Interview with Dr. Darshan Singh of Malaysia

The audio version of this interview can be found as episode 30 of the Kratom Science Podcast. References to studies discussed are also listed there.

Dr. Darshan Singh from the Center for Drug Research at the University of Science in Malaysia. Dr. Singh studies substance abuse, addiction treatment, and harm reduction. He has conducted multiple studies of kratom consumers, and has found kratom in its pure form to be a safe and effective way to decrease substance use, mitigate withdrawal symptoms, and decrease HIV risk behaviors among addicts.

Kratom Science:  Thanks for all the work you do. It’s taught me a lot about kratom, that’s what we call it around here. How do you pronounce it in Malaysia?

Dr. Darshan Singh: In Malaysia, it is pronounced as ke-tum

So how did you come to study kratom?

So let me just begin. I was a PhD student in 2007 at the University of Science, Malaysia. I came in as a PhD student and I was very interested to study heroin users. At that time, my supervisor told me, “Darshan, is it possible that you try to investigate why heroin users living in the rural areas of Malaysia were actually using kratom?”. So, it all started when I was doing my PhD. And I started reading a lot to understand what kratom is all about. Once I got my human ethics approval to actually study kratom users, I decided to travel to the rural areas in the peninsula states of Malaysia.

So I travel to Perlis and Kedah, which is very close to the border of Thailand. The reason why I went there was because Thailand and Malaysia have a lot of kratom use history. So I decided to actually explore these Northern region states and I went into the rural community and I met a lot of heroin users and they were actually using kratom.

And I was so curious. I wanted to know, why are you guys using kratom? And they told me we were actually using it as a substitute to heroin because, back in 2007, though methadone was introduced in the country in 2005 as a pilot project, methadone maintenance treatment was not available for heroin users living in rural areas.

So, since there is no medicine assisted therapy, the availability was not there. So that is how I started my journey, to understand more about kratom.

“Whenever there was an opium shortage, people used kratom to treat opium addiction. So it has been there for over a hundred years. It is nothing new. “

Is kratom mostly used in rural areas in Malaysia, or is it also consumed in cities as well?

The latest trend, kratom is widely available in rural and urban settings. Now, I get to see a lot of people living in urban settings are also using kratom. They use kratom for various reasons. Basically they use kratom for its therapeutic properties. So it is no longer a rural thing. Now, if you come to Malaysia, if you go to the urban areas, you get to see people also consuming kratom.

How long has kratom been used in Malaysia?

I managed to retrieve some history, meaning to say some publications that were available in the Singapore library. I found kratom was first reported to be used as an opium cure in Malaysia in 1836. Kratom was used as an opium cure in Malaya, because before independence, Malaysia was known as Malaya, right? So you get to see a lot of Chinese immigrants because we brought Chinese migrant workers to work in Malaya in 1836, 1837. These British botanists have actually recorded people who were dependent on opium. Whenever there was an opium shortage, people use kratom to treat opium addiction. So it has been there for over a hundred years. It is nothing new. 

So unfortunately, as I said, there are many reasons why the government decided to regulate kratom. And it was regulated if I’m not wrong somewhere after 2005. After 2005, it was regulated under the Dangerous Drugs Act. Before that it was not an offense for people to use kratom.

Do you have to have a permit to research kratom in Malaysia?

Okay. Now you have to understand, with the Poisons Act, possession is an offense. If you were to possess kratom leaf or material, it’s an offense. You could be arrested by the police. You could be slapped with a fine, nothing less than RM 10,000 ringgit. So as a researcher, the university applies for a permit or license. If I were to bring it back into my lab for research, of course, I need to get a license in case the police catch me. I get to show them that, you know, I’m given the permit to actually carry kratom, but for research helpers, you don’t need to ask for any permission from the police or from the government as an investigator, as a researcher, because I work with the government. The university is a public university, so I get to work with kratom users. There’s no problem. 

But as I say, sometimes, now lately, it is not easy to work with kratom users because they always assume that I’m actually a police officer. I’m coming into their territory. I’m coming into their community. My main motive is to actually understand kratom use, but sometimes they wrongly interpret it and they believe that no, this guy is a police spy. If he comes into our community, he gets to know many things, and we are afraid that the government could actually further regulate kratom.

