Kratom has surged in popularity in recent years due to its ability to provide stimulant and opioid-like effects. This natural herb is typically consumed orally by drinking it in tea, mixing the powder into a beverage, or swallowing it in capsule form.
However, some users have begun exploring alternative methods of taking kratom, including snorting the powder nasally or even smoking the leaves. While perceived as quicker routes of administration, snorting and smoking kratom can be harmful and are not recommended.
Kratom powder is made from the dried and ground leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa tree native to Southeast Asia. In traditional cultures, kratom leaves have been chewed or brewed into tea for their mild stimulant and analgesic effects.
When taken orally in responsible amounts, kratom is generally considered safe with minimal side effects and low risk of serious complications. However, some have begun misusing kratom in ways never intended, including insufflation (snorting) and inhalation (smoking).
Snorting kratom is a relatively new practice that attempts to achieve faster onset and enhanced effects compared to oral ingestion. Unfortunately, this leads many users down a slippery slope of dependence, addiction, and long-term health consequences that could be avoided by sticking to traditional, responsible methods of use.
Why Would Someone Snort Kratom Powder?
Those who snort lines of kratom powder do so under the assumption it will produce a faster, more intense high than consuming it orally. Snorting drugs do allow them to enter the bloodstream rapidly by absorbing through the mucous membranes in the nasal passages. This leads to a faster onset of effects.
With certain drugs like prescription painkillers or cocaine, insufflation can produce a quick, powerful high as large amounts reach the brain within minutes.
People looking to abuse kratom for its opiate-like properties may turn to snorting with the same goal in mind to experience a rush or high immediately after use.
However, kratom is not chemically an opioid and does not produce the same high or intensity of effects. Due to the insolubility of kratom powder, only a small amount of the alkaloids are actually absorbed nasally.
The majority simply remain trapped in the nasal cavities without entering the bloodstream. For this reason, snorting kratom leads to considerable irritation without much gain.
The Science of Inhalation
Both snorting and smoking kratom are methods of inhalation intended to deliver the active compounds rapidly into the body. However, the science indicates that kratom’s pharmacology is not well suited for being inhaled effectively.
When kratom is consumed orally through food and drink, the alkaloids pass through the digestive system and enter the bloodstream via the small intestines. This allows a high percentage of the alkaloids present to ultimately reach circulation and produce effects.
On the other hand, when drugs are inhaled through the nose or lungs, they must be soluble in order to be absorbed into the mucous membranes. Kratom’s main active alkaloids, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, are not water-soluble.
As a result, only a small fraction of those alkaloids will actually get absorbed when sniffed into the nasal cavities. The water-insolubility also makes it difficult for the compounds to be absorbed efficiently when smoked. Most of the kratom simply ends up stuck in nasal passages or exhaled without entering the bloodstream.
In the end, kratom is best suited for oral ingestion rather than insufflation or inhalation for effective absorption. Attempting to snort or smoke kratom leads to much of the powder being wasted. The risks and side effects end up outweighing the minimal benefits.
Is Kratom a Controlled Substance?
Currently, kratom is legal in most U.S. states and classified as a dietary ingredient and herbal supplement. However, a handful of states have banned kratom possession and use, including Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin. More states are considering regulating or banning kratom products.
At the federal level, kratom remains legal but is a drug of concern. The FDA has not approved kratom for any medical purposes and warns of its potential for abuse, addiction, and side effects, including the development of kratom tolerance. The DEA previously proposed banning kratom but withdrew scheduling following backlash.
While technically legal at this time, kratom’s status is the subject of great debate. Practices like snorting and smoking that make it appear more like an illicit drug contribute to the case for greater regulation. Irresponsible use also spurs negative public perceptions of kratom.
