3.8.4 Kratom

Kratom #

Binomial / Botanical Name Mitragyna Speciosa
Street Names Ketum
Major Active Compound Mitragynine; 7-hydroxymitragynine
Indigenous Source Thailand and South-East Asia
Form Powdered Plant Material
RoA Oral
Personal Rating On Shulgin Scale Standard (5g): ++ Extract (o.5g): ++


Kratom has long been used in its native South East Asia as a traditional medicine, and is known for its opiate-like effects. Given its wide scale use and general popularity, it was always going to be a candidate for early research. However, despite my best endeavours, it took over half a dozen attempts to finally hit the mark.

Early experiments were conducted with samples obtained from city centre head shops. These tended to be totally useless, despite ingestion via both tea, and toss & wash. I could have given up, but it was absolutely clear that significant numbers of people were successfully using kratom for recreational purposes; some of them regularly.

As is so often the case, source was the key, and I eventually found a reliable internet vendor who supplied a product of sufficient quality.

Rather like cannabis, a variety of strains are available. Each strain produces a different effect, an indication of which is provided by the colour of the vein, which is frequently referred to in its name. It is also common for the name to include the region of origin.

The five strains which were included in the selection pack I purchased for testing provide examples of this ad hoc naming convention: White Sumatran; White Liang Teh Putih; Red Vein Borneo; Red Liang Teh Merah; Green Liang Teh Hijau.

The effects also vary according to dose, particularly with respect to the pitch between sedating (higher doses) and energising (lower doses).

Connoisseurs are able to adjust these variables with a high degree of skill and sophistication, thereby inducing a specific kratom experience according to personal predilection. This impressive level of expertise was well beyond my own limited capabilities, however.

Kratom as purchased via a head shop

Kratom as purchased via a head shop

Kratom as supplied by an online vendor

Kratom as supplied by an online vendor

The taste of kratom was always absolutely revolting and, over time, even its odour became repugnant. To make matters worse, the fine powder would somehow manage to stick around in my mouth, however hard I tried to swallow.

In an effort to counter this problem I focused upon an extract to reduce the volume required to score. I obtained the material, which was named Gold Standard, from the same vendor. This proved to be my most successful foray, and it did indeed mitigate most of the horrors regarding taste.

The experience itself was indeed opiate-like, with a sense of well-being which was not quite euphoric, but was engulfing. Accompanying this was a strange yet pleasant aura of physical numbness. This started to emerge after perhaps 15 minutes, and lasted for four or five hours.

Kratom invariably turned a dull afternoon into a happy and contented one. It was a genuine anxiolytic and mood lifter.

I redosed on a couple of occasions, seeking to extend and intensify the session, but this wasn’t particularly successful. However, I did learn from this that a kratom hangover is actually a real deal.

If I pushed the dose I awoke in the morning with a solid headache. This faded as the day progressed, but on each occasion I was absolutely certain that it was due to the previous evening’s kratom binge.

Was there a longer term come-down during the following day or days? Perhaps there was, but this was not intrusively evident, at least on the doses I consumed.

For a period, testing different kratom strains offered a pleasant diversion, and was something I dabbled with when I was at a particularly loose end. However, given its very real addiction potential, it was a plant which required caution, and was thus one I would only turn to every blue moon.


In subsequent years, via the remaining contents of the selection pack I refer to above, I learned to work with kratom more proficiently, and was able to produce a pleasant experience on demand. It never induced an enormous high in the traditional sense, but rather alleviated stress, eliminated cravings, and provided relief from any aches and pains I was carrying.

Unfortunately, during this time, efforts to ban this plant gathered pace, particularly in the US. Supply and import had already been prohibited in the UK, and I distinctly recall a Tory MP at the time glibly stating that “We must be certain to capture kratom in this legislation”, referring to the draconian Psychoactive Substances Act, which was implemented in 2016.

What was particularly stark was the background against which these initiatives were developed. Kratom was and is used by many opioid addicts to ease withdrawal, and is occasionally cited as an aid to address acute alcohol dependency. Despite the enormous scale of these two social scourges, and the rapidly worsening opioid epidemic in the US, here was a situation in which politicians and authorities were openly undermining a potential recovery route for desperate victims.

Note that I am not making any bold claims here: I am simply stating factually that kratom has been used successfully by a significant number of former addicts. Rather than researching this with open minds, the opposite course was being pushed, and in the case of the UK, was legislated.

Finally, stating the obvious, if you are exploring this to taper or withdraw from a drug don’t be rash or reckless. Replacing one addiction with another is not what you want, so research thoroughly and consider deeply before embarking.

Kratom is a remarkable botanical, but if you are going to use it, dose sensibly and be careful not to make a habit of it.