Kratom herbal supplement used to treat addiction and pain found unsafe by researchers

Summary: Kratom, a herbal supplement used to manage pain and treat opioid addiction, is unsafe to use, researchers report. The supplement has been linked to an increased risk of tachycardia, hallucinations, coma, and cardiac arrest.

Source: Binghamton University

The herb kratom is increasingly being used to manage pain and treat opioid addiction, but it’s not safe to use as an herbal supplement, according to new research led by faculty at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

William Eggleston, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Binghamton University, had been seeing more and more patients presenting with toxicity or withdrawal from kratom use. Kratom is an herbal supplement derived from a plant that grows throughout southeast Asia. It is well-reported that the active chemicals in the plant act on opioid receptors in the body. Patients report using the supplement to treat/prevent withdrawal, treat opioid use disorder, or treat pain.

Eggleston was curious to see what types of toxicities were being reported to Poison Centers nationally in order to better assess whether or not kratom is safe enough to be used as an herbal supplement. His team conducted a retrospective review of kratom exposures reported to the National Poison Data System to determine the toxicities associated with kratom use. They also reviewed records from a County Medical Examiner’s Office in New York State to identify kratom associated fatalities.

A total of 2312 kratom exposures were reported, with 935 cases involving kratom as the only substance. Kratom most commonly caused agitation (18.6%), tachycardia (16.9%), drowsiness (13.6%), vomiting (11.2%), and confusion (8.1%). Serious effects of seizure (6.1%), withdrawal (6.1%), hallucinations (4.8%), respiratory depression (2.8%), coma (2.3%), and cardiac or respiratory arrest (0.6%) were also reported. Kratom was listed as a cause or contributing factor in the death of four decedents identified by the County Medical Examiner’s Office.

This shows a Kratom leaf and flower
The findings suggest kratom is not reasonably safe and poses a public health threat due to its availability as an herbal supplement. The image is credited to Thehealingeast.

The findings suggest kratom is not reasonably safe and poses a public health threat due to its availability as an herbal supplement.

“Although it is not as strong as some other prescription opioids, kratom does still act as an opioid in the body,” said Eggleston. “In larger doses, it can cause slowed breathing and sedation, meaning that patients can develop the same toxicity they would if using another opioid product. It is also reported to cause seizures and liver toxicity. Kratom may have a role in treating pain and opioid use disorder, but more research is needed on its safety and efficacy. Our results suggest it should not be available as an herbal supplement.”

Eggleston and his team are working with colleagues at SUNY Upstate Medical University to better assess how many patients are actually using kratom and if the risk for toxicity changes depending on the dose of kratom taken.

About this neuroscience research article

Binghamton University
Media Contacts:
John Brhel – Binghamton University
Image Source:
The image is credited to Thehealingeast. Licensed CC BY SA 4.0.

Original Research: Closed access
“Kratom Use and Toxicities in the United Statest”. William Eggleston, Robert Stoppacher, Kyle Suen, Jeanna M. Marraffa, Lewis S. Nelson.
Pharmacotherapy. doi:10.1002/phar.2280


Kratom Use and Toxicities in the United States

Kratom is an herbal supplement containing alkaloids with opioid properties. This review was conducted to determine toxicities associated with kratom use in the United States in order to provide insight into its safety as a dietary supplement.


We conducted a retrospective review of kratom exposures reported to the National Poison Data System to determine the toxicities associated with kratom use. We also reviewed records from a county medical examiner’s office in New York State to identify kratom‐associated fatalities.

A total of 2312 kratom exposures were reported, with 935 cases involving kratom as the only substance. Kratom most commonly caused agitation (18.6%), tachycardia (16.9%), drowsiness (13.6%), vomiting (11.2%), and confusion (8.1%). Serious effects of seizure (6.1%), withdrawal (6.1%), hallucinations (4.8%), respiratory depression (2.8%), coma (2.3%), and cardiac or respiratory arrest (0.6%) were also reported. Kratom was listed as a cause or contributing factor in the death of four decedents identified by the county medical examiner’s office.

Kratom use is increasing and is associated with significant toxicities. Our findings suggest kratom is not reasonably expected to be safe and poses a public health threat due to its availability as an herbal supplement.

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  1. Well, I’m all for freedom of choice. But I agree that proper evidence is important and regulation of marketing with regard to the supplement industry is needed. Those side effects are not surprising based on the pharmacology. With some strains also possessing stimulating effects I can see it adding to the opioid side effects.

    Though calls for banning will only drive it to the black market.

