All-Natural Bio-Active Alkaloids--
Unlike synthetic opioids, kratom is a plant that receives its incredible benefits from several bio-active alkaloids. Bio-active alkaloids are nitrogenous organic compounds originating in plants that have pronounced physiological actions on humans. Laboratory research has been able to identify 28 different alkaloids within the kratom plant.
The most plentiful active alkaloid is mitragynine (up to 66% of the total alkaloid content). Mitragynine is a partial opioid-receptor agonist. An agonist is a chemical that binds to a receptor to activate it. In this case, mitragynine is a partial agonist to the µ-opioid (Mu) receptor which produces analgesic properties also known as pain relief. This is one of the main reasons people experience significant pain relief with kratom. There are many other active alkaloids within kratom such as 7-hydroxymitragynine, ajmalicine, and paynantheine. These alkaloids are being researched for their role in relieving pain, increasing blood flow, improving oxygen to the brain for cerebral health, inflammation reduction, muscle relaxation and relief for mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
Kratom v. Synthetic Opioids
If kratom is an opioid, how is it different from synthetic opioids? The answer can be found in the chemistry and science. There are three opioid receptors that manage pain: µ (Mu), δ (Delta), and κ (Kappa) opioid receptors. Synthetic opioids are agonist on all three receptors which means they activate them all. When all three are activated, dopamine is released creating euphoria reinforcing the need for more of the chemical that activated the receptors. This increase in dopamine and euphoria creates addiction.
Kratom is different in that it's main alkaloid, mitragynine, is only a partial agonist on the Mu receptor. This means that mitragynine activates the receptor to create analgesic effects or pain relief but does not aggressively bind to the receptor. Also, mitragynine is an antagonist to the Delta and Kappa receptors which means it blocks those receptors. The Kappa receptor manages dopamine and serotonin. Mitragynine's ability to block the Kappa receptor is limiting the chemical reward for using kratom thus preventing addiction. The Delta receptor rewards the use of the Mu receptor so, again, blocking it prevents dopamine and serotonin from flooding your system.
Another way kratom is different from synthetic opioids is the way they impact tolerance buildup. Synthetic opioids recruit beta arrestins to the opioid receptors making it harder and harder for them to be activated unless more of the drug is used. The two main analgesic alkaloids in kratom, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine do NOT recruit beta arrestins. This means the same amount of kratom can be used with similar effects over time. The issue of tolerance buildup you find with synthetic opioids is not an issue with kratom.