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The Latest Kratom Studies & What They Mean

A man in a lab coat and hair net looks into a stereo microscope

Many people view Kratom as a substance with immense potential, but so far, quality Kratom research and Kratom studies have been minimal. That has led to disagreement with regulators and controversy within the communities of Kratom advocates, researchers, growers, and health pundits. Recent progress, however, points to a growing interest scientifically in establishing Kratom’s credentials once and for all.

What Is Kratom?

Kratom is the common name used to refer to a tropical evergreen tree native to southeast Asia, Mitragyna speciosa. Known locally for the purported medicinal benefits of its leaves, Kratom has garnered a loyal and growing following worldwide, though in the United States it has been the frequent target of the FDA, which has no recognized approved or evaluated use for Kratom, and has recently pushed for its inclusion on the list of Schedule 1 controlled substances. Frequently processed into a powder or extract form, it is sold to responsible adults in the US for Kratom research and educational use only at their own risk.

The Need For Research

It is this aggressive stance by regulatory authorities based on limited or misinterpreted information that indicates the need for continued investment in Kratom studies. Once a substance is listed as Schedule 1, the requirements in resources and security for research products go up exponentially, meanwhile, limited Kratom research and early studies point to the possibility that Kratom offers far too many potential benefits to stunt its growth out of hand. Let’s take a look at some of the recent findings and what they mean.

The Hemby Study

A professor of pharmaceutical science at High Point University in North Carolina, Scott Hemby, released the results of his study into the addiction potential for Kratom compared to the therapeutic potential Kratom advocates say it offers. This important piece of Kratom research did more than look at the plant as a whole. It evaluated two of the active alkaloids, mitragynine and 7‐hydroxymitragynine, both together and separately and the effect they had on the brain. The results showed that mitragynine showed low to no abuse potential and may, in fact, limit the brain’s desire for opiates.

Big Funding For Kratom Studies

It can be hard to find funding for studies into substances slammed by regulatory authorities as so dangerous they should be listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse disagreed with that assessment of Kratom’s potential and granted $3.5 million to the University of Florida for Kratom research. The University plans to focus on studying the dozen active compounds found in Kratom aside from mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, their effects, and whether or not Kratom might offer an “entourage effect”.

A pipette filled with pink liquid filling a collection of tubes


Kratom’s LD50 Identified

A grim but important part of Kratom research is establishing the thresholds that can cause injury or death if Kratom is misused. This helps researchers establish effective usage parameters that may one day be part of dosage recommendations. This Kratom research focused on the two primary active ingredients of Kratom, just as those studies referenced above, but in this test using laboratory mice, dosages were intended to establish the LD50, or the dosage which is lethal 50% of the time. Along with the LD50, which was found to be much higher than usual doses of Kratom consumed in studies, the team also developed a urine test for Kratom that could eventually help allay safety concerns when Kratom takes further steps toward regulatory acceptance.

Mitragynine Low Abuse Potential (Pt. 2)

In still more Kratom research on the abuse potential of mitragynine, researchers found that there is extremely low abuse liability when used for the treatment of opioid addiction. This agrees with other research and centuries of anecdotal evidence, offering still more reason why Kratom studies are important to fighting the growing opioid epidemic, but perhaps that argument is best made by the conclusion in the study’s abstract:

“With the current prevalence of opioid abuse and misuse, it appears currently that mitragynine is deserving of more extensive exploration for its development or that of an analog as a medical treatment for opioid abuse.”

Treating The Mental Health Crisis Of Addiction

The opioid addiction crisis is unparalleled as a public health crisis, but often forgotten is the mental health issues so prevalent in addicts. A study that flew under the radar on its initial release a few years ago is getting renewed attention as the opioid epidemic shows no signs of slowing. This Kratom research focused on the mental health aspects of treating those who chose Kratom as an adjunct to other opioid cessation therapies, how it affected their opioid addiction, and the effects of their eventual withdrawal from Kratom. The results show, once again, that Kratom has the potential to help users avoid not only opioids, but harmful behavior during cessation, and that those who do experience withdrawal symptoms from Kratom generally find them more manageable than opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Scientists Advocate For Further Freedom To Study

The roles of politics in science and science in politics have generated a lot of interest and discussion in recent years. This is as true in Kratom research as anywhere else, especially as the future of Kratom studies appeared to be in jeopardy after numerous troubling statements from the FDA as a whole and Commissioner Scott Gottlieb individually. In support of open discourse and a thriving environment for academia to offer reasoned evaluation, a group of concerned scientists penned a letter to the regulatory agencies responsible for assuring the safety of the public health and fighting drug abuse to express their concerns over threats toward Kratom. In their scathing, yet professional, 33-page missive, they laid out a case for well-thought research rather than reactionary policies.

Stay Informed

While these studies alone may not silence Kratom’s detractors, they do add to the pile of mounting evidence in favor of Kratom’s efficacy and potential when administered in a responsible manner. Further research with quality Kratom materials is needed now more than ever. Stay up-to-date on the latest in Kratom research and news with Kratom Spot.

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