Kratom Psychosis Scare Stories Reminiscent of Reefer Madness

Among the ample misinformation found online related to kratom are the claims that the South East Asian plant related to coffee is responsible for such pernicious side effects as hallucination, insomnia, aggression, even full-blown psychosis. Could there be more to these stories though? Some experts feel that the way information about kratom is represented (or misrepresented) falls short of the mark as far as full disclosure goes. Kratom is a plant that has been safely used as a plant medicine for centuries in its native regions such as Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia. Despite dozens of studies suggesting kratom may have multiple benefits and applications and a favorable safety profile with low risk of addiction or abuse, the same old misconceptions keep showing up.

Not unlike the “reefer madness” scare of the 30’s that resulted in the demonization of cannabis, the current “craziness over kratom” has resulted in some overblown hysteria in many respects. Take for example the recurring warning that kratom causes psychosis. Maybe if we took a look at the origin of this claim we could better understand the potential risks of kratom.

The original Thai study that listed hallucinations, aggression, and psychosis as possible results of kratom comes from 1975. What is not often pointed out is the fact that these kratom users were not simply fans of the plant. Specifically, the 2000 subjects were divided into three classes, recent heroin addicts who also used kratom, opium users who switched to heroin who also used kratom, opium addicts who also used kratom. Now take that in for a moment. Imagine a study on caffeine that involved a gaggle of crackheads who also drank coffee. Trying to attribute the behavior of said crackheads to caffeine and ignoring the fact that they were addicted to cocaine is intellectually dishonest at best. But it only has to happen once and then it’s “in the scientific literature” and can be cited without context to build a narrative.

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