Is Kratom Safe?

If you visit vitamin shops or read health news, you probably have heard about kratom. An herbal supplement sold as an energy booster, mood enhancer, pain reliever, and in more recent years as an antidote to treat opioid addiction. However, Kratom has been reported to be an unsafe herbal supplement. The research recently conducted by a team of experts led by William Eggleston, a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy at Binghamton University found that the truth about Kratom is more complicated, and the safety problems related to its use are concerning. His research revealed that out of 2,312 Kratom exposures reported, (935 had Kratom as the only substance involved) in addition to the common side effects which were: agitation (18.6%), tachycardia (16.9%), drowsiness (13.6%), vomiting (11.2%), and confusion (8.1%), there were more serious side effects such as seizure (6.1%), withdrawal (6.1%), hallucinations (4.8%), respiratory depression (2.8%), coma (2.3%), and cardiac or respiratory arrest (0.6%).

Eggleston’s research also shows that Kratom was listed as a cause or contributing factor in four deaths identified by the County Medical Examiner’s Office in New York state. His research findings suggest Kratom is not reasonably safe and poses a public health threat because it is readily available and is used as an herbal supplement which makes it easy to be misused. He says that “Although it is not as strong as some other prescription opioids, Kratom does still act as an opioid in the body.” This means that in larger doses it can cause slowed breathing and sedation, causing individuals using Kratom to develop the same toxicity they would, if using another opioid product. The research also revealed that this herbal supplement can cause seizures and liver toxicity.

Substances that are derived from Kratom may also be contaminated with salmonella bacteria. As of April 2018, more than 130 people in 38 states became ill with Salmonella after taking some form of Kratom. Salmonella poisoning can be fatal, and the FDA has linked more than 35 deaths to Salmonella-tainted Kratom during the same period.

Kratom may have a role in treating pain and opioid use disorder, but more research is needed to clearly understand the safety and efficacy of this herbal supplement. Eggleston’s research results suggest “Kratom should not be available as an herbal supplement.”

Kratom is not currently regulated in the United States and federal agencies are taking action to combat false claims about this herbal supplement.

For more information about Kratom visit our drug index page at

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“Kratom Use and Toxicities in The United States” published in Pharmacotherapy