It was in 1932, within the confines of the prestigious University of Cambridge, that the Western world first stumbled upon the pharmacology of mitragynine and kratom. Professor K. S. Grewal, who conducted research on both mice and male volunteers, made this discovery. During the course of his research, he discovered that mitragynine acted as a stimulant in both male volunteers as well as the mice.
He observed that usage of kratom amongst farmers, peasants and laborers in Southeast Asian countries, and wrongly deduced that mitragynine had similar effects as cocaine. This wrong deduction by Grewal led to him mistakenly creating a notion that kratom effects were similar to a cocaine and opium mixture. Both cocaine and opium were popular in usage during the 1930s, which is why this notion quickly gained popularity.
Dr. Grewal’s research
Norakanphadung Pray also highlighted a similar notion, as propounded by Professor Grewal, in 1966, when he published his book ‘Thai Narcotic Book’. In this book, he claimed that addicts tended to be extremely thin, had dry, flaky skin and dark lips, unhealthy complexions and distended stomachs.
Aside from these two types of research, very few detailed studies have been conducted pertaining to kratom’s abuse and usage. The best-known study, which was also one of the first, was by Dr. Sangun Suwanlert in 1975. He researched thirty long-term kratom users in Thailand and discovered that kratom can have sedative effects when given in low dosages. These sedatives effects were neither severe nor addictive, but relaxed and calmed the nerves. The subjects reported feeling less frazzled and more soothed.
Dr. Sangun’s research
Recent research, however, has claimed otherwise. Unlike Dr. Sangun’s research, recent studies show that kratom can have a stimulating effect when administered in low dosages. This might be attributed either to a fault in Dr. Sangun’s research, or genetic variations within kratom crops. Such variations over time, as well as natural selection processes, can lead to alteration of strains and extract’s effects upon the human body.
A few ethnographic types of research have also been conducted in Thailand, where results showed that kratom users can suffer from weight loss and anorexia. However, this usage is extreme in dosage and has been continuing for long periods of time. Others have reported a darkening of their skin, especially the cheeks, which can give a look that is similar to having a hepatic face. Amongst those users who were classified as hardcore addicts, 30% reported a lessening in their sexual drive and desires. They said that they felt the need to use a combination of alcohol and kratom in order to get sexually stimulated and aroused.
In order to remain current and updated with research on kratom, the Ministry of Health in Malaysia conducted a research in 1994 on kratom. They studied 54 individuals, 5 of whom suffered from psychotic conditions that might have been associated with extremely heavy usage of kratom. All of the 54 individuals had been using kratom, and the usage ranged from one to twenty years.
Many users said that they felt mild withdrawal symptoms when they tried to reduce kratom usage. However, they also highlighted that these withdrawal symptoms were not in any way comparable to the severe symptoms associated with opioids. All fifty-four users were medically reported to be healthy and had no biochemical changes as a result of kratom usage.