With regular use, whether taken orally or through inhalation, kratom can lead to dependence in some individuals. Dependence occurs when neurological adaptations in the body result in symptoms of withdrawal when kratom use suddenly stops. Warning signs of kratom dependence include:
- Need to take it daily to avoid withdrawal
- Building tolerance requiring higher doses
- Inability to cut back or quit using kratom
- Spending excessive time, energy, and money acquiring kratom
- Persistent desire to continue using kratom
Dependence can develop with oral kratom use when taken multiple times per day, every single day. Snorting or smoking may accelerate this process by delivering concentrated amounts rapidly to the brain. However, any long-term kratom use can increase dependency risk.
Smoking and Snorting Kratom
Techniques for abusing kratom continue to evolve, going far beyond traditional tea preparations:
- Involves crushing kratom leaves or powder into a fine powder
- Arranging powder into lines and insufflating through the nose
- Attempts to absorb mitragynine and 7-OHM quickly through nasal membranes
- Drying and rolling kratom leaves into cigarettes or joints
- Placing powder on top of weed or tobacco and smoking it
- Attempts to absorb alkaloids rapidly through lung tissue
Using extracts or resins in e-cigarettes or vape pens
These methods deliver kratom to the brain much faster than drinking tea or swallowing capsules. But the risks outweigh any perceived benefit for recreational users.
Effects of Snorting Kratom
Snorting kratom does produce some effects like a mild stimulation and mood lift, but usually much less pronounced compared to oral ingestion. Unwanted side effects of insufflation are much more notable:
- Burning pain and irritation of nasal passages and throat
- Runny nose, watery eyes, coughing or choking sensation
- Temporary loss of sense of smell
- Sinus inflammation and increased infection risk
- Nasal damage and scarring of mucosal membranes
- Discoloration of nasal membranes
Due to poor water solubility, much of the powder ends up trapped inside the nose even just 30-60 minutes after snorting. This irritates the sensitive mucosal tissues but does not effectively get absorbed into the blood.
Overall, snorting kratom leads to significant discomfort without providing the rapid, intense high that some users are seeking.
Are the Effects of Inhaling Kratom as Intense as Eating It?
Based on pharmacology and user reports, the effects of snorting or smoking kratom do not appear to be intensified versus oral consumption. On the contrary, most evidence shows oral ingestion results in the most complete absorption and experience:
- Stomach acids help break down alkaloid material
- Intestinal absorption into the bloodstream is highly efficient
- Effects manifest within 30-45 minutes but last for several hours
- Most alkaloids remain intact and available via digestion
Whereas with inhalation methods:
- Much lower percentage of available alkaloids get absorbed
- Any effects occur immediately but last only 1-2 hours
- Higher doses are needed to try compensating for poor absorption
- More side effects manifest while desired effects are muted
For these reasons, experienced kratom consumers overwhelmingly report that oral consumption leads to the most favorable experience, avoiding the drawbacks of attempting to snort or smoke.
A Common Practice? Yes or No.
Within the broader kratom community, the practices of smoking or snorting powder appear to be quite limited. The majority of responsible users stick to traditional oral ingestion methods to avoid possible health risks.
A recent survey of over 3,000 kratom consumers found:
- Over 90% ingest kratom orally via powder, capsules, or tea
- Less than 1% reported ever attempting to smoke or inhale kratom
- The main reasons given for avoiding inhalation were futility and safety concerns
While not entirely unheard of, snorting and smoking kratom are clearly fringe activities avoided by most people who use kratom responsibly. The lack of any real benefit combined with elevated risks deters many from even considering it.
However, rates of inhalation may be higher within certain subpopulations, like those with opioid abuse disorders or people using kratom in unstudied ways specifically to get high. Such reckless use gives kratom a bad reputation when most consumers respect traditional, safe practices.
