Kratom is a mildly psychoactive compound derived from the leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa tree. This Ayurvedic herb has been in use as a folk medicine for centuries, but here in the Western world it has been widely stigmatized by legislators and law enforcement officials.
Due to the psychoactive components of kratom, it has faced intense scrutiny by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). After a Salmonella outbreak in 2018, the FDA issued a public warning, urging citizens to avoid kratom consumption.
Since then, we have seen a number of state lawmakers introducing bills to ban or otherwise restrict Mitragyna speciosa and its alkaloids—mitragynine and 7-OHM (7-hydroxymitragynine). In recent years, kratom has been outlawed in Sarasota County, FL and San Diego, CA.
As of October 2020, there are pending legislation in Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Virginia.
Some of these proposed statutes seek to limit kratom use to individuals 18 years of age or older while others aim to classify kratom as a controlled substance. Thus far, we have seen such legislation stall in places like Arizona, New Hampshire, New York and Utah.
Although the Federal government has yet to impose a ban on this substance, it continues to be demonized in the mainstream media and targeted by local law enforcement agencies.
Widespread demonization has led to an increased concern among users regarding the potential for kratom drug screening. Many consumers are worried about going for a new job or keeping their current one if a surprise drug test is imposed.
Here’s what we know about the current labor environment in the United States and the latest innovations in drug screening.
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There are many circumstances in which a drug test may occur, most notably if you or someone you know is on probation. Regardless of the severity (or lack thereof) of the crime you served time for, you may be expected to comply with drug testing if/when on probation/parole.
Probation drug testing has been in effect since the 1960s, making it a widespread condition of one’s release from prison. Routine or surprise drug screenings may be a federal or county requirement, depending on the stipulations of your parole.
While most parolees are not tested for kratom, select municipalities have added kratom to their standard testing. If you have a history of opiate or opioid abuse, you may face kratom drug testing given the compound’s similarities to such substances.
Current analysis suggests that the percentage of jobs demanding pre-employment screening is lower than two percent. Of all the cities in America, only one has a percentage larger than 2.4%.
Urinalysis remains the most prevalent form of drug screening in the U.S. This is the kind of test you can anticipate if you are seeking employment. Urinalysis can detect trace amounts of select substances long after the effects of the drug in question have completely dissipated.
The thing to keep in mind with urine tests is their lack of accuracy and the window of time you may have to work with. False positives are fairly common with urine tests, particularly since the science hasn’t exactly been perfected.
Information is limited regarding the actual percentage of accuracy where urinalysis is concerned. However, we do know that test results can take time since a positive result takes longer to show up than a negative result.
Kratom users should bear in mind that a high kratom dosage of eight or more grams can take some time to leave the body. It will take five to six days for your system to entirely flush out all kratom alkaloids. Trace amounts of metabolites such as the terpenoid indole alkaloid 7-OHM can stick around. These metabolites may be detected in urine tests for more than a week.
By contrast, blood tests are not nearly as capable of detecting kratom. On average, the metabolites of kratom strains will show up for a period of 24 hours after consumption. Alas, chronic kratom users will likely test positive if tested within seven days of consumption or more.
The standard 12-panel drug test ordinarily checks for benzodiazepines, cocaine, marijuana, opiates, Oxycodone and other controlled substances. But other substances may be detected with some mistaken for the drugs I just mentioned.
Other types of screenings you may encounter include hair tests, saliva tests or sweat tests. On the off chance that your drug screening administrator knows about kratom and its side effects, you may be expected to submit to a sweat test.
Since chronic kratom consumption results in profuse sweating, an administrator may see the signs of kratom abuse and test accordingly.
Once upon a time, I went for a job with a large publication where I was asked to submit to a drug screening. Thinking nothing of it, I took the test and waited for the employer to contact me.
After a week and change, I was asked to report to their HR department which I took as a good sign.
“I guess I’m about to go through paid training,” I thought.
When I took my seat opposite the Human Relations representative, I could tell at once that something wasn’t right. He was furrowing his brow and perusing my file with a look of profound confusion. Later I would recognize his expression as that of a man who couldn’t understand why someone would shoot smack before going for a prominent salaried position.
“Mr. Freville, have you taken any recreational drugs recently?”
“No?” I said, thoroughly taken back. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have answered in the form of a question, but I was freaked out.
“Your screening results suggest that you have tested positive for opiates. Do you have a prescription for any opiates and were you taking them prior to your screening?”
“No,” I repeated, this time more confidently. “I don’t take anything.”
This was years before I discovered Super Green Malay, the strain that would change everything.
“So, you haven’t taken painkillers or anything?”
We went back and forth like this for awhile before I deduced the root of the problem. I had been taking prescription cough medicine for a bad chest cold and had taken my breakfast at the same bagel shop for three days before my drug screening.
The small but detectable amount of codeine in the cough syrup coupled with the inhuman amount of poppy seed bagels I’d consumed in the lead up to my drug test resulted in a false positive for opiates. Fortunately for me, I was able to submit to a secondary drug test which I passed without further incident.
Of course, most users will not be so lucky. Parolees are unlikely to receive the benefit of the doubt if they test positive for kratom capsules or any other substance. One false positive could stand between you and your freedom.
The good news is, most states and counties do not test for mitragynine, the active alkaloid in the Mitragyna speciosa leaf. On the downside, the times they are a-changin’. Even though kratom is unlikely to show up on most tests, you never want to take the risk.
If you reside in a state or city where kratom is currently legal, you may want to be transparent with a drug testing administrator. Inform them of your kratom use and explain your reasons why. Despite the negative reputation that kratom has garnered from some medical experts, many doctors recognize the inherent value of this herb.
If you’re living in fear of a kratom false positive, you should do the right thing. Avoid chronic use, cycle your dosages to prevent against tolerance and get plenty of fluids. Be safe, be smart and be well.
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