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Abuse of ketum leaves

What Are Ketum Leaves?

Ketum Tree

Ketum leaves (scientific name: Mitragyna speciosa) comes from the ketum tree which is a plant of the family Rubiaceae and is found abundant in the northern states as well as the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It thrives in moist soil with high humus content. It is mostly found wild in the forest and in villages.

The ketum tree trunk is hardwood and branches. The height of the ketum tree can reach up to 25 meters and the diameter of the trunk can reach up to 1 meter. The parts of the ketum tree that are usually used are the leaves.

Ketum Leaf

Traditional Use of Ketum Leaves

Ketum leaves have been used traditionally for general health and for energy boost to do heavy jobs. Other than that, ketum leaves have also been used as a traditional medicine to treat diseases such as back pain, fever, cough and worms as well as diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Abuse of Ketum Leaves

Drug addicts have abused ketum leaves because ketum leaves contain psychoactive ingredients that give the effects of stimulating, sedative and euphoric which can also lead to addiction.

Boiling ketum leaves

The ketum leaves are boiled to produce a ketum drink which is usually packed in small packets for sale to drug addicts.

Packet of ketum drink

Ketum leaves processing place

Chemicals In Ketum Leaves

The main active ingredient in ketum leaves is mitragynine which is a psychoactive alkaloid. Mitragynine is controlled under the Poisons (Psychotropic Substances) Regulations 1989 under the Poisons Act 1952. There are also 24 other chemical ingredients including ajmaline, corynanthedine, mitaphylline, paynanthesine, speciophylin and speciogynine.

Effects of Ketum

Effects of mitragynine excessive intake:

  • Feeling unreal (euphoria)
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting

Adverse effects of taking ketum continuously:

  • Lead to addiction
  • The lips and skin become dark that looks like bruises and burns, especially on the cheeks
  • The skin becomes dry
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia

Control Of Ketum Under The Law

Mitragynine which is the main active ingredient in ketum drink is a psychotropic substance and is controlled under the law in Malaysia. Mitragynine is listed in the Third Schedule of the Poisons (Psychotropic Substances) Regulations, Poisons Act 1952.

According to Section 30 of the Poisons Act 1952, it is an offense to import, export, manufacture, sale, and possess such psychotropic substances.


If found guilty, a fine may be imposed under Section 30(5) of the Poisons Act 1952, which is a fine not exceeding RM 10,000 or 4 years imprisonment or both.


  1. Poisons Act 1952
  2. Poisons (Psychotropic Substances) Regulations 1989
Last Reviewed : 11 June 2014
Translator : Nurhafizah bt. Hasan
Accreditor : Mazlan bin Ismail