Side Effects of Kratom Use: What Are They?

woman feels Side Effects of Kratom

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Kratom is a tree-like plant belonging to the same family as gardenias and coffee. Otherwise known as Mitragyna speciosa it grows in Southeast Asia. Kratom is herbal remedy used for centuries in traditional medicine. Its effects depend on the dose and to a lesser degree to the strain type. People usually use it as a painkiller or as an energy booster. Most medical professionals do not recommend it or even advise against the use of Kratom. Despite that, in the last 15 years, its popularity rose significantly in North America and Europe. People use it not only to self-medicate pain or withdrawal symptoms of opiate drugs. They also use it as a recreational drug.
Although not many studies are available on the subject of Kratom, we can report short-term and long-term consequences of Kratom use. Read to find out what effects users look for in Kratom and what negative impact they might experience.

Table of Contents

Short-Term Effects of Using Kratom

Kratom plants contain a whole set of active substances so that the immediate effects can be variable. In general, one can get two types of effects: stimulation and relaxation. Very roughly, it mostly depends on the dose that the user consumes.
The onset of effects depends on the method of preparation and consumption. It can start around 10-20 minutes after ingestion.

Desired Effects

Low Doses of Kratom

A small dose contains between one to five gram of Kratom. The effects last up to 90 minutes and are predominantly stimulant-like. Some people compare the sensations to those after using amphetamine, but less intense. They include:

  • Increased energy
  • Greater focus and alertness
  • Heightened feeling of wellness and sociability
  • Increased libido
  • Decreased appetite in most cases
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Moderate and High Doses of Kratom

We are talking about doses between 5-15 grams of Kratom. These effects last much longer, namely several hours. The exact duration depends on the precise dosage, the consumer’s weight, and other factors.
People experience sensations similar to effects of opioid substances, although less intense:

  • A euphoric high, although not as ecstatic as in other opioid drugs
  • Pain relief
  • Relaxation, inducing a calm and dreamy mental state
  • A slight drowsiness
  • Cough suppression
  • People that are in an opioid detox phase benefit from a reduction of opioid withdrawal symptoms

Extremely High Doses of Kratom

Because there is no research available about Kratom, we know rather little about possible Kratom overdoses. Kratom users usually do not go above 15 g, because the effects are not pleasant anymore. If an “overdose” happens, it is usually because of errors.
People that went through that, report sensations resembling high doses of opioids. What they experience is extreme sedation and in some cases even a loss of consciousness.

Kratom Side Effects

Kratom is popular for its benefits. Most people use it as an alternative to more rough and addictive medication. They want to avoid the nasty negative consequences, including a wide range of physical and mental annoyances as well as well addiction.

Some people think that Kratom is completely safe because it is a natural remedy. That is a common false belief. Every substance, synthetic or natural, can have benefits and has side effects and that includes Kratom. Except Kratom legal status varies between states and counties, it is also known to cause an addiction and use Kratom can result in numerous side effects.

What are the effects of kratom in high dosages?

In high dosages, kratom can produce effects such as:
• Constriction of pupils
• Facial flushing
• Constipation
• Muscle tremors or loss of motor coordination
• Sweating
• Itching
• Dizziness
• Nausea and vomiting
Low Doses of Kratom
Doses between 1-5 gram used irregularly and occasionally should not cause any adverse consequences. Many people stick to dosages in that range. They benefit from all the advantages of the herbal remedy without risking any danger.

What are the effects of kratom in low dosages?

In low dosages, kratom may produce side effects such as:
• Headaches
• Nausea
• Constipation
• Dizziness combined with involuntary shaking of the eyes (aka “the wobbles”)
Moderate Doses of Kratom
Doses of 5-10 gram can cause:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • The so-called wobbles

These sensations are inconvenient, but should not present any harm.
High Doses of Kratom
Doses up to 15 gram can already be dangerous if consumed too frequently. Here is what you can expose yourself to:

  • Constriction of pupils
  • Facial flushing
  • Constipation
  • Muscle tremor or a loss of motor coordination
  • Sweating
  • Itching
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting

Very High Doses of Kratom

A dose of over 15 g is extremely high and potentially very dangerous. Currently, we have little information available on statistics related to Kratom use. However, it seems that users rarely experience extreme toxic consequences of Kratom abuse. In the rare cases, where Kratom consumers experience seizures, they exceeded a dose of 15 g.