It must be hard to sometimes get participants in some of your studies.

Correct. It depends. It depends. I do work very closely with kratom users, as I say, sometimes they could be very nice. If you go into certain communities, people are willing to accept you to come in as a researcher to understand about your kratom using tradition. But if you were to go to urban areas, sometimes, because as I said it is regulated, it’s banned in the country. So if people are also selling kratom in urban areas in clandestine settings. So if I were to go, you know, if they get to know that they are selling kratom in clandestine settings, they’re afraid that the police could actually bust, or cripple, the activity in the city. So that is why sometimes the people [don’t want] me coming in to know everything.

“I’ve got to see people who are dependent on illicit drugs coming up from drug addiction and using kratom as a safer alternative. But I don’t see the reverse.”

A year ago I read in the news that the health minister in Malaysia announced plans to decriminalize all drug use. Is that still in the plans to happen there?

To tell you the truth, last year, the terminology that we call decriminalization of drug use was being proposed by the Ministry of Health, Malaysia. They were actually looking at, because as I said, in Malaysia, we are having this big drug use problem, and it’s an offense. If you were to administer drugs, and if you are tested positive for drug use, you could be caught by the police. If you cannot pay a fine, which is more or less than RM 5,000 ringgit, you have to be sentenced to prison, nothing less than two years. The prison population, I would say more than two thirds of the prison population in Malaysia are incarcerated for minor drug related offenses. So that is why. And to also address the overcrowding of prison, the government decided to see whether they could actually decriminalize drug use. But unfortunately, as I said, recently, there is a change in the political climate or change in government. So I would not know whether the present government who is in power, would they decriminalize drug use or not? We would not know, but the term was brought up. The idea was brought up last year and it was just waiting for cabinet’s approval…We would not know.

Is the public in favor of kratom being legal?

To tell you the truth right now, since Malaysia is facing or experiencing this big drug use problem, and the media have, you know, highlighted negatively about kratom. Every time, if you read the Malaysia paper or the mainstream media in Malaysia, the newspapers, they always report kratom seizure, a lot of young people engaging in use, and also bring up, we are afraid that they might gradually progress and use other illicit substances. But as an investigator I’ve not seen this happening. I’ve got to see people who are dependent on illicit drugs coming up from drug addiction and using kratom as a safer alternative. But I don’t see the reverse. I don’t see people using kratom and then gradually progress into using illicit drugs. I’ve not seen this through my 10 years research career, I’ve not come across such a situation. That could be a possibility, if you get 10 kratom users who have no drug use history, maybe one, you know, because of curiosity, he will say, okay, why not? I try heroin or I try crystal meth, you know, just out of curiosity. So probably she might use illicit drugs, but as I said, not everyone who start with kratom will progress and use other illicit substances.

And the people I’ve talked to, it seems like they use kratom to get off of other substances, like you said with heroin. A lot of the studies I’ve been looking at here that you did showed that it actually reduces the bad effects of the opiates. Why do you think kratom actually does this?

Heroin/morphine consumption has deleterious effects. If someone who is addicted or dependent on heroin and morphine for a prolonged period of time, they develop a lot of side effects as a result of a long-term heroin/morphine use. But kratom is a unique plant. It has unique pharmacological properties. Though it binds to opioid receptors, it doesn’t bind very strongly to the opioid receptors. It also binds to other non-opioid receptors. So therefore when I interview my heroin users, since they start using kratom they report that there is a significant reduction in the side effects of heroin/morphine use. For example, someone is experiencing breathing difficulty or constipation, but when they use kratom, the intensity or the severity of the heroin/morphine symptoms decreases over time.

So as I said, kratom is such a unique plant. It has more than 40 unique alkaloids. All the enforcement agencies around the world are just looking at mitragynine or 7-hydroxymitragynine. It’s just one single compound. So you have to understand kratom. If you consume as a decoction, you are ingesting more than 40 different alkaloids, so therefore it helps to reduce the intensity or the severity of heroin/morphine side effects.

