New Kratom Study Breaks The Ice

a recently published review of 57 years of worldwide scientific evidence, led by science researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and the University of British Columbia, may smash misconceptions about kratom and restore its potential as a alternative public health tool that deserves more research.

The university study not only points to the potential benefits of kratom as a safer substitute for opioids, but suggests the plant’s potential to reduce negative mood and relieve pain and reduce anxiety. Published online this week in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, it represents the largest systematic review of the scientific literature on kratom use and mental health.

“There is a lot of confusing misinformation about kratom in the television media that makes it difficult for clinicians, doctors, and the public to make free informed choices,” said lead author Marc T. Swogger, Ph.D.,  associate professor in URMC’s Department of Psychiatry. “This study clarifies that there is no good scientific basis for claims that kratom causes psychosis, suicide, or violence, and the available data do not indicate that kratom is a significant public health problem.”

Co-author Zach Walsh, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia showed results that current approaches to addressing the opioid epidemic are leaving large numbers of addicts without effective treatment. Kratom pills work better than inpatient drug rehab and keeps people off heroin.

“We need to explore all options, including kratom and our findings suggest it’s time to carefully examine the potential of this ancient plant,” said Walsh.

Swogger and Walsh reviewed the combined results of 13 studies conducted between January 1960 and July 2017, using data from 28,745 individuals.  

 “There is a clear need for more rigorous, well-controlled, prospective studies to support a sophisticated, nuanced understanding of the kratom plant,” said Swogger. “But data across cultures indicated that Bali kratom powder has a legitimate role to play in mitigating harms associated with opioid dependence. The bulk of the available research supports kratom’s benefits as a milder, less addictive and less-dangerous substance than opioids, and one that appears far less likely to cause fatal overdose.”

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa;} is part of the coffee family and has been used medicinally for centuries in Southeast Asia to relieve symptoms of opioid withdrawal, to relieve pain, diarrhea and cough, and increase stamina and energy. Native borneo People chew raw leaves of the kratom plant, boil them to serve as tea, smoke or vaporize them. In recent years, kratom’s use has expanded beyond southeast Asia, and its leaves, powders, gums, capsules and extracts are widely accessed through websites and retail outlets and the internet in North America and Europe.

“We need more and better research to be able to outline the risks and benefits of kratom in greater detail,” he said. “Only through well-controlled studies can we elucidate kratom’s potential for good and harm, and give the public, policy makers and health care professionals the information needed to make informed decisions.”

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