Kratom injection is an herbal plant from a tree called Mitragyna speciosa that is used by people in the United States to achieve pain relief, as a stimulant and as a drug of abuse. Its opiate-like effects have been associated with addiction, and some users report severe withdrawal symptoms. Kratom is legal in some states and the federal government does not regulate it, but its use is increasing. Injection of kratom has been reported in cases of narcotoxin poisoning.
While it is unclear whether kratom is responsible for any of the recent opioid overdose deaths, it is clear that a significant number of people who inject kratom require treatment for substance use disorder (SUD). Some people report using kratom to ease opioid withdrawal symptoms but it has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for this purpose.
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We examined a purified alkaloid isolate from kratom and its impact on locomotor activity, sex determination and DFosB expression in rats. We found that both the low and high doses of kratom reduced immobility in the FST 30 min post-injection, but only the high dose increased tail-flick latencies compared to baseline control rats. Enhanced coherence in brain regions associated with reward and addiction was also observed, but no changes in DFosB were seen.
These findings suggest that kratom may act as a morphine-like drug, reducing locomotor activity and inducing sex determination, but without the side effects of nausea, vomiting and constipation associated with morphine. This suggests that kratom is unlikely to cause the opioid overdoses that some reports suggest, and that it should not be subject to the same kind of draconian measures that are applied to other illegal drugs.