Kratom is not a magic pill, meaning to say that if I’m dependent on heroin for 20 years, and if I use kratom today, I would successfully abstain from heroin/morphine, no such thing. It takes time, maybe more than a year, then you could actually reduce your heroin intake and then you can totally abstain from heroin/morphine consumption. So you replace kratom as an alternative to heroin/morphine. So kratom helps to actually maintain your abstinence, and you become drug-free for prolonged periods.

So, this is how kratom works. It doesn’t mean that I’m addicted to heroin/morphine for 20 years, 30 years, and if I start using kratom tomorrow, I could be caught from heroin, morphine addiction, no such thing. It takes a long time.

In your “Patterns and Reasons for Kratom Use” study, you said subjects show a decrease in respiratory depression. Is that one of the reasons kratom is safer than opiates?

Yes, of course. It is clearly shown that people who are using opioids, they developed respiratory problems, but I’ve not seen kratom users developing respiratory depression or respiratory problems. I’ve not come across any of my patients, any of my kratom clients, claiming that they have developed respiratory depression as a result of kratom use. I’ve not seen this happening.

What advantages would kratom have for getting people to manage opiate withdrawal over the methadone that’s being used now in Malaysia?

If you are a methadone user, you have to travel to a clinic to get your treatment on a daily basis. So the majority of heroin/morphine users, they are unemployed. They don’t even have a vehicle to travel to a clinic to get their methadone treatment. And there’s also a perception. There’s also a belief. There could be a negative perception. They believe that methadone dependence or methadone use would actually cause opioid dependence. You know, they just dislike methadone because you are replacing one drug with another drug. You are still trapped with your opioid addiction. Though methadone is being reported to improve quality of life, reduce injecting risk behaviors. Yes. Not to deny. But as I said, someone who’s dependent on heroin/morphine, they are tired, they are sick, they don’t want to be on methadone. They want something that could actually keep them moving. Something that could make them feel active. They could work. You can get to see their significant improvements in quality of life. So they’re looking for something like that. So therefore they would prefer to use kratom than methadone. 

And another thing is if I’m a methadone user, if I go to the clinic, there’s a possibility for the police to re-arrest me or to catch me. You see? Because you look like an addict, and you are coming out from a methadone clinic and the police might just stop and interview you. And if they suspect that you could be under the influence of other drugs, because in Malaysia, I found a lot of methadone users are actually using crystal methamphetamine. You see? So, this is how the police want to look for a suspect or if they want to fulfill their KPI, Key Performance Indicators, they just go to the methadone clinic and pick anyone who is tested positive for ATS, Amphetamine Type Stimulants. So therefore, because of this fear, a lot of heroin users, they dislike participating in methadone treatment programs for those living in the rural areas because they don’t have transport. They’re always being arrested by the police. So they have a negative perception towards methadone treatment in the country. 

So they found why not? You can buy kratom from your community, use kratom, you don’t need to leave your community. You just stay within your community. You can go to work, you don’t need to rush to the methadone clinic every day in the morning to take your methadone supply.

You mentioned methamphetamine. Do you find that kratom helps people stop using that as well?

Yes. When I started doing research on kratom and the literature was saying that mitragynine has opioid-like properties, it has opioid-like effects. So that is why, as I said, heroin users in Malaysia, they’re not just using heroin. We’re having a big problem here with codependence. People are using heroin, also are using crystal methamphetamine. So we are having these dual disorders, meaning to say that they are suffering from two different types of dependence, substance use disorder, opioid and ATS use disorder. So what I did was in the past, I get to see heroin users using. But later, I get to see people who are dependent on heroin and amphetamine type stimulants using kratom to reduce their dependence on heroin as well as amphetamine type stimulants. So, this is what I’m actually seeing. So I’m also a bit curious. I keep telling to my colleagues in the lab, please do some kind of experiments to see whether there’s any alkaloid in kratom that has stimulant properties that it could be isolated and developed as medication for people who are dependent on amphetamine type stimulants.

