Kratom: an Opioid based Non-Nootropic Performance Enhancer with a Dark Side…

This is an edgier mind altering herbal compound, a variety of psychoactive flora similar to Opium, Yohimbe and Psilocybin that I’m not sure I recommend, from South East Asia.

Originally published at

his article is mostly going to focus on decoding what the human studies are saying about Kratom and how this squares up with the anecdotal experiences of the Kratom community online. For more of my own personal experiences, thoughts, and comparisons please see the written and video reviews in the sidebar.

Performance Enhancer

In Thailand, it’s been used for a long time to increase work output of laborers and increase tolerance to the sun. It’s most commonly described as putting users into a headspace that is happy, and active, with a strong desire to do work. They traditionally consume it as a tea, chew its leaves or smoke it. Kratom is indisputably a performance enhancer, there’s a near-universal consensus by Kratom users that it makes them work harder:

  • The whole body energizing effect makes it a favorite of physical laborers and gym rats alike.
  • A lot of bloggers and writers find it makes them more creatively energetic.
  • White strains are commonly used as a coffee or caffeine substitute.

Victor from Bold & Determined felt quite strongly about this…

“Normally in the afternoon from about 3–7pm I am just shutdown. I’m beat. I’m useless. The worst part about the afternoon hours is that I get “brain fog”. On Kratom the brain fog just goes away and I don’t feel rundown. On Kratom I feel peppy, happy, ready to work and just plain good… On “bad days”, Kratom makes the bad go away. Kratom gives me a feeling of well-being but not sedation. I always want to work when using Kratom.”

A Cognition Non-Enhancer

I’m a big fan of cognitive enhancers, which Kratom is not, for that reason I’m going to refer to it as a non-Nootropic performance enhancer. This is not just my own opinion but was confirmed by a 2014 paper, Abuse potential and adverse cognitive effects of mitragynine (kratom), out of Universiti Sains in Malaysia , which was quite bearish on Kratom, comparing it to morphine. From its abstract:

Acute mitragynine independently impaired passive avoidance learning, memory consolidation and retrieval, possibly mediated by a disruption of cortical oscillatory activity, including the suppression of low-frequency rhythms (delta and theta) in the electrocorticogram… Altogether, these findings provide evidence for an addiction potential with cognitive impairments for mitragynine, which suggest its classification as a harmful drug.


Like a lot of herbs that grow abundantly in nature, it’s been used by the locals since time immemorial mostly for recreational purposes. In Thailand, it’s also used traditionally…

  • As an opium substitute
  • To taper off other drug addictions
  • Even to prolong sexual intercourse

In 1943 Thailand made it illegal, treating it like cocaine or heroin, being in possession of just 1 ounce is actually punishable by death there. It apparently has a bit of a bad reputation there as something mostly used by low-class degenerates.

“Not for human consumption”

Technically at least in the United States, it cannot be sold for human consumption, it’s sold as incense that you ‘burn’. So when you hear people on the internet saying that they ‘burned’ Kratom, they didn’t actually burn it. I’ll continue to use this lingo to describe my consumption of it. As you’ll discover, I’m not advocating that you consume it, but you are a free agent in hopefully a free country and you can consume whatever you want to.

So Google searching Kratom you’ll kind of find two extremes of opinions…

  1. You’ll find some real fear-mongering pieces about how it’s a wild wild west industry, addictive and associated with suicides.
  2. On the other side, you’ll find a lot of people that describe it as a wonder supplement and call all the negatives big pharma propaganda.

So I’m generally a libertarian, free-thinking type and I believe that it’s none of the government’s business what we choose to consume, I think people should be able to put in their bodies whatever they want as long as they can afford it and find someone in the free market to sell it to them.

However, for a moment, I’m going to take off my conspiracy theorist hat and put on my arbitrary contrarian hat

Scientific Research

So Pubmed returns just a little more than a hundred search results for Kratom, of those 36 are human research done with the past 10 years, which is a good sign, that research is being done. However, with very few exceptions, none of the scientific literature report any positive effects of Kratom. That’s actually very important to anyone considering using it, the vast majority of human research is only documenting the addictiveness of the drug and related suicide cases.

