Ending Addiction for Good

Kratom: The Dangerous “Tea” Every Parent Needs to Know About

The "tea" Kratom acts like an opiate and its use is leading to ER visits.

There is a new and potentially addictive drug legally sold as a tea across the nation, in local stores and on the internet. Most adults have never heard of it, but chances are that the teenagers in your neighborhood know all about it. The authorities are noticing too and it is currently on the federal watch list.

This new drug is called Kratom—pronounced kray-tum. Native to Southeast Asia, the drug is produced from the leaves of a tree in the coffee family. It has been used in tiny quantities by traditional healers for hundreds of years. It may have some pain relieving properties, but studies of side effects and dosage require proper research before a conclusion is made. Currently, Kratum is being abused because it has similar properties to opiates, like heroin, but is erroneously believed to have few side effects.

Though it is illegal in many parts of Asia, Kratom is now sold in America in pill form and as a powder that can be used as a tea. While the product may be from a natural source, this does not mean it is safe.

In small doses, it acts as a stimulant. In higher doses, it becomes a sedative, according to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

In larger doses, Kratum has a highly sedating effect and may suppress respiration to the point of death. It is unclear what its effects are when combined with other substances, including foods, over-the-counter medications, or alcohol. The drug is a concern for treatment centers as it is not commonly tested for.

Some claim Kratom provides pain relief for such things as arthritis and sore muscles, but no research has confirmed this. Kratom’s safety is in question, because its use is already leading to emergency room visits. Hallucinations, seizures, respiratory depression, delusion and confusion are some of the symptoms that have been reported after using Kratom.

New street drugs are always becoming available, but care should be taken before experimenting with such substances. Natural does not mean safe. Talk to the young people you know about the risks associated with Kratom or any other “new” drug. Information may help teens and young adults make better decisions about drug use and abuse. 

Constance Scharff, Ph.D. is the Senior Addiction Research Fellow and Director of Addiction Research at Cliffside Malibu Treatment Center.

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