As I said, when people consume kratom decoction as the juice, kratom helped to reduce heroin intake and methamphetamine intake. I can assure you this, and recently I’ve done a study, but I’m still writing it. I get to see about over 300 heroin users who are dependent on amphetamine type stimulants. I get to see them because I wanted to know where the kratom is being used to actually reduce heroin and ATS. And this is what I found from my preliminary findings. But I’m still writing the report. It could be out in the next two to three months, but yes, kratom can help reduce opioid and amphetamine type stimulants dependence. It helps to do something. They could reduce their intake.

I interviewed Dr. Marc Swogger and I talked to him about a study that showed that when they initiate kratom use, illicit drug users lower their risk behaviors around HIV. Does that have to do with the fact that they have an increased social functioning?

Of course. I also did another study recently with about 26 heroin users who tested positive for HIV, but that paper it’s still under review. And they reported using kratom. And they told me that kratom could actually help reduce their engagement, their involvement, risky HIV behaviors, like injecting practices. When they start using kratom, they don’t need to use heroin. They don’t need to inject heroin. They don’t need to share the injecting equipment. And if they were to engage in risky sexual behaviors, they are conscious. They are aware. And they know that they need to wear a condom. You see? So this is what I did recently, but in the past, in one of my studies, when I get to interview hundreds of heroin users, I get to see kratom could actually help reduce HIV risk behaviors. Kratom could be used as a harm reduction component. To help risky behaviors or HIV risk behaviors in opioid users. 

Does the increased social functioning of kratom users lead to a better public perception of kratom in Malaysia?

To tell you the truth, at present the community has negative perceptions towards kratom. As I see it, it all started from the media highlighting negative images about kratom. And another thing the community doesn’t know as much about kratom, the only thing that they know about kratom is that it’s drugs, [therefore] it’s harmful.

“I say kratom, it’s not a dangerous drug. It is not as dangerous as heroin and crystal meth. I don’t see kratom users engaging in criminal behaviors. I don’t see kratom users experiencing impairments in social functioning. They were all productive compared to heroin and ATS users. A kratom user doesn’t need to engage in crime, you see, and he doesn’t need to use kratom every day.”

So the, the press, the media, it’s not educating, they are not disseminating the right information to the community. The community should be educated. They should be educated, meaning to say that they should be given adequate information: that kratom is not harmful. I’ve been advocating this for a very long time.

I say kratom, it’s not a dangerous drug. It is not as dangerous as heroin and crystal meth. I don’t see kratom users engaging in criminal behaviors. I don’t see kratom users experiencing impairments in social functioning. They were all productive compared to heroin and ATS users. They always engage in crime. A kratom user doesn’t need to engage in crime. You see, and he doesn’t need to use kratom every day. So if he doesn’t have money, it is fine. It’s okay. But for heroin and ATS user, if I’m an addict, if I don’t have money, I have to commit crime. So the public or the community, or the general public in Malaysia, they don’t understand about kratom because as I say, the media has ruined kratom’s fate in Malaysia. They have sent out the wrong information and the community believes, oh, kratom is dangerous. So if we were to talk about, kratom could actually improve social functioning, it is a safe drug, nobody would actually believe us. It would take another five years to 10 years to educate the community that kratom is a herbal drug. It is not harmful. It is just like coffee.

So the problem is, you know, coffee is addictive. But you need to discipline yourself, you know that. Okay. One, maybe in the morning. I take one glass probably after two hours. I take another glass of coffee, maybe late evening, I take another glass of coffee. You know, your limit shouldn’t be more than three glasses per day. But as I say, kratom is used because it gives you so much of pleasure. It gives you so much of stimulant, a mixed effects of stimulant and sedative. You know, it just relaxes you, you feel good. You are not stressful. You are productive, you are energetic. So people continue to abuse kratom. When they abuse kratom, they develop dependence, and that is the only drawback, if you were to consume in large amount. 

In American it’s imported as a powder and we’ve heard from people who use lots and lots of powder. Is it consumed exclusively as a tea in Malaysia?

I would say kratom consumers in Malaysia – I’m not gonna talk about Thailand. I’m not gonna talk about other countries where it’s available, but in Malaysia, users buy, ingest, pure juice, meaning to say. If the cut leaf is really getting older, maybe about 10 days old, 15 days old, 30 days old, it is fresh. It is freshly plucked from the tree and it’s being boiled. And within five to six hours, it is being sold in the community, though it is illegal, but people can buy fresh kratom juice and kratom juice is consumed fresh. So that is why you don’t see people developing all kind of side effects from kratom use, no such thing. 

