Kratom, is an evergreen tree, related to coffee, that grows in Southeast Asia. It has been used for a long time for its pain relieving and mild psychoactive ability to uplift the mood. It is gaining popularity in recent times as a pain reliever, recreational drug, and for weening off prescribed opiates.
You may have started to see some stuff about this in the news. This is a herb that is fantastic for its therapeutic qualities, but lately it has become more well known for its recreational use that has led to addiction. It has become “controversial” due to the recreational use of the plant. Most people point to it being illegal in Thailand as a good reason why it should be illegal here.
To all of that I have this to say – I was prescribed, legitimately, hydrocodone for two years and became physically addicted. Hydrocodone was much more addictive, and much more damaging to my body than Kratom, so really I feel this is very much the lesser of two evils. I was able to ween myself off of hydrocodone twice, I suffered greatly during those times, and tend to avoid opiates whenever possible. But with the amount of chronic pain I am in, pain medications are an unfortunate necessity in my life. If they have to be a necessity, why take ones with more of a chance of addiction, destruction of my organs, and side effects when there is a perfectly viable, cheaper, lacking in side effects, solution?
“Wow,” you say, “that sounds fantastic! Tell me more…wait you said that is illegal in Thailand? The place it is from?! Whatchootalkinbout Willis?!”
If you do your homework, I suggest you do, you will find that Kratom was only outlawed in Thailand because it interfered with the Opium trade, who’s tax revenue is vital to Thailand’s economy. So it was so much better than Opium it nearly killed the trade of it, to the point they outlawed its sale. Sound familiar?
I am not saying to take this thinking that you will never get physically addicted, that it is some wonder drug pain reliever you can take willy nilly. You can, and you could. So treat this drug with the same respect, and caution, that you would any opiate provided to you for pain management. I am currently prescribed Nucyenta (aka Tapentadol) which is the same type of opiate-like substance as Kratom, and binds to the receptors the same. These are known as μ-opioid receptors and like all opiates have their addictive qualities. If you are smart about your prescribed opiate use, you can avoid the physical addiction, same here. And with Kratom, unlike my Nucyenta, you can reduce and step down your dose to ween off.
So, you have done your homework, and are ready to venture into all that is Kratom. Great!
First step! Find a good, and preferably, inexpensive dealer in Kratom. There are many online resources but if you can locate a local herb store that carries it, go local! You may also want to check the “head shops” in your area, they tend to carry it for recreational use and sell it at a premium price, but Kratom is Kratom. As long as you know it isn’t adulterated, have pesticides, etc. the location you purchase it from matters not.
There are multiple strains, some go by multiple names and each has different levels of effectiveness. Also have found that most of the names besides the Maeng Da, can be arbitrary and you should test them yourself to find out what works best for you. Maeng Da is the most frequently touted as the best around, but it is more for recreational use. Yes that name is Maeng Da, which means “Pimp Grade” (funnily the word for pimp directly translates to cockroach)…
This is why you must, must, must do your research! I have tried a few strains myself, and have found for myself as a general rule white vein is more mellow than red (but I must add here that everyone is different, and the general consensus is that red is more mellow than white, so definitely try these yourself and see what works best for you). I have found Maeng Da doesn’t have as much of an effect on my pain levels as say, my personally preferred strain of Borneo “Super” Red Vein, but many people swear by Maeng Da. A site with a good briefing about the strains by region is this one, but definitely use multiple sources and read up as much as you can before taking anything (just like you should before you take any medication or supplement!) A good rule of thumb for dosing of the powdered herb is:
Around 2-4 grams of plain dried leaf, I find that when I take lower doses there is more of the “perking up” feeling and no sleepy feelings.
About 3-6 grams, this I find does the most for pain but you start to have more of the sleepy feeling and less of the uplifting effects.
5 grams or more, when you start going above 5 grams you need to be careful. Extreme sedation can occur, as well as digestive issues, nausea and vomiting. Some even experience extreme itching all over the body, very unpleasant and should be avoided. Personally I do not recommend going more than 6 grams ever, but there are numerous blogs and sites that recommend taking more than 6 grams and saying they don’t have an issue (which I think is shenanigans).
No really, it tastes horrible. There are tinctures and extracts and all that, but the taste! Oh the taste! Good medicine is supposed to taste bad, so it must mean this is great medicine. To avoid the taste, get Kratom powder and you can make pills just like you do with Turmeric. Making pills is a little bit more accurate on the dosage since you can make sure you are taking more exactly measured doses. But for the caviler, you can do the “toss & wash” method of taking an equivalent spoonful of the weight of powder you need (if you do, you have steelier balls/ovaries than I). Then “toss” the powder in, and “wash” that nasty stuff down with a chaser. Preferably one with a strong taste to counteract the Kratom taste. Yuck.
The liquid forms are faster acting, but when you are used to waiting an hour for your pills to kick in, waiting an hour for this to kick in isn’t that different. I recommend starting small with a half gram, wait an hour and see how you feel. Queasy? Look for any other reactions. Then slowly increase, and monitor your response. Some people have reactions to very small doses so it is good to work up slowly. I find for pain, about 3 grams will do enough to make me feel alert and reduce my pain enough for me to work most days. An average day ranges from 3-6 currently on a pain scale of 1-10, which everyone’s sense of pain is different and I have been told I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, so you may want to take that into account.
I really prefer taking Kratom first, before my Doctor provided drugs as I can take just a bit, and up the dose if my pain is still there without feeling drunk or unable to focus on work. When pain is bad I will take Kratom first, then take my prescribed pills after about 4-5 hours if my pain wasn’t dealt with satisfactorily. The one personal downside I have experienced is, Kratom burps. Not too tasty but it at least won’t effect the rest of the room if it happens.
Like any opiate-like drug do not drive, or do anything dangerous (leave pots boiling on the stove, perform brain surgery, put babies on cliff edges, or the like) or do anything you couldn’t fall asleep doing and… well, you know… not die. Make sure you discuss your use with your doctor, and as always educate yourself before taking anything. Always check for reactions too! WebMD is almost always great for that, but here they don’t list anything about Kratom except support for addiction on the forums. So I recommend this site and just using caution and common sense. Don’t drink alcohol, or take other drugs, yes caffeine IS a drug while taking Kratom. Be smart folks.