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This article, first published by Frontiers Media, is the author's final published version in Frontiers in Pharmacology, Volume 15, 2024, Article number 1403140.

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Copyright © 2024 Henningfield, Grundmann, Huestis and Smith


Although kratom use has been part of life for centuries in Southeast Asia, the availability and use of kratom in the United States (US) increased substantially since the early 2000s when there was little information on kratom pharmacology, use patterns, and effects, all critical to guiding regulation and policy. Here we provide a synthesis of research with several hundred English-language papers published in the past 5 years drawing from basic research, epidemiological and surveillance data, and recent clinical research. This review of available literature aims to provide an integrated update regarding our current understanding of kratom's benefits, risks, pharmacology, and epidemiology, which may inform United States-based kratom regulation. Recent surveillance indicates there are likely several million past-year kratom consumers, though estimates vary widely. Even without precise prevalence data, kratom use is no longer a niche, with millions of United States adults using it for myriad reasons. Despite its botanical origins in the coffee tree family and its polypharmacy, kratom is popularly characterized as an opioid with presumed opioid-system-based risks for addiction or overdose. Neuropharmacology, toxicology, and epidemiology studies show that kratom is more accurately characterized as a substance with diverse and complex pharmacology. Taken together the work reviewed here provides a foundation for future scientific studies, as well as a guide for ongoing efforts to regulate kratom. This work also informs much-needed federal oversight, including by the United States Food and Drug Administration. We conclude with recommendations for kratom regulation and research priorities needed to address current policy and knowledge gaps around this increasingly used botanical product.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.