Some opioid use disorder (OUD) patients attempt to self-treat using herbal remedies such as kratom. However, kratom use itself can paradoxically cause physical dependence and OUD. Currently, there are no guidelines for treating patients with OUD stemming from kratom use. Our empirically-based hypothesis was that there would be a correlation between the amount of kratom used and the amount of buprenorphine-naloxone required for opioid agonist therapy.
This study includes a systematic review assessing treatment of kratom-dependent patients with buprenorphine-naloxone; a case series of our kratom-dependent patients; calculation of the correlation between the kratom dose and the buprenorphine-naloxone dose required to treat kratom-associated OUD; and our proposed starting doses for using buprenorphine-naloxone to treat kratom OUD.
The OVID MEDLINE (1946–2020) database was searched using the terms “kratom,” “buprenorphine,” and “case report.” This search yielded 3 relevant cases of patients having kratom OUD who were treated with buprenorphine-naloxone with the amounts of all substances reported. Review of the bibliographies, citing articles, and Google Scholar turned up three additional cases, yielding 6 literature cases that were analyzed. We also analyzed 2 patients from our clinic, giving a total of 8 patients included in the Pearson correlation coefficient calculation. We found a strong correlation of 0.84 between these variables, consistent with our hypothesis.
Based on our analysis, patients using <20 g of kratom/d could be initiated on opioid agonist therapy with 4/1 mg-8/2 mg buprenorphine-naloxone/d, while patients using kratom doses >40 g/d could be initiated with 12/3 mg-16/4 mg of buprenorphine-naloxone/day.