Long-Term Dangers of Snorting Kratom
Any long-term kratom use comes with some inherent risks, including dependence and withdrawal. But snorting introduces unique health hazards:
Chronic Nasal Problems
Repeated insufflation can damage the nasal cavity and sinus tissues over time:
- Chronic stuffed up or runny nose
- Frequent sinus infections
- Postnasal drip and throat irritation
- Crusting, ulcers, lesions inside the nose
- Loss of sense of smell
- Nasal passage injury or hole in septum
Frequent snorting eats away at the nasal lining and alters mucosa structure. This leaves the nose vulnerable to infection and can destroy tissues governing smell.
Powder trapped in nasal passages can enter the lungs and cause complications:
Increased risk of pneumonia or bronchitis
Chronic cough, chest congestion, or wheezing
Upper respiratory infections
Even occasional use poses inhalation risks from residual powder making its way into airways.
Addiction and Withdrawal
Frequent snorting or smoking may accelerate addiction pathways in the brain and body. This leads to increased risks of:
- Faster tolerance building, needing higher doses
- More severe psychological dependence
- Heightened opioid-like withdrawal symptoms
The rapid onset alters the brain’s reward pathways, creating a rush-like high. But it also builds dependence much faster than oral administration.
In summary, attempting to inhale kratom not only causes short-term adverse effects, but it could lead to chronic medical issues that impact respiratory function and long-term health.
Kratom Overdose Risks
There have been no confirmed cases of lethal kratom overdose on its own, but dangers increase when mixing with other substances. Snorting or smoking kratom may heighten certain overdose risks:
Inhaled kratom paired with other central nervous system depressants like benzodiazepines, alcohol, or opioids could lead to dangerously slowed breathing. Snorting amplifies this risk by rapidly delivering large amounts.
In rare cases, kratom use has been tied to seizure activity. Inhaling kratom quickly could spike alkaloid blood levels, making seizures more likely for those predisposed.
High doses of kratom may lead to psychological side effects like hallucinations, delusions, or confusion. The rapid onset from snorting further increases chances of temporary psychosis.
Though rare, kratom does carry certain risks that are only amplified by improvised administration techniques like insufflation.
Kratom Addiction and Withdrawal
Persistent kratom abuse via any method can lead to addiction. But the compulsive use and withdrawal seen with snorting or smoking tend to be more severe. Warning signs include:
- Inability to stop using kratom despite negative consequences
- Spending significant money and time to obtain more kratom
- Showing irritability, anxiety, or cravings when effects wear off
- Transitioning to stronger doses or more frequent use
Attempting to quit causes a cluster of withdrawal symptoms:
- Muscle aches, pains, tremors, stiffness
- Hot and cold flashes, excessive sweating
- Agitation, restlessness, insomnia
- Runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- High blood pressure, fast heart rate
In most cases, withdrawal peaks within 2-4 days and subsides over 1-2 weeks. But psychological cravings may persist for some time. Supportive care and therapy facilitate recovery.
Getting Help for Kratom Abuse
If you believe you have a problem with kratom abuse or addiction, it’s important to seek professional help. Numerous treatment centers now offer customized programs for kratom withdrawal and recovery:
Supervised detox involves medicines and therapies to manage withdrawal safely and comfortably as kratom leaves the system. Detox typically lasts 5-7 days.
Extensive counseling helps identify root causes of substance abuse. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational enhancement therapy (MET), and family dynamics counseling are commonly used.
To prevent relapse, aftercare plans provide ongoing support through alumni groups, sober living homes, individual counseling, and other services. Long-term lifestyle changes are key.
With customized treatment, even severe cases of kratom addiction can be overcome successfully. The sooner you seek help, the easier it is to get your life back on track.
Kratom itself carries some risks, but attempts to smoke or snort the powder amplify those risks tremendously. The practice provides little added benefit for most users while inviting short and long-term health hazards.
Responsible kratom use comes down to employing traditional, studied preparation methods like tea or measured powder ingestion. Anything beyond that should raise serious red flags. For your own safety and that of the broader kratom community, it’s best to avoid improvised practices like insufflation or smoking.