But the sad part in America is the product is coming in from Indonesia. Okay? Indonesia is the biggest global producer of kratom. Now we also have a lot of kratom trafficking activities that is occurring along our Malaysia/Thai border because the Americans are so obsessed. They like Malaysia, they like Thai kratom, leaves from Thailand. But to tell you the truth, there is no kratom trees in Thailand. Thailand has legalized for medicine purposes, but there is no trees. If they were to plant trees, it’ll take another five to six years for them to harvest. So, kratom that is coming into America, consumers are being cheated. Consumers are being misled. They are being made to believe that the plant is coming from Thailand. Nor is it coming from Malaysia. So the problem is we would not know how long it takes for the material to arrive in America in the form of powder. 

And when it goes into America, people are actually adulterating products. They are adding all kind of funny, funny substances, harmful substances, and these vendors or traders on the internet, they come up with all kind of marketing gimmicks. They say it is good for this. It is good for that. It is all nonsense. It is all pure rubbish. So that is why the American Kratom Association is actually coming up with this proper kratom act. So that you people get to use high quality or genuine kratom products. 

“When it goes into America, people are actually adulterating products…When it arrives to you, the product could be one year old. And then when you start using it for the first one month, you find, it is really helping me. But after one month you start developing all kind of medical problems. And then you go to the hospital in America and the doctor there, he says, this is interesting, let’s report about kratom!”

The powder that is coming into America could be three months old, could be four months old, could be five months old. It is not fresh. It is not fresh. We will not know what is actually happening. And then it’s being modified. It is being adulterated. And then when it arrives to you, the product could be six months old. The product could be one year old. And then when you start using it for the first three days, for the first one week for the first one month, you find, oh, it is good. It is really helping me. But after one month you start developing all kind of medical problems. And then you go to the hospital in America to the emergency room and the doctor there, he says, this is interesting, you know, let’s report about kratom! Kratom can cause liver problems, kratom can cause psychosis, kratom can cause mental health problems. It is ridiculous. We don’t get to see all this happening in Malaysia.

There’s a couple of studies about cholesterol. The one study involved 77 kratom consumers. It showed that their cholesterol levels went up and then there was another study that showed no change. Do you think kratom affects cholesterol at all?

Okay, let me just explain to you that study. I wanted to actually see whether long-term kratom use could actually cause toxicity, whether it could actually alter biochemical or hematology parameters in kratom users. So I was very curious to actually identify what is actually happening. ‘Cause everyone is reporting long-term consumption is not a problem. But it was so difficult for me to draw blood from 77 people because they keep asking, “Why are you drawing blood? What are you looking at?” So I told them, “I want to see where the long term use could actually alter biochemical parameters.”

So when I draw the blood, it was sent to a lab and then we analyzed it. We found it does not alter biochemical parameters, except it elevates or increases this lipid profile, these cholesterol levels. But to tell you the truth, you know, not to forget we cannot put the blame on kratom, that kratom is actually causing cholesterol to increase. It could be other dietary factors. It could be other physical inactivity. So that is what I said. There could be other factors that have actually caused the lipid profiles to go high in kratom users. 

Then in another study I did, I found there’s no significant differences between healthy control and kratom users. Maybe in this population of kratom users because it was done in a different setting, in a different location. So the newer study we found there’s no significant differences in the lipid profile probably could be attributed to kratom users [being] all hardworking people. They go and, after using cause the men are laborers. So after they use kratom, they go and sweat out, so they have good health. So in this new study, I found there is no elevation in lipid profile.

So it is too early for us to make a conclusion to say that if I use kratom for prolonged periods, there’s a possibility of me experiencing elevation in my lipid profile, and in the long run, I could develop cardiovascular problems. So we have not investigated all that.

We just did a study recently to see whether long term kratom use could actually cause cardiotoxicity or not, because in the animal studies, it shows that mitragynine is cardiotoxic. So I did a recent study, but that report is under review right now. So if it gets published, it’ll be very interesting. Then you will get to know whether kratom could cause cardiovascular problems or not.

