University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Pharmacotherapy for Management of ‘Kratom Use Disorder’: A Systematic Literature Review With Survey of Experts

Cornel Stanciu, MD, MRO; Saeed Ahmed, MD; Bryan Hybki, MD; Thomas Penders, MS, MD; David Galbis-Reig, MD

WMJ. 2021;120(1):54-61.

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Objectives: An increasing number of Americans are turning to kratom for self-management of various pain, anxiety, and mood states and as an opioid substitute. Addiction to this unique botanical develops and carries a high relapse risk and, to date, there are no guidelines on how to maintain long-term abstinence. The aim of this article is to compile all available information on management of “kratom use disorder” (KUD)—as coined here—from the literature, with evidence from the clinical practice of expert addictionologists in an attempt to develop a standard of care consensus.

Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted to capture all relevant cases pertaining to maintenance treatment for KUD. Results were supplemented with case reports and scientific posters gleaned from reliable online sources and conference proceedings. Additionally, a survey of members of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) was administered to assess the practice patterns of experts who treat patients with KUD in isolation of a comorbid opioid use disorder (OUD).

Results: Based on a literature review, 14 reports exist of long-term management of KUD, half of which do not involve a comorbid OUD. Pharmacological modalities utilized include mostly buprenorphine but also a few cases of naltrexone and methadone, all with favorable outcomes. This is supported by the results of the expert survey, which demonstrated that those who have managed KUD in isolation of a comorbid OUD reported having utilized buprenorphine (89.5%), as well as the other medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD).

Conclusions: This is the first comprehensive review to examine the existing literature referring to management of KUD in combination with a survey of current experts’ clinical consensus regarding pharmacological management. Based on this information, it seems reasonable that the indication for MOUD should be extended to cases of moderate to severe KUD.

Author Affiliations: Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine, Hanover, NH (Stanciu); New Hampshire Hospital, Concord, NH (Stanciu); Rutland Regional Medical Center, Rutland, VT (Ahmed); Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH (Hybki); Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC (Penders); Walter B Jones Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center, Greenville, NC (Penders); Ascension All Saints Hospital, Racine, Wis (Galbis-Reig).
Corresponding Author: David Galbis-Reig, MD, DFASAM, Medical Director of Addiction Services, Ascension Wisconsin Healthcare – All Saints, 1320 Wisconsin Ave, Racine, WI 53403; email; ORCID ID 0000-0003-2919-2854.
Acknowledgements: The authors would like to acknowledge the contribution made by Karen Goodman, MSLIS, MA; Medical Librarian Dorothy M. Breene Memorial Library at New Hampshire Hospital, as well as Elizabeth Jenkins, MS(LIS), Education and Information Services Librarian at Boston University Alumni Medical Library for their assistance with the literature search and procurement of articles needed for this review.
Funding/Support: None declared.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
Appendices: Available at
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