Last updated: March 27, 2023
Kratom is an herbal supplement and can be purchased legally in the United States. It’s often used to counter opioid withdrawal or to combat pain. However, over the past decade, use has escalated which is partly because college and high school students discovered it.
They purchase the supplement to use as a “study drug” or to ease their anxiety. They think because it’s “legal” that it’s safe. That’s not true—it’s dangerously addictive.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants kratom classified as a Schedule 1 on the Controlled Substances list. They urged the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to do so back in 2016. The DEA was poised to follow through almost immediately but didn’t after receiving numerous complaints. It remains under review and the DEA currently lists kratom as a “drug of concern.”
Where does it come from?
The kratom tree grows indigenously in the rainforests of Southeast Asia. The tropical evergreen is found in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Papua New Guinea. It’s related to plants that produce coffee.
It’s become a tradition in certain regions of Southeast Asia for manual laborers to chew fresh or dried leaves to combat fatigue and improve their productivity at work. Some also brew kratom leaves to make tea.
Moreover, kratom has been used for centuries to treat various medical conditions. It’s used as an opium substitute in Malaya and to treat morphine dependence in Thailand.
Kratom is sold as an herbal supplement in the United States and is easily purchased on the internet in a variety of forms. They are as follows:
- Raw leaf
Signs and symptoms of use
Kratom causes both stimulant and sedative effects depending on the dosage. The FDA confirmed that it has opioid properties and in fact may be nearly 13 times more potent than morphine.
Users experience a euphoric effect which kicks in about ten to fifteen minutes after ingesting the drug. Small doses last about two hours while larger doses affect the user for up to eight hours.
Taking the drug on an empty stomach heightens the effect.
Signs and symptoms of use include:
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches
- Joint and bone pain
- Spastic, jerky movements
- Mood swings
- Pin-point pupils
Taking high doses of the drug can cause extreme sedation, unconsciousness, and seizures.
Long-term use may result in forming a dependence on the drug and withdrawal can get tough. Withdrawal typically begins within twelve to forty-eight hours of the last dose. The symptoms last for a few weeks up to a few months.
Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle aches and cramping
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Sweating and tremors
- Nausea or vomiting
- Anxiety and depression
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Hot flashes
There is limited research on the long-term effects that using kratom has on the user. That’s because the drug is still considered an “emerging” drug here in the United States.
Thailand reports the following long-term effects:
- Hyperpigmentation—darkening of the face
- Anorexia and weight loss
Does kratom show up on a drug test?
Kratom doesn’t show up on standard 5 panel drug tests. They normally identify amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and PCP.
However, if you suspect kratom use is a problem in the workplace, contact your drug testing company and request that a panel be added to your current drug test.
You should have the option of removing one of the drugs you currently test for and replacing it with the kratom test. Or you can add the kratom test to your panel while leaving everything else in place.
Due to use becoming more widespread, companies are working to make kratom drug testing available for the hair follicle and mouth swab drug tests. Currently, either blood testing or urine drug tests are used to identify kratom in the system.
Blood drug test
If someone is a long-term or heavy user of kratom, the parent drug and its metabolites could be detected in the blood for up to 24 hours for casual use. Someone who uses the drug frequently could retain metabolites of the drug for several days.
However, blood tests are very expensive, considered the most invasive, and rarely used for drug testing other than in a post-accident scenario.
Urine drug test
Kratom flushes from the average user’s system after about five days. Adding a kratom panel to a urine drug test makes it possible to identify it. Traces of the drug could be identified for more than a week.
Research is ongoing because kratom use is becoming more widespread here in the United States. Expect advances in kratom drug testing in the near future.
Varied detection periods
The amount of time that kratom remains in someone’s system depends on a number of factors.
- Body mass index (BMI)
- Age—older people metabolize drugs more slowly
- Individual metabolism
- Overall health
- Liver function—someone with a liver disease usually metabolizes substances more slowly
- Using kratom in combination with other drugs may slow the elimination process
Why we drug test
Overall, the number one reason that employers drug test is for safety’s sake. Drugs in the workplace put everyone in the vicinity of the user at a higher risk of being involved in an accident.
Additionally, drugs in the workplace cost employers billions of dollars each year due to lower productivity levels, increased absenteeism, and higher medical costs.
Kratom may be legal here in the United States but that doesn’t make it safe. It alters the mood of the user and that means they aren’t going to be on top of their game.
If kratom is trending as a popular drug in your area, consider adding it to your employee drug test. Remember to document the change in your drug testing policy and notify your employees in writing.
If you’re the parent of a teenager or college student and you suspect your child is using kratom, confront them about it. Explain the dangers of use and the fact that they risk forming an addiction to it.
Education is your number one line of defense. When we provide our children with the truth about drug use, it’s often the deterrent they need to make the decision to never try them in the first place.