Kratom is a controversial herbal supplement that produces symptoms similar to opioid medications. It is native to Southeast Asia and derived from the leaves of a tropical evergreen tree. People have used it as a pain reliever, a stimulant, and a treatment for opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Kratom advocates the plant’s healing benefits, saying it can ease several health problems such as fibromyalgia, back pain, and carpal tunnel, to name a few. But federal authorities say kratom offers no medical use and that it comes with health and abuse risks that have initiated past attempts to ban it. The DEA has sought to make it a Schedule I drug, which would ban the substance. There are states and cities that have banned the substance, according to a Pew Research Center report.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started taking a closer look at kratom in 2016 after it noticed an increase in the shipment of the dietary supplements and bulk dietary ingredients contained kratom or were kratom itself. According to the federal agency, some observers are concerned that kratom can cause toxicity in multiple organ systems and that consuming it can lead to nausea and constipation among other health problems.
In November 2017, the FDA issued a public health advisory about the risks associated with kratom.
Part of its statement reads, “There’s clear data on the increasing harms associated with kratom. Calls to U.S. poison control centers regarding kratom have increased 10-fold from 2010 to 2015, with hundreds of calls made each year.
“The FDA is aware of reports of 36 deaths associated with the use of kratom-containing products. There have been reports of kratom being laced with other opioids like hydrocodone. The use of kratom is also associated with serious side effects like seizures, liver damage, and withdrawal symptoms.”
The federal agency also has warned against taking kratom to treat opioid-related withdrawal symptoms.
Although kratom addiction is uncommon, especially when taken in small doses, it does have the potential to become habit-forming. There have been records of people developing tolerance and dependence to kratom when taken in high doses for an extensive period of time.
Kratom is scientifically known as Mitragyna speciosa and has been used as traditional medicine in Southeast Asia for hundreds of years. Kratom leaves can be dried and crushed, chewed, smoked, or boiled as a tea. Users also take it in capsule or tablet form or as a liquid. Kratom leaves also can be boiled over some time and the remaining contents can be used as an extract.
The chemical properties of kratom cause it to bind to the opioid receptors in the brain. Although kratom binds to and activates the opioid receptors in the brain, they prefer the delta opioid receptors.
The difference between kratom and other opioids is that they bind to these receptors versus the mu opioid receptors. Kratom is considered safe in small doses. However, it can produce undesirable effects in larger doses. Kratom addiction is a result of consuming this drug in large quantities for a long period of time.
Despite its similarities to opioids and their effects, kratom is also used as a stimulant because of its mood-enhancing effects. Kratom use leads to an influx of serotonin and dopamine, causing an increase in mood and decrease in anxiety. There are concerns that the supplement can be abused for its mild euphoric properties.
The DEA has reported the results of a study that found that people with Thai kratom addiction who chewed the kratom every day for periods between three to 30 years had developed a dependence on it. “Long-term use of kratom produced anorexia, weight loss, insomnia, skin darkening, dry mouth, frequent urination, and constipation,” the DEA reports.
The Pew Research Center reports, “Animal studies have shown that kratom use may lead to addiction. But user surveys indicate that although the herb can be habit-forming, withdrawal symptoms are no worse than those encountered when quitting coffee, sugar or certain herbal supplements. Withdrawal symptoms, which typically last three to four days, include muscle aches, cravings, a runny nose, restlessness and mood swings.”
When used in high doses, kratom users likely feel sedative effects. Some kratom users have taken it to reduce cravings for opiates/opioids and manage pains that come when reducing and/or stopping use. Kratom has also been sought out as an alternative to using oxycodone, hydrocodone, and heroin. While this practice appeals to some users, the reality is that they may be substituting one drug dependence for another.
Although the psychoactive drug kratom typically goes by and is widely recognized by this name, there are alternative names such as:
Kratom addiction can be easy to spot if you know the signs. If you or someone you know is abusing Kratom, they will display symptoms such as:
The effects of kratom addiction set in relatively quickly, so the signs will be present immediately after you or someone you know has used kratom. Also, if you or someone you know has been using kratom for a long time, withdrawal symptoms will start once the substance gradually wears off and leaves the body.
