“…Like, What Does it Do, Man?”
By Patrick Mitchell
If you’re trying Kratom for the first time, you might be surprised to discover that the effects of this exotic leaf—pulverized to powder for convenient ingestion in modern times and historically chewed in whole-leaf form in Asia for millennia—are somewhat muted compared to the “high” you might have expected based on the glowing literature you read at the website of the company that sold you the Kratom and/or compared with other substances you may have tried.
It might seem that nothing happens when you take your first Kratom dose. Maybe nothing happens for you—unless you take more, of course. Even then, you might experience lackluster results from Kratom and blame it on the strain you purchased, the vendor you bought it from, or your own hyped-up expectations.
On the other hand, you might almost run a red light while driving 45 minutes after taking your first Kratom dose and think to yourself, “Holy shit, this stuff is a DRUG and I better be careful; it just kicked me like a mule out of the blue!” Or maybe your experience is relatively chill; you’ve planned things out, purchased and taken a so-called “mellow” strain of Kratom and, after an hour of watching waves crash on the beach with your significant other you think to yourself, “Wow, yeah… now I’m on Kratom… this is too cool.”
That’s Kratom for you—somewhat unpredictable in the beginning perhaps, and maybe later on, too. But unpredictability isn’t so good for companies selling Kratom because they know that you, the discerning prospective new customer (and you, the devoted returning customer), need to hang your hat on at least one reasonable notion; for instance, the idea that if you buy some Kratom from them you’re going to get something pleasant, stimulating, uplifting, or tranquilizing from the experience. They want to be predictable for you. They want to educate you and sell you their Kratom.
Experimentation and ‘Vendor-Speak’
Many Kratom vendors talk about a Kratom “sweet spot” where it hits you just right, and they suggest that only you can find that sweet spot and, moreover, that the way to find it is through trial-and-error experimentation. (And they’re probably right.) Speaking of Kratom “hitting,” the leaf hits different people in different ways, purportedly, and like alcohol, how much food you have in your stomach at the time of ingestion and the strength of the particular strain of Kratom you take plays a role. Ultimately, you can take enough Kratom to get the “high” that others write about, generally speaking.
CAUTION: Don’t take Kratom at all unless you know what you’re doing. How do you know what you’re doing and how much to take? You don’t! Unless you trust what you read or have trusted friends who share their Kratom with you. Remember, much of what you’ll read is from online companies selling or promoting a particular Kratom product. Only you can decide whether, and how much, Kratom to take (or not take). Do your research and decide for yourself.
You’ve probably noticed that Kratom sellers—at least the online companies—like to give their prized substance flowery names like “Hyper Cowboy,” “Dancing Green Goddess,” “Bombastic Bali,” “Leafy Levitation,” and so on. (By the way, I just made up all those fake Kratom names as I wrote this.) Seriously though, some of those Kratom companies are a decent source of information; you just need to remember they want your money; they’re a business. Just know the information they provide is predominantly company-centric. Some of them have gone to the trouble of researching the different strains of Kratom and have queried their customers about how each strain reacts for them. Thus, some online Kratom companies can be helpful information sources.
The fact is, there really are different strains of Kratom, and each strain has its own properties and, by extension, their own effects. So much so that some reliable Kratom information out there suggests that if you take, say, six different strains of Kratom six days a week, you won’t get hooked on any one strain, and thus you won’t develop tolerance and, by extension, won’t experience withdrawal as a result of coming off Kratom.
The Kratom High
There is some debate out there in Kratom World about whether there really are significant differences—different “highs”—between and among the different Kratom strains. In one camp we have the “All Kratom is pretty much the same” point of view, and the other camp says, effectively, “You have to try a bunch of different strains for different results.” The experiment-with-different-strains-of-kratom argument seems to get more traction because it leaves the door open for experimentation (which, not coincidentally, is exactly what the Kratom companies and vendors want you to do; that is, to experiment by making various purchases with varies credit cards).
Kratom has been around for thousands of years (and so has Kratom abuse.) Indigenous farmers and laborers chewed or brewed the leaves in Asia to beat fatigue or increase their energy level to complete certain labor-intensive tasks and to relieve pain, treat various ailments, to raise spirits mentally, as a sexual enhancement, and to increase productivity.
