had taken a combination of Mitragynine (Kratom) and Propylhexedrine (“Stove Top Speed”) which worked together to strengthen the effects of each other.3 This caused the patient to seize and pass away, and the cause of death was ruled Propylhexedrine toxicity, to which Mitragynine may have contributed.3
Unfortunately, until more research is completed on this potentially dangerous drug, Kratom will remain legal and unregulated.
 DiSalvo, D. Is Kratom the New “Bath Salts” or Just an Organic Pain Reliever with Euphoric Effects? Forbes Magazine. Retrieved 4 December 2012 from http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2012/09/2 2/is-kratom-the-new-bath-salts-or-just-an-organic- pain-reliever-with-euphoric-effects/
 Huus, K. (2012). Asian leaf ‘kratom’ making presence felt in US emergency rooms. U.S. News on NBCNEWS.com. Retrieved 4 December 2012 from http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/03/19/1076089 2-asian-leaf-kratom-making-presence-felt-in-us-eme rgency-rooms?lite
 Holler, JM; Vorce, SP; McDonough-Bender, PC; Magluilo, Jr., J; Solomon, CJ; and Levine B. (2011, January/February). A Drug Toxicity Death Involving Proylhexedrine and Mitragynine. Journal of Analytical Toxicology; 35: 54-59. Kratom.