As far as I can determine the only positive use documented in the recent scientific literature is in treating Opioid withdrawal or chronic pain. There was just a single 2013 paper using positive language describing Kratom. From its abstract:

…addiction potential and adverse health consequences are becoming an important issue for health authorities… Here we reviewed the available evidence and identified future research needs. It was found that mitragynine and M. speciosa preparations are systematically consumed with rather well defined instrumentalization goals, e.g. to enhance tolerance for hard work or as a substitute in the self-treatment of opiate addiction. There is also evidence from experimental animal models supporting analgesic, muscle relaxant, anti-inflammatory as well as strong anorectic effects… Altogether, available data currently suggest both, a therapeutic as well as an abuse potential.

In comparison, a similar Pubmed search on Ayahuasca (which I’ve also tried) returns about double the human research done in the past 10 years, and on the first page of search results at least 7 of the articles of scientific literature documented or demonstrated positive effects from Ayahuasca. So if there’s a big pharma, evil capitalist conspiracy to demonize Kratom then why isn’t there a similar demonization of Ayahuasca?

There is an interview that everyone should watch about Kratom with a doctor Julio Ferrari, MS (coolest name ever!), in the interview he said that there is yet to be a good human study done of the beneficial effects of Kratom. So if you are a person who chooses your performance enhancers and supplements based upon science and what the human studies are saying as opposed to online hype or anecdotal reports you may want to pass on Kratom until it has a good thorough study done on it demonstrating beneficial effects.


Kratom is a little different than some other categories of enhancers I’ve tried. So all Modafinil has pretty much the same effect regardless of brand or drug subcategory, same with the Racetams and a lot of Nutraceuticals and amino acids. Kratom is a different story, different strains of Kratom can have completely opposite effects. The three strains corresponding effects are:


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“Maeng Da”

Literally ‘Pimp Grade’, this silly name just signifies a higher potency strain.

Where to buy Kratom

Apparently, Kratom is a bit of a wild wild west industry…

  • Quality is always a concern any time you are dealing with a product that comes from a plant and has to cross an ocean in a giant ship to reach you.
  • If you are going to try Kratom, you definitely don’t want to buy it from a headshop or liquor store (which apparently carry it sometimes).
  • You want to buy it someplace online that’s pretty reputable, and ideally can show a certificate of analysis, where they acquired it from or expiration date. Technically because it’s not a supplement for human consumption, they aren’t held responsible for what happens if you consume it. The nice thing about the Internet is that it has made merchants in wild wild west markets, like Kratom, really paranoid about their reputations — one disgruntled customer ranting on Reddit will show up in the search results forever…
  • So if you buy from a well-known vendor online your chances of getting good stuff are high.
  • Be wary of Kratom extracts, they are a concentration of the most addictive chemicals in Kratom and will lead to building up a steep tolerance fast.

Mechanism of Action

A 2013 Temple University paper stated:

Several characteristics of these compounds suggest a classic “opioid” mechanism of action: nanomolar affinity for opioid receptors, competitive interaction with the opioid receptor antagonist naloxone, and two-way analgesic cross-tolerance with morphine. However, other characteristics of the compounds suggest novelty, particularly chemical structure and possible greater separation from side effects.


So apparently mitragynine has been fairly well established as an addictive compound. Probably part of the reason, it’s been banned from human consumption here in the United States. However, some of the human studies indicate that it’s a relatively harmless addiction.

A 2015 study of +290 Kratom ‘addicts’ in Malaysia concluded:

Findings showed that regular kratom users do not experience major impairments in their social functioning, despite being dependent on kratom for prolonged periods.

A similar 2014 human study:

More than half of the regular users (>6 month of use) developed severe Kratom dependence problems, while 45% showed a moderate Kratom dependence…

It went on to give some dosage guidelines:

The average amount of the psychoactive compound, mitragynine, in a single dose of a Kratom drink was 79mg, suggesting an average daily intake of 276.5mg. Regular users who consumed ≥3 glasses Kratom per day, had higher odds of developing severe Kratom dependence, withdrawal symptoms, and inability to control Kratom craving.

It concluded:

The findings from this study show that regular Kratom use is associated with drug dependency, development of withdrawal symptoms, and craving. These symptoms become more severe with prolonged use and suggest a stronger control of the drug.

