I Drank Kratom Tea, Thailand's Illegal "Herbal Heroin"

You really shouldn’t buy drugs from the Internet.

Well you really shouldn’t be buying drugs at all -- you never know what could happen! I guess that’s why I do all this stuff for you guys. After an extensive Internet search on the mysterious and sensationalized tropical Southeast Asian leaf, kratom, I decided to order some from Amazon and sip it during work hours.

Here are the results. 

Some background on this controversial psychoactive herb: the raw leaves are typically chewed recreationally in Thailand and its effects vaguely mimic that of morphine or Xanax: euphoria, fatigue, relaxation. In very, very rare cases, people have reported the side effects of psychosis, convulsions, hallucinations, and confusion.

Kratom has been heavily sensationalized and even labeled as “herbal heroin.” Let me stress that it is not, regardless of the fact that it contains the chemical agonist which is present in morphine. No, there has never been one documented case of overdosing on kratom, but that hasn’t stopped the Thai government from passing The Kratom Act 2486, making the planting of kratom trees illegal throughout the country. It’s also illegal in Malaysia.

It’s comically easy to buy this stuff on Amazon. So I did. I asked the seller how much to ingest and he responded as such: 

“I do not recommend any specific dosage for anyone. What I do recommend is searching the numerous message boards out there so you can evaluate the different methods of use and chose one accordingly to get the desired effects you are looking for. But for a first-time user I would suggest looking into making a tea.”

Knowing tea was the easiest way to go, I boiled some water and hit the Internet. By comparing notes with the numerous message boards and websites dedicated to kratom consumption, I landed on seven grams to start. Two to six grams will generally have a sedating effect, it was reported, while 16 to 50 grams causes euphoria and itchiness. Seven felt right. 

People keep reporting that it tastes disgusting, but I didn’t mind the flavor at all. It’s bitter like green tea and satisfying on those chilly cusp-of-fall days. Heads up: you need to constantly mix it to keep it from separating and it’ll take about 10 minutes before you feel anything.

So here’s what I felt. After those 10 minutes of my first couple of sips, my head and eyes felt heavy, as if I’d just downed a couple of anti-anxiety pills, like Klonopins. I upped the game and added another spoonful of the stuff and sipped until it was all gone. I wouldn’t say I felt euphoria—and there definitely weren’t any hallucinations or convulsions. It was calming, though—very similar to Kava or St. John’s Wort.

I was a little bit wary of the stuff when it arrived in the mail—but, people, if you’re going to do drugs like this—do your homework. Consult message boards, professionals, doctors who aren’t squares, anyone. I was, admittedly, planning on taking a couple heaping tablespoons of this stuff before I found out the correct dosage.

And now, as I write this, in the midst of the experiment—I can only say I’m glad I didn’t take more. It’s relaxing...too relaxing—and, alongside the relaxation, kratom adds a listless pseudo-nihilistic lens on the world. Maybe it's just me? I know I've never felt this way before on any other drug: calm and collected without feeling like my brain is mush. I could still retain my focus without feeling like I was pushing rope—metaphorically. I just didn't really give a sh*t about anything and it felt nice.  

The DEA includes kratom in a list titled "Drugs and Chemicals of Concern", along with bath salts and Salvia—so I decided to call a doctor after I took the stuff (leave the bad ideas to the professionals, people) and she was less concerned about the plant itself and far more surprised that I would willingly consume a drug I bought off the Internet.

She asked me if I knew the seller and I told them I didn’t. At first, silence. 

"That's not something you want to be doing," the doctor said, who asked to remain anonymous for this story. "Anyone could pose as a seller on a site like Amazon and lace the kratom with, really, whatever they want." She proceeded to ask if I would make a note that she does not condone nor endorse this practice. Noted. 

I'd agree that the drug's effects have been sensationalized on message boards, the media, etc., but I won’t deny that towards the end of the high, this bizarre Thai leaf made me feel sedated, centered, and somewhat loopy. I had trouble concentrating on the little things like writing texts, finding synonyms, and remembering not to drool. (It didn't last long. It was like a 30-minute hangover, and I quickly regained my normal composure/megalomaniacal tendencies.)

Like I said, use at your own risk and—if a cop asks you who sold you drugs—tell them it was the Internet. You wouldn't be lying, and it'd be fun to see if the cops actually tried to track down the Internet.

Jeremy Glass is the Vice editor for Supercompressor and wrote and directed the independent film Tiny Furniture, and is the creator, writer and star of the HBO series Girls.