You might expect to experience any of these things too, and others as perceived in our modern world. I hate to toot the horn of Kratom vendors, but if you really want to find out for sure what Kratom does, then you’ll have to experiment—or take the word of those who have.
“Kratom changed my life,” I read at a Reddit post online. The person went on to say he’d found Kratom reduces his anxiety and gives him a social presence and relaxed “edge” which was something he didn’t have before discovering Kratom. Sounded pretty good. I wonder if he’s hooked on it though, to the point of not being able to give it up. Maybe, and maybe not. I asked an acquaintance of mine who helps people quit drugs and other addictions what he thought of Kratom, and he said he thought it was okay “unless it became a habit someone couldn’t control.” That’s the rub, isn’t it? He continued: “You can get hooked on anything,” he told me, “Just read the newspaper to see who’s hooked on what.”
Kratom is currently a controlled substance in Thailand, and if you go to Bali, Indonesia, as a friend did in 2018 and poke around trying to find some Kratom to consume, you might be met with the same sort of response my friend got from the person he asked: “Oh… that’s a drug!” Kratom is legal in most U.S. states; only a handful of states have banned it.
Substances that Potentiate Kratom
As with any drug, there are ways to make it more intense and thus to increase one’s tolerance for that drug, and it should come as no surprise that people have learned to create Kratom “cocktails” to get various types of highs from it—and to abuse it.
Many people mix Kratom with coffee or another caffeinated beverage (the plant comes from a tree in the coffee family after all), and others don’t mess around; they go straight for the hard core mix-this-shit-with codeine-laced cough syrup to create a drink whose street name is “4×100″ in southern Thailand where some young Muslims are said to ingest Kratom recreationally that way. The aforementioned drink is said to have effects similar to alcohol according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
But don’t get to thinking the Kratom abuse problem is specific to Asia; it’s not. Plenty of Americans, for instance, use Kratom and plenty are hooked and would like to reduce their tolerance or quit.
If you mix Kratom and opiads/opium you can expect problems, not the least of which is drastically increasing your Kratom tolerance. This is because Kratom and those other drugs “potentiate” each other. They make each drug more intense by firing similar receptors in your brain. (This is bad, generally speaking.) Similarly, mixing Kratom with alcohol also potentiates those two substances, leading to intense short-term highs but bigger “comedown” on the other side. RECOMMEDNATION: Research this as much as you can if you even *think* you want to mix Kratom with other substances. Then come up with some really good reasons NOT to.
Kratom as Hero
Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) refers to the leaves (and less commonly, the leaf stems) of an evergreen tree in the coffee family that grow in Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and other tropical climates. The leaves—and/or condensed “extracts” from the leaves—have been used as a stimulant, sedative, treatment for chronic pain and digestive issues, anxiety, as a sexual enhancement substance, and more recently as an alternative to heroin and other synthetic opioid for medicinal use (i.e. Oxycotin) and in the illegal drug trade. Kratom is said to be of great help to people with opium/opioid addictions—and the withdrawal symptoms from those trying to reduce their tolerance and or quit their addictions to opium/opiods.
Kratom as Villain — Quitting Kratom
“Did I ever tell you the story about how the rescuer never wins?” a friend of mine asked me once over a beer. He was a clinical psychologist and his point was that even the White Knight who slays the villain, rescues the damsel and saves the day might very well suffer harm in the long run because of his actions. (You wouldn’t think so, but reality bites.) Think of the White Knight on the therapist’s couch lamenting the fact that the damsel in distress, after thinking it over, had decided the knight was just too aggressive to fit into her life long term, and that she’d decided to marry Felix The Failure instead because he was relatively stable, predictable, and didn’t pick fights with strangers.)
Such is the story with Kratom, the great rescuer of people trying to quit opium/opiods. Some of those people get hooked on Kratom instead, and then they need to quit the Kratom. But even people without opium/opioid addictions—people who seek to use Kratom recreationally—can get hooked on Kratom, and they, too, may decide to quit.
It would seem that some people are reasonably able to use Kratom effectively in their life, and that other people develop too high a tolerance which leads to withdrawal symptoms if and when they want to reduce or quit their Kratom intake, usually resulting in withdrawal symptoms upon reducing/quitting.