Many of Kratom's medicinal consumers use the botanical for pain caused by one or more conditions, but some of these same people also are afflicted with epilepsy and seizures from brain injuries, such as chiari malformation. In chatting online with a group of these folks, their opinion is that Kratom does not make their condition worse and some say they have had no more seizures since they began taking Kratom.
Many Mainstream Medical Professionals Say Kratom Is Associated with or "Causes" Seizures -- So, What are We to Believe?
I will be the first to admit that the positive testimonials I have heard are the unverified personal experiences of Kratom consumers. This data was gathered from a small group of folks who have had seizures. I make no claim that this is proof of Kratom's safety and it is certainly not advice for anyone to base a decision whether they or a family member should take Kratom, especially if they have had seizures in the past.
Having said all this, I did look at several of the published, peer-reviewed studies, based on which the FDA, DEA, and others claim that Kratom causes seizures -- and I found several of these studies to be very sloppy science.
My impression, from reading many of the studies that have been done on Mitragyna speciosa, is that most have been either looking to find useful alkaloids which may be turned into pharmaceutical drugs OR they are looking into cases where one or a few people have been harmed, purportedly by their use of Kratom.
It is in this latter group of studies where I found some very dubious claims that Kratom was actually the probable cause of their seizures. To make things worse, other studies have listed these flawed studies as references -- as if because a person who had been taking Kratom for chronic pain and then had a seizure when he added a large dose of Datura (which is known to cause seizures, by itself), Kratom was the cause of the seizure! In fact, the whole episode of seizures in this subject were blamed in the study abstract on Kratom, alone! No mention was made of the Datura (Jimson Weed) that was taken in addition to the Kratom. (See below.)
"A 64-year-old male was found at home by his wife unconscious and seizing. Shortly before the event, the patient had ingested a tea made with Kratom and Datura stramonium. His past medical history included a colostomy repair 1 month prior as well as chronic pain and depression managed with amitriptyline, oxycodone, and Kratom. His social history was significant for alcohol and tobacco use."
In another well-known case, a man -- who had used Kratom to wean himself off injecting a large dose of Dilaudid daily for pain -- then took Modafinil, a prescription stimulant nootropic, and had a seizure. This study has now been used as a reference for other studies that claim to prove that "Kratom causes seizures".
Most Medical Research Is Designed to Please Those Who Fund It
There is a bias by the authors of these reports, which leads them to dramatize the negatives in order to have their report published and perhaps widely discussed. No attention is paid to studying the millions of users who are receiving amazing positive benefits in ending their dependency on prescription drugs and illicit drugs, such as heroin.
Likewise, no mention is made of the superior pain control and functionality of the many chronic pain patients who feel as if "Kratom gave them their life back" after weaning themselves from 5-15 opioids, antidepressants, muscle relaxers, and anxiolytic drugs. Kratom gets little credit in most medical studies for the amazing contributions it has made.
Much of the reason for this bias is that most of the funding for scientific research comes from either the pharmaceutical companies or from the federal government, neither of which view Kratom with affection.
Misinformation is rife in these studies. Even a layperson, with little or no scientific training can see that a seizure that takes place after the subject drinks a tea made from both Kratom and Datura does not prove that Kratom, by itself, will also cause seizures -- and yet, this is the implication in the report and it gets published that way.
Likewise, a seizure that occurred after a subject who had been using Kratom for pain control decided to add the prescription stimulant nootropic Modafinil, is also listed as evidence that "Kratom causes seizures".
On the Other Hand...
Kratom consumers with epilepsy or other seizure-causing illnesses seem generally comfortable taking the risk of using Kratom for pain control, rather than oxycodone or other brain-fogging opioid drugs.
Of the small, self-selecting group who were kind enough to share their interest and concerns about Kratom and seizure with me, several had weaned themselves off all meds except for their anticonvulsant drug(s).
Several have experienced no new seizures -- or at least, no Grand Mal seizures -- since initiating Kratom use.
Below is a quote from a doctor, remarking about the possibility that anxiety and stress might be factors in bringing on seizures. Could Kratom's use in relieving anxiety actually be helpful in preventing seizures?
"Neurologists should determine whether there is an underlying depression or anxiety disorder in patients convinced that stress is driving their epilepsy because this could very well be the case, according to results of a study carried out by Michael Privitera, MD, professor, and director, Cincinnati Epilepsy Center, University of Cincinnati, and his colleagues."
One thing you should understand about the publishing of scientific research in recent years: It isn't just a matter of reporting of the "facts"; it is a politically-influenced process. Because Kratom has been declared by our government agencies as a "substance of concern" and a "drug of abuse", the majority of the research will be designed and presented in such a way that will confirm that way of looking at this plant.
