Opioid Resource Center

Opioid Resource Center

April 23, 2021
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Most people use kratom to self-manage opioid addiction

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Most people who used kratom did so to self-treat their opioid dependence or withdrawal, according to an analysis of 500 YouTube videos.

Numerous kratom products on the market are used for their psychoactive properties, Elisabeth Prevete, an education and research officer in the department of neuropsychology and psychopharmacology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and colleagues wrote.

The study showed that kratom is used to self-medicate for: Opioid dependence/addiction 83.4% of the time, pain 75% of the time, lack of energy, 50% of the time, anxiety 67% of the time, depression 42% of the time, substance use disorders 42% of the time, mood elevation 25% of the time and nootropic effects, 25% of the time.
Reference: Prevete E, et al. Emerging Trends in Drugs, Addictions, and Health. 2021;doi:10.1016/j.etdah.2021.10007.

Individuals, often without consulting a physician, use kratom products recreationally in tandem with antidepressants, antipsychotics, opioids, benzodiazepines as well as some designer opioids and synthetic cathinones. They also use kratom to self-treat various conditions including pain, COVID-19, ADHD, mood and anxiety disorders, and opioid and alcohol addiction and withdrawal, the researchers said.

“Among social media, the YouTube platform has shown in previous studies to provide a valuable aid in the field of qualitative drug and health care research,” Prevete and colleagues wrote. “The mere quantity of videos makes this medium very rich in content.”

The researchers analyzed 500 YouTube videos about kratom use that were collected from a data scrape in July 2019. The videos had 19,478,180 views and 134,863 comments.

According to Prevete and colleagues, kratom was most frequently used to self-medicate for opioid dependence/addiction (83.4%), followed by pain (75%), anxiety (67%), lack of energy (50%), depression (42%) and substance use problems (42%), as well as mood elevation (25%) and nootropic effects (25%). Although most of the videos portrayed positive experiences with kratom (58%), adverse events associated with its use included dependence and withdrawal (50%), nausea (42%), loss of appetite (25%), sedation (25%), loss of motivation (16.7%), headache (16.7%), drowsiness (16.7%), and dry mouth and frequent urination (16.7%).

“The results of our study helped to shed light on the less explored medicinal benefits of kratom, rather than reinforcing its previous association with harmful effects typical of classical opioids,” Prevete and colleagues wrote. “However, such findings require further contextualization outside the digital milieu of YouTube, and further controlled clinical studies are needed to better understand the safety, therapeutic efficacy and long-term perils of kratom use.

Editor’s note: Those struggling with addiction can call the National Drug Helpline at (844) 289-0879.