Based on the data that is available on kratom, it appears as though the actual plant itself is pretty safe. Unlike opioids, there has never been a single report of human respiratory depression following any dose of kratom. Close reading of all accounts of hospitalization from kratom use has shown other drugs, alcohol and prescription meds to have been involved.
Nevertheless, the DEA has been putting out ill-informed scare stories about it since 2005, almost entirely based on a single report from 1975 by a Thai government researcher warning of ‘kratom psychosis,’ of users becoming dangerous, deluded lunatics and acting like modern day hashishin terrorists.
Now Thailand has a bit of history when it comes to maligning its native kratom. As we’ve heard, in Thai folk medicine, the leaf is used for the treatment of diarrhoea and as a substitute in cases of opium addiction. Nothing dodgy there, you might think.
But when the Thai government began to levy duties and taxes from users and suppliers in the opium trade, prices rose dramatically and users started to take kratom to manage their withdrawal symptoms.
As World War II spread to East Asia in 1942, the decreasing income from the opium trade prompted the Thai government to suppress the competition and make kratom illegal. They passed the Kratom Act in 1943, banning the planting of new kratom trees and calling for existing ones to be cut down.
It didn't work, and after World War II the Act was very loosely enforced. Kratom trees were still grown and their leaves chewed openly. In 1979, kratom was included under Schedule 5 (the least restrictive and punitive level) in the Thai Narcotics Act.