Mac Haddow of the American Kratom Association with a speech balloon that says "No euphoria!"

Kratom Isn’t Euphoric, Says Mac Haddow of the American Kratom Association

The American Kratom Association’s Senior Fellow on Public Policy, Mac Haddow, recently said that kratom doesn’t provide a “euphoric reinforcing high.”

Haddow made the claim during an interview with YouTuber Allie Severino, during which the two discussed the politics and science surrounding the plant. “If you’re using pure kratom, you will not get a euphoric reinforcing high like you do with drugs,” Haddow said. “It just won’t happen.”

In the past, Haddow has also stated that kratom isn’t euphoric at all. In a 2019 Detroit Free Press article, he asserted, “[kratom] does not create any euphoric effect. None. If you’re getting a euphoric effect from kratom, you’re getting an adulterated product. You’re getting kratom that’s been cut with something else.”

But Haddow’s statements run contrary to recent kratom research. In a 2012 review of kratom literature, Prozialeck et al. stated that “Opioid-like effects, such as … euphoria … are typically associated with the use of moderate-high doses of kratom (5-15 g),” although these effects were less intense compared to opium and opioids. (Prozialeck et al., 2012, pg 796)

Christopher McCurdy, Ph.D., a prominent kratom researcher whose work Haddow frequently cites, has also illuminated kratom’s euphoric effects. In a study published in 2008, McCurdy and others tested the receptor binding profile of mitragynine, one of kratom’s primary alkaloids. They found that mitragynine interacts with Dopamine D2 receptors, which McCurdy himself later noted are “involved in drug abuse [and] drug euphoria” during a talk (46:45).

The binding profile of kratom alkaloid mitragynine
The kratom alkaloid mitragynine binds to Dopamine D2 receptors, which modulate mood and reinforce behaviour

In addition to euphoria, the Dopamine D2 receptors also influence how we seek pleasure. One researcher defined the receptors as “… [mediators] of experience-induced, drug-seeking, and relapse behaviors.” (Baik, 2013)

Haddow stated that kratom doesn’t have a “euphoric reinforcing high,” but kratom’s interaction with these receptors suggests otherwise. The plant’s reinforcing effect isn’t inherently bad, nor is it necessarily surprising. After all, the Dopamine D2 receptors are also responsible for reinforcing our desire to eat. (Baik, 2013)

Kratom’s mood-boosting effects are so prevalent that the plant could be a candidate for treating mood disorders. In 2020, one team stated that kratom “… has affinity to serotonin and dopamine receptors, signaling its potential for treating depression, anxiety, and psychosis.” (Johnson et al., 2020)

Haddow’s claim is also at odds with the experiences of kratom users, who frequently report experiencing “euphoria” and “increased mood.” Many of these experiences were documented in Dr. Henningfield’s 8 Factor analysis, which can be viewed online. (PinneyAssociates, 2016) Similarly, 30.4% of kratom users reported experiencing euphoria in a qualitative study published in 2015. (Swogger et al.)