    Empirical studies (preferably RCTs) should also be done with regard to policy. Let us not forget that filter ventilation for cigarettes increased mortality among a set of other problems.

  2. Are you associated with any rehab treatment programs that would benifit from deamonizing Kratom as a extreemly dangerous substance? Your research seems contaminated with the mixing in other substances. Stop wasting resources and go after alcohol, tobacco and RX addictions.

  3. Whoever is responding to comments clearly is only concerned with being accused of being in league with big pharma. Let’s discuss the study. This study riddled by confounds and huge problems with validity. That is a fact. Just because a study was done doesn’t mean someone shouldn’t review it, and only if it has MERIT is it reported on. That is common sense. “Reports” of only kratom being taken are just that: reports. This is not based on fact but “reports”. How is this not apparent?
    There has been no actual science to substantiate his claims that kratom can cause respiratory depression. Why has NOBODY had kratom induced respiratory depression? Important questions to ask as a SCIENTIST.
    I don’t care why, you elected this study to report on. I care that this is shoddy science at best! Where is the SCIENCE here aside from the study of non-facts being done by a “scientist”?
    Reliable. Verifiable. Power. Validity. Please think before publicizing someone’s garbage because its trendy. Thank you from a fellow neuroscientist.

    1. Our concern is providing information, including public health information.

      By ‘non-facts’, are we to assume the death records and NPDS are not ‘factual’? It would seem a toxicology report by a coroner would be considered worthwhile data, in addition to medical records. Or should researchers through data out of the window? That would not seem scientific.

      Again, we post news. This is news. Whether it fits the cognitive bias of others or not. We can not ignore news simply because the same type who believe medications (I refer to vaccines mainly) are toxic, get upset because their ‘natural products’ aren’t actually as safe as their bias has them believe.

      We reserve the right to publish news. We will not bow down to attempts of censorship because a few people are upset their belief system is in jeopardy.

  4. Kratom saved my son’s life as it helped him get off years of opioids cold turkey and with no withdrawal. I have been taking it for years. I don’t take the red because it makes me feel jittery. I never use more than a quarter to a half teaspoon as, if more is taken it can cause nausea. It is wonderful for pain, sleep and energy. I don’t see it as addictive at all, no more than coffee. Actually even less than coffee, because if I don’t have my morning coffee I am not too happy, while I only take Kratom if I have pain, am tired and need energy, or if I can’t fall asleep. You have to know which one to take and in what amount. Really good research is needed as there are so many types of Kratom , they have different effects, and their effect is different from person to person. My son loves the red for pain, while it makes me jittery, and I never take it. Much nonsense is written by pro pharma and government institutions who are trying to ban this wonderful herb with lies about it causing deaths when almost all those few cases of deaths show the person has plenty of other drugs in their system. I have read nonsense about young people injecting it and becoming addicted. If you take too much Kratom you will get nauseous and also vomit, which is very unpleasant. A small amount of Kratom taken while traveling makes trips easy and effortless. (Green works best for traveling, while white makes me fall asleep). I wonder why truckers have not yet discovered it as a must for their job.
    Taking too much of anything can make you sick. If I decided to take several tablespoons of Kratom, I would feel severely nauseous and throw up, get very jittery, or collapse with exhaustion. All that with absolutely nothing positive to get from it. I imagine that drinking a bottle of Tylenot wouldn’t make you feel too good either.
    Why don’t you Neuroscience people do some real research and describe exactly what kind of Kratom ( there seems to be hundreds of different kinds), , can benefit people , in what dose, and for what purpose. This very nasty tasting herb has so much potential, clearly big pharma and the government who supports the pharmaceutical industry are desperate to make it into an evil drug. The millions of us who use it would be devastated if it was banned, so please do the research. I have no fear that real reasearch would show its amazing benefits.
    The best thing I heard on TV about Kratom, was an interview by Dr Sanjay Gupta on CNN(?). He researched it enough, to suggest it can be very good for various purposes, and that much more reasearch is needed to find which kind is best , for which purpose, and in what amount?

  5. This is a joke..Falsefied data to demonize Kratom even further..Your so called research is a farce and you are linked to big PHARMA..You just wont admit it…Who paid for this research? Dea? Fda? ..With Kratom out of the picture who stands to gain the most? Pharmaceutical companies of course who go hand in hand with the FDA and DEA..Stop the lies and tell the truth!!

    1. Sorry, no big pharma link here. We are independent. Sorry to burst the conspiracy bubble.

      Try contacting the researchers. We simply share the news. We aren’t performing the research.