When it comes to kratom addiction, these signs are the most common. Since kratom is notorious for building tolerance and dependence, anyone using the drug in excess will display these symptoms early in their drug use.
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Kratom addiction will require a medical detox as the initial stage of treatment. Detoxification facilities are important to anyone suffering from addiction because they create a safe, effective environment to rid the drugs from the body. Detoxing from kratom can be uncomfortable, which is why it is imperative for you or someone you know to attend a medical facility.
During a detox program, you will be given medications to combat the symptoms of withdrawal. Although this is the first step of recovery, it is the most important. Without removing the drugs from the body, the recovery process is impossible. Detox usually lasts anywhere from three to 10 days. During this time, the medical staff will be as accommodating as possible to ensure your safety, comfortability, and success in further programs.
After detox, it is imperative that you attend a residential facility to continue the recovery process. Residential programs typically last anywhere from 30 to 90 days and involve a much deeper look into the disease of addiction. This treatment program is important because it allows time away from the drugs or dangerous environments and it also gives you the opportunity to learn how to cope with life without the use of drugs.
Residential should then be followed by an outpatient program that offers a less intense level of therapy. These can last anywhere up to nine weeks; however, you will only need to attend one to three days a week for a couple of hours. Transitioning into society after a long-term kratom addiction can be difficult, which is why continuing treatment is imperative for success. In outpatient programs, you will be living and working outside of a treatment facility while also having the accountability of professionals and peers.
Another form of support for kratom addiction is attending 12-step meetings or individual therapy. These effective tools will aid and guide you to success during your recovery process.
Although there is little evidence supporting kratom addiction to be dangerous, there are a few risks associated with the overconsumption of this drug. Kratom does have a high potential for abuse and it also can result in an overdose if used in large quantities.
In 2016, there were hundreds of calls to police regarding near death experiences due to exposures to kratom. Although there are a few reports stating kratom is, in fact dangerous, a PBS article states,
“For now, kratom is legal but considered a drug of concern. Online shops and brick and mortar stores selling kratom are doing so legally.”
Since the drug is so new and there are little studies conducted on the effects it has on the brain and body, the legality of kratom is currently undecided by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
However, a number of states are beginning to pass legislation controlling its use. If you use kratom, you never really know what you’re getting, and that possibility alone contributes to the number of kratom-related issues.
There are two different types of kratom leaves, a red-vein leaf, and a white-vein leaf. They both produce different effects. Red-vein kratom leaves produce more of an opioid high, whereas white-vein leaves produce a high similar to stimulants.
A study confirms the idea of kratom helping opioid addiction to be dangerous and ineffective. People have sought out this drug as a cure for opioid addiction, however, in this case, and presumably, in many others, it was ineffective and lead to negative consequences—ultimately resulting in the individual to seek professional help.
Kratom abuse can lead to negative consequences, but you can stop before it’s too late. If you or someone you know is suffering from kratom addiction, do not hesitate to seek help. Delphi Behavioral Health Group can assist you in finding the right treatment program that suits your individual needs. We’re available 24/7 at (844) 899-5777 and ready to guide you on the beginning of your recovery journey. It’s never too late to regain control of your life, so why wait?Treatment programs at Delphi Behavioral Health Group’s facilities provide unique therapy and counseling methods for certain addictions. They are designed to allow you to receive the daily support of the facility’s staff and your loved ones when you return home. Our treatment centers provide just what’s needed for community, counseling, and support throughout the day so clients can apply the lessons they learn to their daily lives. Give us a call to discuss your loved one’s options today.
DEA. (January 2013). “Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa korth).” Drug Enforcement Administration from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/kratom.pdf
Boyer, Edward W. et al. (2008). “Self-Treatment of Opioid Withdrawal Using Kratom (Mitragynia Speciosa Korth).” Addiction (Abingdon, England) 103.6 (2008): 1048–1050. PMC from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3670991/
Harven, Michelle. (December 2016) “Herbal Drug Kratom Faces Uncertain Legal Future, Despite Public Outpouring.” PBS News Hour from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/whats-next-kratom
Vestal, Christine. (December 2017). “As Kratom Use Surges, Some States Enact Bans.” Pew Research Center from http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2017/12/04/as-kratom-use-surges-some-states-enact-bans