What is kratom?

Looking into lesser known drugs

March 29, 2020

These days, use of lesser known party drugs is on the rise. The scope of drugs you might see people using in nightclubs has gone far beyond cocaine and MDMA. Whether these drugs are obscure, traditional medicines imported worldwide or something new altogether, created by someone aiming to make a cheaper alternative of a widely used recreational drug. Where there is a demand there is a supply.


What is a club drug?

The term ‘club drugs’, refers to recreational drugs used in clubs, raves and other similar environments. Well-known club drugs include MDMA, ketamine, LSD, methamphetamines and GHB. Although a mix of stimulants, depressants and hallucinogens, all are psychoactive drugs1. They work in different ways but they all can make you feel more sociable or less inhibited, and induce feelings of euphoria. Feelings and behaviours that some may believe to suit the clubbing environment2,3.

Many of the lesser-known club drugs aim to replicate the feelings of these notorious club drugs but with little research into these drugs, they can be risky2. Kratom is one of these lesser-known drugs currently on the rise with recreational club drug users.

What is kratom?

Kratom comes from a tree, which originates in South East Asia. The leaves are usually dried and made into tea. It was traditionally used for medicinal purposes and can still be found in alternative medicines4. Due to the stimulating effects, the recreational use of Kratom has been increasing over the more recent years.

How does kratom work?

Kratom has a particular chemical in it called Mitragynine, which helps to relieve pain and has an anti-inflammatory effect5. This is similar to opioid drugs like codeine, which is why it has been used for medicinal reasons. You can learn more about the effects of Kratom in our comprehensive harm reduction guide.

How is kratom used?

Due to its ranging effects Kratom has been used in a number of different ways. It has been used for centuries by farmers in South East Asia for an added boost whilst working6. It is still used for its medicinal purposes around the world, especially in alternative medicines to help with anxiety, depression and other health conditions, although little supporting evidence can be found. It can be bought in alternative medicine and supplement shops across the world, meaning it’s accessible to many.

It was eventually banned from Thailand, Malaysia, Australia and several other European countries due to the harmful side effects. In the UK, as of March 2016, the sale, import, and export of kratom is prohibited under the Psychoactive Substances Act7. Across the states the legality of the drug varies. There are currently six states where it is illegal to use, purchase or possess8. Many states do not have a defined law regarding the use and possession of Kratom. The FDA fought for the ban of Kratom, seizing the raw product or goods that contained it9. Yet many scientists and researchers have fought for Kratom to be legal so they can explore the medicinal benefits10.

Is kratom safe?

Kratom is more readily available than other drugs and, with its stimulating effects similar to well-known club drugs, it has found popularity with recreational club drug users. What’s the problem with this? Well, there have been no in depth clinical studies or strong scientific research into kratom.

With little information and education around kratom, the dangers aren’t as well-known or understood as they are with other club drugs10,11. If you don’t know the negative side-effects or dangers, you may not know what to look out for if you or a friend takes too much or reacts badly.

Kratom is not seen as being as addictive as other opiates but there is still the danger, along with many other illicit drugs, of creating a habit and dependency11. This can also lead to building a tolerance and the need to take more for the desired effects. For regular users who stop, there will be some withdrawal symptoms such as muscle pains and spasms, fever, hot flashes, anxiety and trouble sleeping.

Staying as safe as you can

Some of the important things to understand about drugs are the effectiveness, suggested dosages, how they react with other substances and what happens in the worst-case scenario. If this information is not easily found, this can create a dangerous situation where someone may not know what to expect. This goes for Kratom and all lesser-known drugs.

Recreational club drugs users may believe, as it is just recreational, that they are safer, but there is still a danger. Although these users may not be taking as regularly, education and information still needs to be provided. With lesser-known drugs on the rise, having less research and information around, the increase of danger and lack of safety continues. The best thing you can do approaching lesser-known club drugs is educate yourself as much as possible and take precautions.

This post was created for informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you plan on using kratom check out our Kratom harm reduction guide to learn about the experience, dosage, legality and more.

All drugs pose risks, and the best way to avoid them is not to take any, but we understand that people still choose to. Drugs and Me exists to provide you with information about drugs, helping to reduce their harms based on the best evidence available.

Drugs and Me is powered by the Alcohol and other Drugs Education Consultancy, to be objective, unbiased, and freely accessible. Our work is fuelled by volunteers and we’ve chosen to not have any ads, so we rely heavily on your support. Why not become a patron today, or if you prefer, make a one-off donation. If you like this post, please share it on social media using the buttons below!

Stay safe

This post was written by Alice, our new volunteer writer, who is currently researching the market of lesser known drugs and the recreational usage of illicit drugs to gain a better understanding of harm reduction.


  1. The Dangers of Club Drugs – Types, Effects & Health Risks [Internet]. Turning Point of Tampa. 2019 [cited March 2020]. Available from: https://www.tpoftampa.com/the-dangers-of-club-drugs/
  2. Lesser-Known Drugs of Use - Axis Residential Treatment [Internet]. Axisresidentialtreatment.com. 2020 [cited March 2020]. Available from: https://axisresidentialtreatment.com/drug-abuse/lesser-known-drugs/
  3. Tune R. Club Drugs | Effects, Types, List of Street Names | Recovery in Tune [Internet]. Recovery in Tune. 2018 [cited March 2020]. Available from: https://www.recoveryintune.com/club-drugs/
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  9. FDA and Kratom [Internet]. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2019 [cited March 2020]. Available from: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/fda-and-kratom
  10. Brodwin E. A ruling is imminent on the legality of a controversial drug that's used to treat addiction — but some have called it a 'dangerous opioid' [Internet]. Business Insider. 2018 [cited March 2020]. Available from: https://www.businessinsider.com/is-kratom-legal-government-regulators-decide-2018-11?r=US&IR=T
  11. Kratom: Unsafe and ineffective [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. 2019 [cited March 2020]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/kratom/art-20402171
  12. The Ultimate Guide to Kratom - Experience, Benefits, & Side Effects [Internet]. The Third Wave. 2020 [cited March 2020]. Available from: https://thethirdwave.co/psychedelics/kratom/#therapeutic-use
  13. N. Gayk J, R. Tavakoli H, C. Buchholz A, K. Kabir I, Deb A. Kratom: A New Product in an Expanding Substance Abuse Market [Internet]. PubMed Central (PMC). 2016 [cited March 2020]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6373705/

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