In other cases, it turned out that Kratom powder was cut with other toxic substances. A good example for that was the case with the “Krypton” product. It is illegal in Sweden after causing death to uninformed consumers.

Long-Term Consequences of Using Kratom

Effects of Prolonged Kratom Consumption

Among the rare studies done on Kratom, there is some information about chronic Kratom users of high doses in Thailand. They report some surprising and unusual long-term effects induced by that substance over time:

  • Extreme weight loss and co-occurrence of anorexia (although there is no evidence, that it causes anorexia, anorectics might feel compelled to abuse Kratom to loose weight)
  • Hyperpigmentation, darkening of facial skin
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Addiction

There is no evidence that long-term consumption damages internal organs.

Signs Of Addiction To Kratom

It appears that regular use of high doses of Kratom can induce physical dependence and even addiction. There are some chemicals in Kratom that can be mistaken by the brain for opiate signaling. That makes sense, in that Kratom is sometimes used to mitigate opioid withdrawal symptoms. Because of that, many medical professionals think, that Kratom itself can also have addictive potential.

Long-term users from Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America seem to support these claims.

  • Frequent users report becoming tolerant to Kratom after a while. They develop a need of progressively higher doses of the substance to sustain the desired effects. That is a manifestation of physical dependency. According to some estimations, over half of frequent users that consumed Kratom for over six months developed a tolerance and physical dependence.
  • In rare cases, they even can show compulsive intake and inability to stop despite being aware of harmful consequences. That qualifies as addictive behavior.

Withdrawal From Kratom

Long-term users that are physically dependent on Kratom typically show similar withdrawal effects when they have no access to the substance. Some of the withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea and diarrhea
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • A constantly runny nose
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Difficulty to sleep
  • Irritability and nervousness
  • Craving for Kratom

Is Kratom dangerous?

Though not much research has been done on this topic, kratom can be dangerous in high dosages. When dosages higher than 15 grams are consumed, the user may experience seizures, or even death. However, even in lower dosages, kratom may have dangerous interactions with other medications. It is also possible for someone to develop an addiction to kratom.

What Else One Needs to Know About Kratom Effects

Various Factors Influencing Kratom Effects

The exact intensity of Kratom effects is not possible to report, because it depends on several variables in addition to the dose and frequency of use:

  • The general health of the person, metabolism, condition of the liver
  • The user’s weight. 10 gram act much stronger on someone who weighs 100 lbs than on a person weighing 200 pounds.
  • Use of other substances (like alcohol, coffee, cigarettes), drugs or medication.
  • The daily diet. Eating healthy food will make kratom user less prone to suffer from adverse reactions.
  • Conditions during Kratom use. Consuming Kratom on an empty stomach and while being tired augments the effects of Kratom.
  • The Kratom strain. In general, Kratom has similar effects, but they can vary depending on the plant type. Some strains have much more relaxing or narcotic effects (plants from Bali or Malaysia). The Thai strain soothing effect lasts much longer than for any other type of Kratom. The particular type of plants from Thailand called the Maeng Da is famous to induce the most energizing effects.

Kratom Dangers

Because there is not much scientific evidence is very sparse on that topic, it is not easy to answer that question. Most of the information about its effects comes from users and medical professionals. But there are not officially reported clinical trials.
From what we know, little (up to five gram) and infrequent doses seem to be harmless. On the other hand, the larger and more frequent the intake, the more harm it can potentially induce.
Chemicals investigations show that Kratom contains over 20 biologically active substances.

  • Some of them have the potential of developing physical dependence and addiction.
  • Several chemicals interfere with enzymes in the liver. They can cause harmful interactions it the person takes other medication or drugs.
  • These interactions can lead to an overdose which in some cases turned out to be deadly.

For that reason, Kratom is currently illegal in Thailand, Myanmar, and Malaysia. And that is despite that historical use in traditional medicine. Not in the U.S. it is classified as a controlled substance, on the other hand it does not have the approval of the Food and Drug Administration as well.

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View Sources
  1. Singh D. Long-Term Cognitive Effects of Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa Korth.) Use. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 2019. 51(1):19-27. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2018.1555345.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Kratom. 2019.

About Author

Peter Grinspoon, MD

Dr. Peter Grinspoon is an experienced physician with long-term clinical practice experience. As a former analgesic addict, Dr. Grinspoon knows precisely how important it is to provide patients with effective treatment and support. Medical writing for him is the way to communicate with people and inform them about their health.


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