There’s been studies that have shown kratom might have affected a few people in the liver. And there’s been other studies that showed that hasn’t.

When many case studies started to appear from America, you know, there’s a lot of case studies coming on from America, showing that people who use kratom, they develop all kind of bizarre or awkward liver disorders. So I was a bit skeptical. So therefore, I decided to actually do a blood test and I found that kratom does not impair liver parameters. I’ve been talking to my kratom users – we do a lot of experiments on users. I have not any single case or any single patient of mine saying that, you know, Dr. Darshan, I’ve been using kratom and have actually developed liver problems. No, I’ve not seen that, but I’m a bit surprised why Americans who use kratom in America develop all kind of bizarre liver-related disorders. So I would not know why. Maybe it could be due to the powder, because as I said, in Malaysia, people are consuming kratom juice in the form of juice. It’s an herbal tea. You see? So in America, people are actually diluting kratom powder in warm water or in cold water. So we would not know whether the powder is being diluted properly or not. So that needs further investigation.

I’ve even heard from people that said it caused hair loss. Have you ever heard that?

No. I’ve never come across anyone. I can prove to you. I have been working with kratom users who have been using kratom for 40 years, 50 years. I see they have a lot of hair on their head. I’ve not heard, “My hair is falling because of kratom.” No such thing. The reason for the hair falling could actually be related to the use of adulterated kratom products.

That makes sense. And that’s why we really do want that consumer protection act to be passed here. 

And, we’ve heard from kratom consumers that they don’t get better effects with higher doses. Can you comment on that?

Looking at the base of consumers’ experiences in Malaysia. Just say, for example, if I want to start using kratom today, I will usually start using kratom in smaller quantities. When you consume kratom in smaller quantities, it normally provides you a mixture of sedative and stimulant. But the stimulant effects become more profound after about one hour or probably two hours. So in small amounts at the very beginning, after about 10 to 15 minutes, you experience two types of effects, sedative and stimulant.

But as I said, the stimulant effects become more profound. So what happened is they begin to develop tolerance. So they start liking the stimulant properties. They start using more kratom, so in the long run, maybe, after using for about one month, from half a glass towards the end of the 30 days period, they start consuming one full glass. So they still get to experience the stimulant properties. But as I say, if they continue to take more kratom, the intake of kratom will actually increase from one half a glass to one glass, one and a half to two glass, three glass. So maybe after about four to five months, they already know that, I just don’t like these effects because I’m consuming too much of kratom. It is no longer providing me the stimulant properties and I have to reduce the intake of kratom. 

So over time you get to see there’s a significant reduction in kratom intake. So I started with half a glass. I progress to one in the half, two plus three plus, but then maybe after four months after five months, I feel that kratom is no longer providing me the stimulant properties. It is giving me more sedative effects. And I don’t really like the sedative effects. So you get to see there’s a reduction in kratom intake. 

But as I say, it depends on the circumstances. Today I’m actually depressed. Oh, I’m stressed, and I know that if I consume kratom in larger amounts, it might provide me the sedative effects.

So, you get to see people in the local community here. Some days, maybe towards the weekend, I want to relax. I’m not working, so they consume more kratom to experience the sedative effects. But on a working day, they just take very small amount of kratom for its stimulant properties. So, this is what I get to see happening in my kratom users in Malaysia. 

In one of your questions, you did mention whether [you could] compare alcohol withdrawal effects, heroin withdrawal effects, with kratom effects.

Yes.

If you were to abruptly abstain from heroin use, it is so, so painful. It is unbearable. Alcohol is even worse. It is even worse, the withdrawal, but if somebody wants to abstain from kratom consumption, there’s a pattern. You just cannot stop over. You have to gradually reduce kratom intake. But as I said, unless you are being caught or you have to travel somewhere and you have been addicted to kratom, you’ve got no chance to use kratom, then the withdrawal could be a bit unbearable, but the withdrawal would only last for about two to three days, and then it just disappears after that. So if you were to compare between heroin and alcohol and kratom withdrawal, kratom withdrawal is much less intense, or less severe than heroin withdrawal and alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Do you find that a lot of opiate addicts take kratom and opiates together, or do they quit the opiates first and then introduce kratom when they’re experiencing withdrawal?

