The danger and allure of kratom can be summarized in a quote that appeared in a 2018 Washington Post article. Users say it’s like “having morphine and cocaine at the same time.” Therefore, many federal and state authorities view the plant as being as toxic and addictive as heroin.
However, other people view this controversial substance as a breakthrough alternative that’s safer than narcotic opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin. In fact, an advocacy group named the American Kratom Association is spreading the belief that it’s “a precious natural resource” that improves “health and wellbeing.”
Undoubtedly, kratom mimics the effects of stimulants and opioids, and it carries the potential for abuse. When taken in high doses, kratom produces feelings of euphoria, and it produces troubling side effects such as liver damage, seizures, psychosis, and respiratory depression. Reportedly, some users died when they used Kratom in combination with other substances.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings urging people to stay away from kratom, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considered placing the plant in Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act. This designation is reserved for drugs that have a large likelihood of abuse.
As of now, kratom remains legal and widely available in most U.S. states. At $9 to $20 per ounce, it’s also relatively inexpensive. Because it’s legal and plant-based, users assume it’s safe, but researches are still uncertain whether this botanical elixir will be able to help quell the most pressing drug crisis of our time: opioid addiction.
Kratom is a medicinal herb that grows naturally in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and New Guinea. It’s been a member of the coffee family since the 19th Century. The plant was introduced to the U.S. less than a decade ago. It can be ingested as a tea, tablet, or powder. Some users simply add it to juice or chew its bitter leaves.
Generally, kratom is used to treat pain, anxiety, and depression, and it can boost the appetite and libido. Comprised of mitragynine and 7-α-hydroxymitragynine compounds, kratom activates the opioid centers in the brain, which provokes feelings of sedation and pleasure. In fact, the sedative in kratom is said to be 13 times stronger than morphine. The mitragynine also acts as a stimulant by interacting with the brain’s receptor systems.
The true benefits of kratom have been widely debated. In 2017, the FDA Commissioner issued a statement that likened the plant to a narcotic opioid, saying it “carries similar risks of abuse, addiction, and in some cases, death.” Specifically, the FDA reported there have been 44 deaths associated with kratom use since 2011. Moreover, the DEA listed it as a drug of concern, and eight states have banned it.
There’s no known evidence that kratom is an effective remedy for treating the cravings and withdrawal symptoms caused by opioids, alcohol, or other substances. Despite these warnings, it can be easily purchased online and at some gas stations, headshops, and bars.
Also, it’s common to see a label on kratom as tablets or powders form that reads “not for human consumption.”
Though kratom is a medicinal herb, it alters your brain in a fashion that’s similar to opioids. It also produces similar addictive tendencies, withdrawal symptoms, and overdose signs. When a user ingests just a few grams of kratom as dry leaves, they can experience its effects within 10 minutes.
Users can quickly build up a tolerance to the substance. After they develop a dependence, they can experience these withdrawal symptoms:
As with other addictive substances, users may start displaying compulsive behaviors about obtaining kratom. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as “an inability to stop using a drug; failure to meet work, social, or family obligations; and, sometimes (depending on the drug), tolerance and withdrawal.”
When a kratom dependence evolves into addiction, a user could display any of these signs:
Because kratom impacts the brain like an opioid, attempting to quit “cold turkey” can be futile and dangerous. If you see any of the signs of kratom addiction in yourself or a loved one, it’s imperative that you seek professional addiction treatment, as it can offer the surest path to sobriety.
The first and most critical step in kratom addiction treatment is medical detoxification. In detox, you’ll be offered medications to fight the symptoms of withdrawal. Our medical staff will continually monitor your health 24/7 throughout your stay. You could be in the detox for three to seven days, depending on the severity of your addiction and other medical problems that may be present. During your stay, you’ll become prepared for the level of care you’ll complete after detox.
In order to ensure your post-treatment success, you’ll go through aftercare planning, which helps prevent relapse.
Further research is needed to determine the true effects of Kratom. While a significant number of proponents proclaim its effectiveness, there’s real evidence that kratom can present significant, life-threatening health complications for users, especially when used in combination with other substances.
Tragically, fatal overdoses have occurred when kratom is laced with hydrocodone and morphine. Kratom addiction has also caused respiratory depression, liver damage, seizures, and symptoms of psychosis.
The Centers for Disease Control went so far as labeling it an emerging public health threat. The FDA Commissioner went further, stating, “We must ask ourselves whether the use of kratom— for recreation, pain or other reasons—could expand the opioid epidemic.”
Is your loved one struggling with kratom abuse or addiction? Are you? If so, it’s important for you to treat it with the seriousness it requires and get help before it’s too late.
U.S. Department of Justice. (n.d.). from https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/schedules/
Botanical Education Alliance, & American Kratom Association. (2016, September 29). Groups: DEA Ban of Natural Herb Kratom Could Cause Billions in Industry Losses, Harm More Than Three Million Americans. from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/groups-dea-ban-of-natural-herb-kratom-could-cause-billions-in-industry-losses-harm-more-than-three-million-americans-300336610.html
McGinley, L., & Zezima, K. (2018, February 10). Kratom Is Hailed as a Natural Pain Remedy, Assailed as an Addictive Killer. The U.S. Wants to Treat It Like Heroin. from https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/kratom-is-hailed-as-a-natural-pain-remedy-assailed-as-an-addictive-killer-the-us-wants-to-treat-it-like-heroin/2018/02/10/aaf4bf7c-077e-11e8-b48c-b07fea957bd5_story.html?utm_term=.9f3173d7b80e
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, August 24). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6529a4.htm
Schwarz, A. (2017, December 21). Kratom, an Addict's Alternative, Is Found to Be Addictive Itself. from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/03/us/kratom-an-addicts-alternative-is-found-to-be-addictive-itself.html