Habitual users of mitragynine could show withdrawal syndromes, such as:

  • Hostility
  • Aggression
  • Rhinitis
  • Inability to work
  • Excess tears
  • Muscle and bone aches
  • Jerky limb movement

If you have an addictive personality type, if you’ve had a history of issues with…

  • Prescription drugs
  • Alcoholism
  • Cocaine
  • Smoking
  • Trauma or PTSD
  • Child Abuse
  • Food addiction

You want to stay far away from addictive compounds like Kratom. You should also stay away from other less demonized, yet highly addictive consumables, like sugar and bread.
If you know you don’t have an addictive personality type, you’ll probably be fine with Kratom.


A 2014 Thai study was actually conducted on the suicide risk, from its abstract:

Compared with 16,603 Thais without illicit drug use, the illicit drug users (54% Kratom) with or without mental/alcohol use disorders (n=537) had an increased risk of suicide…

It concluded:

A key limitation of this study was the combined suicidal behaviors as a suicidality risk. Mental or alcohol use disorders found in this population actually increased the suicide risk. These findings support the coexisting relationship that mental and alcohol use disorders play a vital role in increasing the suicide risk in illicit drug users.

This makes me think of the case study in Malcolm Gladwell’s book of the Micronesian suicide epidemic amongst male teenagers. I think the conclusion was that these Asian cultures are more collective, and the young men struggling for acknowledgment and attention, were using suicide as a way of communicating with their culture in a way that they knew they would definitely be heard. However, these suicides are not just an Asian phenomenon…

  • In a recent suicide case in San Diego, California Kratom showed up in the postmortem analysis of a 24-year-old man, who had a serious history of alcoholism and depression.
  • There was a similar case in Norway of a middle-aged man who was found dead of, they suspect due to high levels of mitragynine in his blood, Kratom intoxication. This man had a similar history of drug abuse and depression.

Morbid reminders that those with borderline personality disorders should stay well away from these kinds of things.

Side Effects

Be VERY careful what else you are on if you take Kratom. Most of the documented suicide cases were depressed alcoholics, so if you are a regular social drinker, you probably want to stay away from Kratom. I did my own Kratom trial during a 90 day period of no booze, I definitely wouldn’t do both at the same time.


A 2011 Swedish paper came to the conclusion that Kratom in combination with Tramadol has resulted in at least 9 deaths:

We believe that the addition of the potent mu-receptor agonist O-desmethyltramadol to powdered leaves from Kratom contributed to the unintentional death of the nine cases presented and conclude that intake of Kratom is not as harmless as it often is described on internet websites.

Abuse of Propylhexedrine (marketed as Benzedrex or Obesin) and Kratom has resulted in at least one death.

Here’s my opinion…

After actually using Kratom myself for several months. With the exception of the pain issue, there are much more efficacious smart drugs and Nutraceuticals that have the same effects as Kratom. So if your objective is to…
Find more motivation to work
Take Racetams {module 937}
Stay focused on your entrepreneurial projects…
Take Modafinil {loadposition Modafinil}
Overcome depression
Take Vitamin B12 {module 938}
Overcome social anxiety
Take Phenibut (or make it a daily habit to get out of your social comfort zone) {module 939}
You need something to relax at the end of a stressful day
Take L-Theanine (or better yet do 10 minutes of meditation) {module 940}
These are actually demonstrated by high quality human scientific studies as being effective solutions. All Kratom has going for it is a handful of YouTube videos and people posting their experiences anonymously on forums.


However, there are two good reasons I can think of why you would want to try it:
1) You’ve tried everything else. You have chronic pain or treatment-resistant depression and you’ve tried all the mainstream or holistic solutions and they haven’t worked for you. Could the potential negatives of Kratom be worse than what you are already dealing with? Probably not.
2) You (like me) just like to try weird new drugs, throw strange molecules at your biology to see what happens.

If you have reason to believe that I’ve got it all wrong about Kratom, if you have some scientific evidence or data that Kratom may not deserve this negative treatment then please leave a comment here. I’ve made pretty sound arguments in this article for my conclusions, so if you have equally sound evidence to the contrary, I invite that debate.

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Originally published at

Adventuring philosopher, Pompous pontificator, Writer, K-Selected Biohacker, Tantric husband, Raconteur & Smart Drug Dealer 🇺🇸

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