Known scientifically as Mitragyna speciosa, kratom trees grow in the dense rainforests of Southeast Asia. It is considered a traditional medicine in countries like Malaysia and Thailand. Throughout the region, kratom is often used by working-class manual laborers: fishermen, farmers, rubber-tappers, etc. Rural workers often chew fresh kratom leaves to relieve fatigue and increase energy levels throughout the workday. Locals also drink kratom tea at social gatherings.
Knowing this, we begin to visualize an everyday Southeast Asia kratom user or Southeast Asian kratom user demographics. The plant plays a significant social, cultural, and medicinal role in society. Its use has been documented back 150 years, to roughly the 1830s.
But what about Western kratom demographics? Is there anything to be learned about your typical American kratom user?
A Brief History of Kratom in the United States
Before we can conceptualize your average American kratom user, we must first understand the basic history of kratom products in America. Today, it is estimated that between 10 and 15 million people use kratom in the US alone. According to a Wired report last year, “[Kratom users] are using the drug [sic] for everything from chronic pain relief to replacement for their morning coffee.”
But the US does NOT have 150 years of documented kratom history. In fact, anecdotal reports suggest that Mitragyna speciosa first entered US borders sometime in the 1980s. It was introduced to the West by Southeast Asia immigrants. However, it wasn’t until the last decade that kratom became a well-known botanical used to treat a variety of ailments.
According to Wired, “The reasons people give for using kratom vary widely. It’s equally fruitless to try to stereotype an average American kratom user.” And while we do agree with this notion, some scientists and culturalists have tried (much like we’ll try to do in a moment). Given the short history of kratom in the United States, what can we learn about Western kratom demographics?
Kratom User Demographics in the United States
According to a research paper in Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, “While pure kratom is primarily used by day laborers…in Southeast Asia, a majority of users in the United States is middle-aged, has at least middle income, private health insurance, and completed some college.” This depicts the stark contrast between kratom demographics in Southeast Asia and the United States. In addition, an online, anonymous kratom user survey was posted on the internet in 2016, formulating the basis for Western kratom demographics.
This survey and subsequent analysis made the following conclusions about Western users (NOTE: these are based on averages):
- Predominantly white, non-Hispanic
- Between the ages of 31 and 50 years old
- Married or with a partner
- Employed with an annual household income >$35,000
- Has private health insurance
- Has at least some college education
- Has used kratom for more than one year but less than five
A total of 8,049 respondents completed the survey. With this data, we begin to see the average Western kratom user. This data was further corroborated by another online, anonymous kratom demographics survey conducted in 2017, one year later. On Western kratom users, the second survey made the following report:
- Predominantly white (90%)
- Age 40, on average
- Predominantly female (61%)
- Located within the USA, specifically (97%)
The second kratom user demographics survey focused more on use patterns than user patterns. “Kratom was primarily taken orally in doses of 1–3 grams (49%) with daily use (59%) being the most common,” the report states. “Kratom was used for pain (91%), anxiety (67%) and depression (65%), with high ratings of effectiveness.”
Why Kratom Demographics Matter
Kratom user demographics allow us to see how and why people use kratom products. Furthermore, these demographics offer measurable characteristics that allow us to determine the type of people that generally use kratom.
According to the Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation report mentioned above, “The traditional and current diverse uses of kratom in both Southeast Asia and the Western world indicate that the impact of the leaf and its extracts are of multidimensional complexity.” Kratom demographics allow us to better understand the plant’s impact on societies, cultures, economics, politics, and more.
Right now, we may only have a handful of anonymous, online surveys to draw conclusions. In the near future, however, we may have access to complex, peer-reviewed studies that evaluate kratom’s socio-economic impact. Kratom user demographics continue to push Mitragyna speciosa into the scientific and social fold.
But it doesn’t stop there. Kratom demographics allow users to connect with other kratom users on a global scale. They also normalize kratom use, reducing worldwide stigma to show that everyday, hard working people like you and me use kratom, too. These demographics can also educate potentially new kratom users. For example, if you suffer from chronic pain and learn that 91% of survey participants used kratom for pain (mentioned above), you might consider trying kratom for yourself.