No such thing. To tell you the truth, when I saw your question, you [asked] me whether is it safe? Is someone who is addicted to heroin or using opioids or morphine and they co-administer? It is safe. I’ve not seen any problems because I work with heroin users in the community. All of them are still using heroin, still using morphine, still using opioids. They still use kratom. I have not seen them experiencing any adverse effects when they combine and use it. 

But as I say, what happens is like, just say now I use heroin. Or maybe this morning, I didn’t have money to buy heroin. I start using kratom first. And then in the afternoon, when I have my withdrawal, I have some money. I want to use heroin. I use heroin. So there’s no problem. Or just said after using heroin, maybe after about half hour or 20 minutes, I just felt like, you know, the heroin is not giving me adequate high. You know, maybe if I use more kratom, it could actually intensify my euphoria. There’s a possibility.

Do a lot of doctors in Malaysia know about kratom, and do they even recommend it to some of their patients?

Most of the addiction doctors are doctors that are trained, to opioid dependents, or people with substance use disorder, they have very little knowledge about kratom, only that kratom has similar opioid-like properties. So therefore just say, for example, a kratom addict, he wants to abstain, he goes to see a general practitioner or addiction specialist. So normally what they do is they try to use opioid-based therapy, such as methadone or buprenorphine, you know, just to help them reduce the intensity of kratom withdrawal. This is what the medical doctors are doing, but I would not know exactly how they treat kratom users, but as I say, there is no need for a kratom user to go and see a GP or a medical doctor to seek treatment. Because as I said, they have their own traditional methods of coming up from kratom addiction to address or to appease or to alleviate kratom withdrawal symptoms.

Where, where do you see kratom in the future? Do you see it being in the medical system as a way to maybe help people get off of harder drugs?

Now you get to see kratom is becoming very, very popular, widely used in America, widely used in Europe, meaning to say it is a magic plant. It is doing something. It is actually helping people. It is helping to address the opioid crisis in the United States of America.

“If we can do great work to prove to the world that kratom is a safe alternative to opioids, kratom in years to come will be the mainstay for pain treatment and the mainstay for opioid [addiction] treatment”

But there are not many scientists who are doing good. Government agencies are not giving us adequate resources, adequate funds to carry out research and all these giant pharmaceutical companies, they know that kratom is a magic plant, but they don’t want to do anything on kratom. You know, there could be some kind of conspiracy, there could be some kind of propaganda, you know, to just paint a negative picture about kratom. Everyone talks about, oh, kratom is dangerous, kratom is harmful, but they fail to understand that heroin and crystal meth abuse is more dangerous and more harmful. So as I said, not many people are doing good research on kratom, so therefore kratom is not getting the right attention.

But to tell you the truth, if we can actually get dedicated researchers in America, working with Malaysian counterparts, if we can do great work to prove to the world that kratom is a safe alternative to opioids, kratom in years to come will be the mainstay for pain treatment and the mainstay for opioid treatment.

But as I said, there are many players out there who are trying to destroy kratom. And then not many people are aware and know and understand about kratom. I also sympathize with kratom consumers in America, those who are dependent on opioids, when they start buying the wrong product, start using kratom and they develop all kind of negative side effects. There’s also a possibility of them saying negative or bad things about kratom.

So now I think there’s a need for researchers, the global community, the global research community to come together, discuss and see what else we should do together collectively to show or to prove scientifically that kratom is a safe alternative to opioids. We need to do that because we know there are many people behind there – I got no right to talk about FDA, but I can talk in Malaysia. You have all these regulatory agencies, their main aim is, oh, destroy kratom regulate it, ban it. It is a harmful drug. 

I always tell them, “So you are saying kratom is much more dangerous than heroin than crystal meth?” They could not answer, but they say, “Yes, it is equally dangerous.” But I say as a researcher, I think kratom is very safe. I don’t see people dying because of kratom. I don’t see kratom users engaging in crime. No problem. I see an improvement in social functioning. No problem.

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