University of Hertfordshire

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By the same authors

Characteristics of deaths associated with kratom use

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1102-1123
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Psychopharmacology
Early online date20 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019


Background: Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa Korth) use has increased in Western countries, with a rising number of associated deaths. There is growing debate about the involvement of kratom in these events. Aims: This study details the characteristics of such fatalities and provides a ‘state-of-the-art’ review. Methods: UK cases were identified from mortality registers by searching with the terms ‘kratom’, ‘mitragynine’, etc. Databases and online media were searched using these terms and ‘death’, ‘fatal*’, ‘overdose’, ‘poisoning’, etc. to identify additional cases; details were obtained from relevant officials. Case characteristics were extracted into an Excel spreadsheet, and analysed employing descriptive statistics and thematic analysis. Results: Typical case characteristics (n = 156): male (80%), mean age 32.3 years, White (100%), drug abuse history (95%); reasons for use included self-medication, recreation, relaxation, bodybuilding, and avoiding positive drug tests. Mitragynine alone was identified/implicated in 23% of cases. Poly substance use was common (87%), typically controlled/recreational drugs, therapeutic drugs, and alcohol. Death cause(s) included toxic effects of kratom ± other substances; underlying health issues. Conclusions: These findings add substantially to the knowledge base on kratom-associated deaths; these need systematic, accurate recording. Kratom’s safety profile remains only partially understood; toxic and fatal levels require quantification.


Submitted on 15 February 2019. Reviewers’ comments received 10 May 2019. Revision accepted 17 June 2019. Published early online 20 August 2019. Published with Volume, etc. 5 September 2019.

ID: 16989720