Because the FDA and DEA have serious concerns about the safety and efficacy of Kratom for any purpose, and nearly all of the research is funded by either our government or the pharmaceutical industry, most research has been devoted to finding the few, rare cases where someone using Kratom suffered harm -- even if another substance was present -- and Kratom gets all the blame. We see this clearly evident in two out of the three studies that come up when we look for information in PubMed.gov on the subject of "mitragyna speciosa and seizure".
There is no attempt made to step back and consider what "the Big Numbers" are telling us about how few medical issues are experienced by the millions of people worldwide who consume Kratom. There is no consideration of the seizures had by millions of people who have never even heard of Kratom, much less consumed any.
There are no studies to answer why some epileptics who used to have one seizure a week, have had no more seizures since taking Kratom. Why not?
Doesn't Good News About Kratom and Seizure Count?
Not surprisingly, I have seen no studies that show that some epileptics who regularly consume Kratom to control anxiety or pain have fewer seizures. Do they or don't they? We don't know because that's not politically acceptable information. Those funding the majority of the studies have no interest in seeing any benefit in Mitragyna speciosa, unless it can be turned into a drug for safer pain control or as a drug to help overcome drug addiction.
So, with that understanding of the process for what research gets published, let's look at the final study where they found an association of Kratom use and seizures. Here, again, the evidence is skewed toward the extreme negative: All patients were referred to the Rathimabodi Poison Center and were there because they had suffered Kratom "poisoning" or they were going through Kratom "withdrawal".
So, over the course of five years, 78 people were found to be having so much trouble managing their Kratom consumption that they had to be hospitalized for treatment. Of these, 26 were excluded bcause they were taking other substances that might account for some or all of their difficulties. Of the remaining 52, 40 were in treatment due to Kratom "poisoning", and out of these 40, 7 were said to have had seizures.
Little is known, except what they volunteered about their drug use and other medical history. This is suspect because the police might be notified if they admitted to other drug usage.
Here is what the study said: "For the cause of seizure in our study, two of them reported taking only Kratom; the others took Kratom in combined with other substances. Since codeine and cola beverage rarely induce seizure, the authors propose that seizure may be caused by Kratom, and considered as a manifestation of Kratom toxicity. Though it was not observed in an acute toxicity of rodent study (Harizal et al. 2010), the pharmacology, action, clinical effect, and toxicity in rats and humans may be different."
What is left out of this account is a more complete assessment of what goes into a popular homemade drink called 4X100 (Four times 100), which contains Kratom tea, plus cola drink, cough syrup, which may include dextromethorphan and/or benzodiazepines, as well as codeine. No mention was made here of the dextromethorphan or the possibility of benzodiazepine side effects or withdrawal(which is known to cause seizures).
Here's a quote from a Transnational Institute report that mentions some of the odd substances that may be in 4X100:
"Most recently, the discrimination has come especially from increasingly conservative elements within both the Buddhist and Muslim communities paralleled by an increasing volume of media attention related to supposed cocktail additives such as benzodiazepines, powder from fluorescent tubes, powdered mosquito coils, road paint, pesticides, ashes from dead bodies, and other substances found in the local environment to ‘enhance’ the effect of the cocktail."
So, my point here is that this last published medical study is very uncontrolled -- and therefore, unscientific -- which is to say, it proves very little about what Kratom by itself is likely to do in normal, well-fed, moderately educated people in a developed country. No drug testing was done to see what metabolites might still remain in the systems of those who were committed for treatment. We are asked to believe that they had only taken Kratom or 4X100 (which might have contained other psychoactive ingredients that could contribute to seizures). To leave patients, parents, and family members with some useful information from a doctor who uses medical nutrition to treat epilepsy, here are some recommendations from Joel Wallach, ND, DVM: "Vitamin B-6 alone will frequently "cure" epilepsy at 50-100mg t.i.d.(three times a day)calcium/magnesium at 2000mg/1000mg per day, folic acid at 15-25mg/day, B-12 at 1000mcg/day IM (intramuscularly), manganese at 50mg/day, zinc at 50mg t.i.d., essential fatty acids at 5 grams t.i.d., choline at 5 grams per day, taurine at 500mg t.i.d., and dimethyl glycine at 100mg twice a day." This is quoted from the book Let's Play Doctor, by Dr. Wallach and his wife, Chinese microsurgeon Ma Lan, MD, MS.
Please read this account of the prevalence of fraudulent research funded by the pharmaceutical drug industry and their sympathizers(who may have a financial interest) embedded in the FDA and NIH.
In the final analysis, we're all taking a chance no matter what we do. Many in the American public are judging for themselves what they believe is safer for them, based on the track record of Kratom vs. the track record (and known side-effects) of pharmaceutical drugs. However, it is always wise to obtain medical advice from a qualified medical professional when deciding whether to mix herbs and pharmaceuticals in the treatment of your illness.