The field of kratom science continues to evolve, bringing exciting new developments in our knowledge about the plant and its potential. Join us in reviewing the latest kratom studies and what they could mean for kratom in 2021.
Kratom Alkaloid May Help With Pain
While the soothing aroma of kratom is well-known to enthusiasts around the globe, its potential for providing pain relief is relegated to the world of hearsay until this therapeutic action can be measured scientifically with kratom studies. Here is one new study that supports kratom’s therapeutic potential.
The Foss et al. Rat Study
In April 2020, Drug and Alcohol Dependence published a kratom study by Foss et al. that measured the effects of the indole alkaloid mitragynine on neuropathic pain induced by chemotherapy in rats. Usually, this kind of pain is treated with drugs that act on adrenergic receptor transmission, so the researchers wanted to find out whether mitragynine would have a similar effect on pain via action on specific kinds of adrenergic receptors known as α-adrenoceptors.
To test their hypothesis, groups of eight male rats were given doses of 0, 1, 5, or 10 mg/kg of mitragynine per day for five days via injection into the area that covers the abdominal cavity (intraperitoneal or IP injection). Additional groups of rats were given yohimbine (an α2-adrenoceptor antagonist), prazosin (an α1-adrenoceptor antagonist), or naltrexone, an opioid antagonist, to see which pathways the mitragynine would take.
What they discovered at the end of these kratom studies was that mitragynine offered relief in the rats in a dose-dependent manner, with 10mg/kg showing the best effects. A dose of 30 mg/kg given later to the rats produced a “moderate but significant increase” in locomotor activity at 10 and 15 minutes post-injection. The soothing effect was reduced by the α1-adrenoceptor antagonist and inhibited by the α2-adrenoceptor antagonist, indicating that the alkaloid provides relief via these two specific pathways.
What Does This Mean for Kratom in 2021?
As far as kratom studies go, a controlled animal trial like this one is not necessarily a “slam dunk” for kratom and advocacy efforts. However, it is a positive step toward being able to attempt human clinical trials at some time in the future.
What Does This Mean for Kratom?
A survey conducted into the usage of kratom revealed three important things that users (and the government) need to take into account:
- There needs to be careful regulation of kratom products (via the Kratom Consumer Protection Act or similar legislation) to ensure that they don’t contain any harmful or addictive adulterants.
- Kratom enthusiasts need to be educated on how to use kratom responsibly and encouraged to seek help if they are struggling.
The Alkaloids in Kratom Might Not Have The Abuse Potential We Thought
The rationale behind scheduling kratom and/or its alkaloids on the list of controlled substances (as requested by the DEA in 2016) is dependent on two things, which kratom studies can help dispel:
- The therapeutic potential of the drug.
- The abuse potential of the drug.
For example, according to the Controlled Substances Act, a drug with no medically-recognized therapeutic applications and a high potential for abuse is listed as a Schedule I drug, whereas a drug with a low potential for abuse or dependence would be listed as a Schedule IV drug.
In order to schedule kratom, it would need to be shown that one or more of kratom’s alkaloids provide dopaminergic rewards (a pleasant effect) in the brain. If abuse potential is not shown, government bodies might feel more confident about keeping kratom legal and simply regulate the purity of the products. Two kratom studies published this year help provide further light on this issue:
The Behnood-Rod et al. Rat Study
Published in August 2020, an intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) study in male and female rats showed that while mitragynine, 7-hydroxymitragynine, and morphine all “affected the brain reward thresholds” in rats. Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine did not cause the rats to come back again and again in the ICSS procedure. In fact, a high dose of 7-hydroxymitragynine caused the rats to select this substance less rather than more.
What This Means for Kratom
These latest kratom studies confirm the findings of previous trials that have shown that mitragynine is not showing abuse potential (1, 2, 3). However, the abuse potential of 7-hydroxymitragynine remains uncertain as the latest finding contradicts the findings of a previous rat self-administration study (3). Further research is needed to help policymakers make well-informed decisions.
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