  6. This is not research. This is looking at a bunch of data that can’t be definitively linked to Kratom (but assumed) and suggesting it could be unsafe. This ‘research’ was done carefully by using words like unsafe instead of dangerous. Toxic doses as well. Water has a toxic dose. Dr Scott Hemby of HPU did great research where they actually researched instead of drawing conclusions based off of statistics.

  7. For a website that claims to post “facts” I couldn’t find a single FACT about Kratom in your article. Big Pharma shill or just plain ignorance. Probably both.

    1. We simply report the news.

      Sorry, we are not big pharma shills. I know every time a conspiracy theorist gets their cognitive bias shaken, they jump on the ‘shill’ nonsense. This is simply just a factual piece of research.

  8. I don’t believe you guys are affiliated with big pharma, however I am very skeptical about the information pertaining to this study. I know quite a large number of people using Kratom and none of them are ending up in the E.R. because of toxicity. I know that’s anecdotal, but why isn’t the general public witnessing any of these cases of toxicity if they are occurring so commonly. Tylenol, alcohol, and tobacco are accepted as dangerous and still continue to be sold, so what is it about Kratom that calls for ban? There is a lot of money for big pharma to make off the opioid crisis, which is why they are currently trying synthesis new patentable opioid analogues cut with NARCAN to prescribe for addicts. While synthetics continue to be recreated, this plant with thousands of case reports of saving peoples lives from the grip of opioid addiction continues to have its reputation unreasonably tarnished.

  9. Complete nonsense, as we all know.
    You’re advertising for big pharma literally in the middle of an anti-kratom article all while trying to claim you aren’t working with big pharma.
    Its beyond obvious.
    Every little bit of false reporting that two bit websites like you put out helps to destroy someones life. I hope this makes you feel good about yourself. You’re a pos.

    1. We are not working with big pharma. We have responsive advertising, meaning what you search for or frequently discuss, you see.

      Kratom is not FDA approved. It has not undergone FDA testing. It is a herbal supplement, not a medication. It is our responsibility to make people aware of the dangers associated with all ‘medications’. We would not be doing our duty if we pandered to conspiracy theorists and their cognitive biases.

  10. Anytime a herb threatens big pharma money it is reported as unsafe. Herbs are plants what’s next salad

  11. I’m 61 and Kratom has been a God send for me. Rheumatoid arthritis cause severe aches, pains, tiredness and becomes depressing. Kratom helps me deal with all of this and keeps me off the pain pills the pharms want to addict you to!

  12. This is false bullshit. It does NOT slower your respiratory system as opioids do…pure kratom is a wonderful antidote to opioids. I’ve seen the changes and results with my own eyes, on many friends who use it. Shame on you for demonizing another all natural substance that truly helps people get OFF prescribed drugs.

  13. Boooo you’re trying to prove lies based off fake research. And why are you trying to say that kratom is toxic?? Maybe if you consume more than your body weight

  14. “Dangerous in large doses”… that can be said about anything! Using this logic, a case could be made for Tylenol, alcohol, etc..

    What a joke. This “research” and the fact that “news” outlets are now repeating this headline.

  15. Kratom has been safely used in Southeast Asia for centuries. I’ve probably done more research than Neuroscience has done. I’m allergic to opiates and opioids and many other medications and foods. (Mast Cell and Eosinophilic Diseases)
    It’s obvious you work for Big Pharma. All you see is money to made. You don’t care about those actually suffering.

    1. Sorry to burst the conspiracy bubble, but we are not affiliated in any way with ‘big pharma’ or any other companies. We are independent and simply report news.

  16. Why don’t you just make the comments visible for everyone to see! I know, it’s because most of the comments are probably pro-kratom and you want to demonize it!

  17. Go on lying to folks for big pharma, nobody has died from just kratom. Keep on lobbying our freedoms away you capitalistic swine!

    1. We do not have any links to ‘Big Pharma’, we simply report the news.

      We also do not censor comments.

      Science does not care what people believe one way or the other, it simply finds facts. Please keep that in mind.

  18. Im age 73,been using Kratom for 4 yrs without any side effects,helps manage my pain and helps my anxiety ,i have only praise for this wonderful treament with Kratom.phyllis allen.

  19. This guy isn’t all that smart for a smart guy been using kratom for pain for well over 3 years and none of the problems he states have happened and I wouldn’t be able to work on the Norco they gave me for pain thousands of people take this for pain and to get off hard drugs sounds like he’s trying to cherry pick his research what a shame

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