Kratom is a drug derived from the Mitragyna speciosa tree. It is commonly marketed in tablet or powder form as a dietary supplement. The drug is often abused as a psychotropic that can have either sedative or stimulant effects, depending on the dose you take.

What Is Kratom Used For?

Kratom can cause stimulant-like effects when used in low doses. Stimulants rev up the central nervous system and boost energy. With higher doses, however, kratom can have effects similar to opioid substances, causing sedation, euphoria and a possible dreamlike state.

Some people will take kratom to self-medicate for a variety of conditions, including pain, depression, sleep problems and opioid withdrawal.

Kratom for Pain

Pain relief is the most common reason that people take kratom. Mitragynine, one of the main active components of kratom, is believed to have pain-relieving effects. Although it is not an opioid drug, mitragynine works on the same mu opioid receptors in the brain as opioids.

A study of daily, long-term kratom users found that pain would significantly improve among participants one hour after kratom intake. Additionally, 20 hours after the dose of kratom, none of the participants reported any negative side effects or withdrawal symptoms. However, other studies indicate that kratom can cause withdrawal in many people.

Kratom for Depression

Many people take kratom to help improve their mood. Although no studies have been conducted on how well kratom works for depression, kratom user surveys have shown that people perceive an improvement in their depression when they take kratom.

Scientists believe that kratom has the potential to help with depression based on its biological traits. Mitragynine releases serotonin in the brain, similar to antidepressants. In addition, studies in animals have shown that kratom has effects that are similar to antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac) and amitriptyline.

Kratom for Sleep

Although some people take kratom for sleep, the drug is more often linked to insomnia. However, using kratom for depression may indirectly benefit sleep. People with depression commonly struggle with sleep, and prescription antidepressants often interrupt REM sleep. In contrast, kratom does not seem to interfere with REM sleep. Further, stopping kratom use does not appear to negatively impact sleep or cause insomnia.

Kratom for Opioid Withdrawal

Kratom is a common home remedy for opioid withdrawal symptoms. Because kratom affects the same receptors in the brain as opioids, many people take kratom in an attempt to wean themselves off opioids like heroin and minimize the risk of withdrawal. Some people keep taking kratom over the long term to try to reduce their risk of relapse. However, kratom addiction is possible, so some believe this only trades one addiction for another. 

How Is Kratom Taken?

Kratom is usually ingested orally, though it is sometimes labeled as “not for human consumption.” The drug is sold in smoke shops, bars and gas stations as capsules, tablets, raw leaves, gum and powder. Sometimes, it is sold as mitragyna or street names like ketum, thom, biak or thang.

When sold as dried leaves, kratom is usually ingested by making a tea out of the substance or mixing it with water or a sweetened beverage.

Is Kratom Illegal?

Kratom is not illegal in the United States and is not a controlled substance. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration has listed kratom as a “drug and chemical of concern.” Further, the drug is banned in 15 countries and six states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Kratom is not an FDA-improved medication. In fact, the FDA has warned against using kratom due to safety concerns like liver problems.

Kratom Effects

Kratom has multiple effects on the body and mind. While some are common and expected, others are more serious. Often, the more serious side effects of kratom are linked to high doses.

Common side effects include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Itching
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Increased urination
  • Fast heartbeat 
  • Drowsiness
  • Appetite loss

More serious side effects include:

  • Anorexia
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Liver toxicity
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Confusion

In rare cases, serious kratom effects can be fatal. The FDA has investigated more than 44 deaths linked to kratom, with one death being caused by kratom alone and the others in combination with other substances.

How Long Does Kratom Take To Kick In?

A kratom high usually takes effect within five to 10 minutes after taking the substance, and this euphoric sensation can last from two to five hours. However, the duration of kratom’s effects varies depending on how big a dose you have taken, with larger doses lasting longer than smaller ones.

Kratom Half-Life

Two of the main active components of kratom are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. The half-lives of these chemicals are about three hours, meaning that it takes the body this amount of time to eliminate half of the drug from its system. The effects of these substances can still be felt after this period, but the sensation will begin to decrease after about three hours.

However, it should be noted that in people who take kratom on a chronic basis, the half-life is about one day. Therefore, it may take longer for the drug’s effects to wear off in people who use it over the long term.

Kratom High and Effects FAQs

How Does Kratom Make You Feel?

Kratom’s effects can vary depending on the dose you take. At low doses, kratom has stimulant effects; at high doses, it has sedative effects.

Taking a low dose of kratom can lead to stimulant-like side effects, including:

Increased energy and alertness

Increased sex drive

Decreased appetite

Increased sociability




Coordination problems

Side effects of high doses of kratom may include:


Pain relief





Is Kratom Addictive?

Kratom is considered addictive, but not much research exists in this area yet. Most scientists and researchers realize that kratom has abuse potential, and people may become dependent on or addicted to it with regular and prolonged use.

Can You Overdose on Kratom?

While it is possible to overdose on kratom, it is unlikely to directly lead to death. Still, overdose on kratom can result in toxic effects on the body. In addition, if kratom is used with other substances, such as opioids or benzodiazepines, the likelihood of life-threatening overdose increases.

Symptoms of kratom overdose may include:


High blood pressure

Liver problems

Increased heart rate

How Hard Is Kratom on the Liver?

Kratom can be very hard on the liver. The drug has been linked to severe liver problems like hepatitis, which causes the liver to become inflamed. Usually, liver problems will start after someone has been taking the drug on a regular basis for one to eight weeks. Symptoms can include:



Itchy skin

Dark, cola-colored urine

Yellow skin or eyes

Is Kratom an Opioid?

Although kratom activates opioid receptors, the drug itself is not an opioid. This is due to the fact that it activates other receptors too, such as serotonin receptors. Kratom is considered a botanical extract, or an herbal.

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Kratom Addiction and Abuse

Overall, about 1.3% of American adults have taken kratom, and 0.8% have taken it in the past year. Some people may be more at risk of kratom abuse than others, including those who are:

  • Younger
  • Male
  • Students

Kratom dependence and addiction are still not well understood, but someone who is addicted to kratom may show signs such as:

  • Decreased performance at school or work
  • Frequent use of kratom
  • Avoidance of family and friends
  • Frequently associating with people who use kratom
  • Increased desire and effort to obtain more kratom, often at the expense of other obligations
  • Being secretive or defensive about kratom use
  • Inability to feel normal without kratom

Kratom Addiction Treatment

Continuing kratom can have serious health risks, but quitting the drug on your own can be hard. Choosing an inpatient rehab treatment center that includes medically supervised detox and ongoing care can be beneficial for recovery. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with kratom abuse and addiction, help is available at The Recovery Village Columbus. Contact us today to learn more about kratom addiction treatment programs that can work well for your situation.

Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

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Gianutsos, Gerald. “The DEA Changes Its Mind on Kratom.” U.S. Pharmacist, March 17, 2017. Accessed March 1, 2022.

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.