Kratom – Not As Harmless As It’s Made Out To Be

Man reading an article about Kratom

“Kratom is okay because it’s plant-based.” “Kratom is harmless.” “Kratom doesn’t have any bad side effects.” “Kratom doesn’t have withdrawal symptoms.” Those statements are claims made by proponents of kratom. If that’s all you look at, you might think it’s safe to use kratom. But how much of that is actually true?

Let’s look at it point-by point:

“Kratom is okay because it’s plant-based.” Opiates are plant-based and are far from harmless. There are many plants that are toxic to the point of fatality to humans. Although kratom users claim that it is safe because it is plant-based, there have been no studies done that give evidence that kratom is beneficial, and the active ingredient levels can vary in kratom plants and preparations, so it can be difficult to gauge the dose being taken. Overdose is a possibility.

“Kratom is harmless.” People have overdosed and died from using kratom. That’s not any definition of “harmless” that you’ll find in a dictionary.

Woman hallucinating

“Kratom doesn’t have any bad side effects.” Kratom use has been known to cause sedation, hallucinations, delusions, confusion, nausea, itching, sweating, dry mouth, constipation, increased urination, loss of appetite, dizziness, drowsiness, depression, breathing suppression, seizure, coma, anorexia, weight loss, insomnia, and death. No bad side effects? I doubt it’s something most people would enjoy.

“Kratom doesn’t have withdrawal symptoms.” Users coming off of kratom have reported opiate-like withdrawal symptoms. Studies were conducted to determine if kratom could be a treatment for opiate withdrawal. One study showed that people who took kratom for more than 6 months experienced opiate-like withdrawal symptoms and developed cravings for kratom. Some required opiate addiction treatment such as Narcan and buprenorphine. Replacing one drug with another is not a solution to addiction.

Kratom comes from an extract of the leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa tree, which is native to Southeast Asia. The methods of taking kratom vary from chewing a dried form or the actual leaves, taking a liquid form, as a capsule, and brewing the leaves with tea.

Paramedics helping overdosed person from Kratom

The Mayo Clinic reported that, from 2011 through 2017, Poison Control centers in the US received about 1,800 reports involving kratom. These included reports of death, and about half of the cases reported serious side effects such as high blood pressure and seizures. Infants whose mothers take kratom while pregnant have gone through withdrawal after birth.

In August of 2016, the DEA announced its intent to categorize kratom as a Schedule 1 drug. This decision was reversed in October of 2016. Currently, there is no federal legislation regarding kratom, although as of February 2024, Wisconsin, Indiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and the District of Columbia have classified kratom as a Schedule 1 drug. Oregon, South Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, Louisiana, and Florida limit possession, distribution, sale, or manufacture only. Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, West Virginia, and Virginia limit possession, distribution, sale, and manufacture, and they have requirements for product labeling. Vermont has determined that kratom’s components are “regulated drugs” under state law. Kratom is unregulated in all other states.

The Federal Kratom Consumer Protection Act was introduced in the Senate on October 4, 2023. The bill would require that the FDA establish a task force and hold a hearing on the health and safety of products containing kratom. The proposed act also prohibits the FDA from regulating kratom products more restrictively than food, dietary supplements, or dietary ingredients.

Kratom users claim it helps with a myriad of problems. The FDA and the DEA haven’t done enough research to make sure that it’s safe for human consumption or that it will provide any benefits. Much more investigation is needed.

If the bill currently in the Senate passes, there will be studies done on effectiveness and safety. Until then, until it’s proven to be of some benefit and not harmful, it’s out there and available in many areas, putting consumers at risk.

Please don’t risk your health and your life on a substance that can be harmful to you. Your life is worth more than that.

If you or someone you love is struggling with any type of addiction, please reach out. You are not alone. Help is available.



Jo-Ann Richardson

Jo-Ann has always loved helping people. After earning a Bachelor of Arts degree and Elementary Teaching credential from California State University, Chico, Jo-Ann worked at non-profits around the United States and the world for more than 35 years. This path led Jo-Ann to Narconon Arrowhead, where she has been the Director of Legal Affairs since 2017.