Nine Things Body Builder Anthony Roberts Gets Right (and Wrong) About Kratom Use in Athletics

(A response to this article by body builder Anthony Roberts.)

Kratom is an herb that offers a wide array of uses to a wide array of people. Here at Kratom Science Europe, we have documented its traditional use in Southeast Asia, the immense potential of kratom as an opioid substitute in harm reduction, and even its flavor profiles in our Mitragyna Barista column.

But kratom is also a drug that athletes around the world use to treat their pain, enhance their energy, and elevate their mood.  

Anthony Roberts, a controversial figure in the body building community, is one such athlete. While Roberts’s business practices have routinely become the matter of public discussion, he has also been known to be an heir apparent of notorious fitness guru Daniel Duchaine.

Therefore, in 2016 Roberts made kratom a regular part of his workout regimen and reported his findings on Medium.

And with no further ado, here are the nine things Roberts get right, and the one big thing he gets wrong, about kratom:

The Right:  

  1. When Roberts claims that Kratom is widely used in sports, he’s correct. There’s not a lot of data to back his assertion (because kratom has been rigorously understudied), but anecdotal evidence and case studies all over the internet suggest the veracity of Roberts’ claims.
  2. Southeast Asian laborers have indeed been using kratom for centuries to improve their work performance.    
  3. Roberts says that kratom ingestion rituals simply don’t fit the profile of a recreational drug in the western world. It’s his opinion, but it’s an accurate one. Despite its appearance in European glass and vape shops, kratom is not a legal high or recreational high drug.
  4. Kratom’s effects are, like Roberts claims, mild. Kratom is opiodic, but it is not itself an opioid. Like its cousin coffee, kratom has been proven not to impair its users social functioning at all.
  5. Also like its cousin coffee, kratom use can lead to dependence. However, that dependency side effect matches its other side effects: it is mild. See this for more. 
  6. Kratom’s effects are indeed strain dependent. See this strain/dosage chart for more.
  7. Fifteen minutes scrolling through the threads of American kratom advocates on Twitter will tell you that kratom does indeed have a use-value to sufferers of chronic pain. And of course it would. Kratom allows chronic pain sufferers to treat their own condition at their own discretion, without fostering a dependence on prescription medicine.
  8. In 2018, the World Anti-Doping Agency effectively announced its support for kratom use in athletes by removing kratom from their list of prohibited substances.
  9. And most importantly: Why do athletes love kratom? Roberts nails it: unlike synthetic opioids, kratom has a complex network of effects that help to facilitate training. What other substance is a stimulant, analgesic, and mood elevator all at once?     

The Wrong:

  1. Roberts flippantly suggests that taking too much kratom will result in death. As discussed in the Beginner’s Guide, this is simply untrue. Overdosing on kratom has been shown to cause nausea, and Kratom Science has not been able to find ANY science journals reporting a kratom-only induced death.

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