“Kratom Culture” is growing in Mon areas: substance abuse on the rise

March 20, 2023

HURFOM: Summer festival season celebrates ordinations and weddings.  The season has arrived in many Mon communities. Kratom leaf liquor  plays an important and essential role in the festival season, to welcome and treat visitors.

Kratom leaves are boiled  in a big bowl and distilled to create the liquor that is served to neighbors who came to support the ceremony and guests. During the festival season people are drinking alcohol, beer and Kratom liquor and dancing happily in the ordination ceremonies

Serving visitors and helpers with Kratom liquor is very much a part of Mon culture that involves both adults and adolescents.

I had Kratom liquor one time, as I didn’t know what it was. I fell asleep after I drank it. My mother knew about that and I have not drunk it again. Its color looks like the color of sugar cane juice but the taste is bad, said a 10-year-old boy who had tried Kratom liquor for the first time.

Kratom liquor has a sharp bitter taste. It is often mixed with Coca Cola and/or  anti cough liquids, in an effort to remove the bitter taste and to enhance sedative effect.

Kratom use is widespread, with as many as 80% of individuals ranging in age from 10-50 years old trying the liquor.  This is most noticeable in areas where Mon people live.

Those who are Kratom liquor drinkers say the liquor has an energetic effect and makes them more active to do work. It can, they say, also ease muscle pain. Many people believe Kratom liquor does not have side effects like other narcotic drugs,  so they feel safe to drink the liquor regularly.

I feel comfortable after drinking Kratom. I can do my work well. I’m active. No more muscle pain after work. But when I drink too much, I can’t sleep. I’m sleepy but can’t fall asleep,said a young man who drinks Kratom liquor.

Kratom leaves are highly available in Karen State with one kilogram of the leaves priced at 8,000 Kyat. Another narcotic substance known as  WY tablets are priced at 3,000-3,500 Kyat per tablet and are easily available.

Students, youth, plantation workers, fisherfolk and those doing hard labor use Kratom liquor as a substitute for narcotic drugs. Usage of Kratom is growing, so much so, that some villagers have started farming Kratom leaves commercially.

Excessive usage of Kratom liquor can cause increased heart rate, sleeplessness, nausea and vomiting, high blood pressure, damage to liver and lungs and constipation. Regular and prolonged usage of Kratom liquor can cause mental disorders.

Thailand elected to exclude Kratom leaves from the narcotic group list in 2021.  As a result the usage and trade of Kratom leaves has risen sharply along the Thai-Burma border. The commercial farming of Kratom leaves is also growing in this area.

Due to political unrest which emerged after the coup, has contributed to the  Burma police force being unable to arrest and control the trade and use of narcotic drugs. Many students, adolescents and adults are increasingly becoming victims of substance abuse.


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