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Drug Alcohol Depend. 2017 Nov 1;180:340-348. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.08.034. Epub 2017 Sep 20.

Prevalence and motivations for kratom use in a sample of substance users enrolled in a residential treatment program.

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Kent School of Social Work, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292, United States. Electronic address:
Kent School of Social Work, University of Louisville, Louisville, KY 40292, United States.



Kratom use in the West has increased recently, yet the prevalence and motives for use among individuals with a history of substance use disorder (SUD) have not been fully examined. Kratom has been documented as a means of treating chronic pain, mitigating drug dependence, and easing withdrawal symptoms, yet it is unclear if substance users are utilizing kratom as a self-medication. Abuse liability, side effects, and overall appeal of kratom remain uncertain.


In April 2017, an anonymous survey regarding kratom use and motivations was completed by clients enrolled in a 12-Step-oriented residential program. 500 respondents with a self-reported history of SUD completed the survey.


20.8% of respondents endorsed lifetime kratom use and 10.2% reported past-12-month use. Kratom-users were younger (=32.1 vs. 35.9, p<0.001) and were more versatile substance users. A majority (68.9%) of kratom-users reported having used the drug as a means of reducing or abstaining from non-prescription opioids (NPO) and/or heroin, and 64.1% reported using kratom as a substitute for NPO/heroin. 18.4% of kratom-users reported using the drug due to a disability or chronic pain. One-third of kratom-users stated that kratom was a helpful substance and that they would try it again. However, kratom was not preferred and was indicated as having less appeal than NPO, heroin, amphetamines, and Suboxone.


Among substance users, kratom use may be initiated for a variety of reasons, including as a novel form of harm-reduction or drug substitution, particularly in the context of dependence and withdrawal from other substances.


Emerging drugs; Harm-reduction; Kratom; Mitragyna speciosa; Opioid

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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