Is kratom safe? Risks and effects

People living in areas where kratom grows sometimes use it to treat diarrhea, pain, cough, and fatigue.

People living in the United States have shown increasing interest in using this substance as an alternative to opioid pain relievers. Other people use kratom to experience the psychotropic effects, or the “high.”

While kratom is currently legal in the U.S., the Drug Enforcement Agency list it as a “Drug of Concern” due to several potential safety issues.

Other names for kratom include:

  • thang
  • kakuam
  • thom
  • ketum
  • biak

In this article, learn more about kratom, including safety concerns and possible effects.

Is it safe?

While some people use kratom as an alternative to prescription pain medications, such as opioids, very little research has investigated how it affects the body.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved its use for any medical purpose.

Kratom may cause adverse reactions, especially at high doses. These reactions include seizures, tremors, psychosis, and other serious toxic effects.

People who have medical conditions and those who otherwise take medications may have a higher risk of adverse reactions to kratom.

It is crucial to note that the FDA do not monitor or regulate kratom supplements for their dosage or purity.

Kratom can be addictive. Someone who uses the drug frequently may experience withdrawal symptoms, which can include:

  • muscle aches
  • irritability and hostility
  • aggressive behavior
  • difficulty sleeping
  • a runny nose
  • nausea
  • yawning
  • diarrhea

A person who is addicted to kratom or who regularly uses it may need medical help to safely stop using the drug.

Liver damage

In rare cases, kratom has caused acute liver injuries.

Symptoms of liver damage include fatigue, nausea, itchiness, dark-colored urine, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).

In most cases, people fully recover from liver damage after they stop using kratom.


Several deaths have been associated with the use of kratom.

The risk of life-threatening complications appears to be higher in people who take additional drugs, such as antidepressants or mood stabilizers.


While kratom is legal in the U.S., it does pose serious threats, particularly to people who have medical conditions and those who otherwise take medications.

Though it may have some beneficial medical properties, there is very little research to support its use.

Anyone thinking of trying kratom should be aware of the risks and speak with a doctor first.

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