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 well-being.”
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 to use. But researchers are still uncertain whether this botanical elixir can help end the most pressing drug crisis of our time: opioid addiction.
What Is Kratom?
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 in 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 one’s 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 reports 44 deaths have been 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.”
What Are The Signs Of Kratom Addiction?
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 Dependence, They Can Experience These Withdrawal Symptoms:
- Gooseflesh skin
- Restless leg syndrome
- Excessive sweating
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Changes in skin color
- Sunken eyes
- Extreme Irritability
- Muscle and joint pain
- Extreme mood swings
As with other addictive substances, users may start to display 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 Kratom Dependence Evolves Into Addiction, A User Could Display Any Of These Signs:
- High energy levels
- Increased alertness
- Increased sociability
- Inability to stay focused on a task
- Insensitivity to emotional or physical pain
- Constricted pupils
- Mental fogginess
- Sudden sleepiness
- Aggressive behavior
- Respiratory issues
Because kratom affects 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.
What’s Involved In Kratom Addiction Treatment?
The first and most critical step in kratom addiction treatment is NCBI. 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 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.
Here Are The Most Commonly Used Therapy Models:
- You’ll receive personalized treatment to address the emotional issues that contribute to addiction.
- With cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), you’ll receive treatment that addresses the negative thoughts and actions associated with addiction. In this stage, you’ll learn practical strategies and skills to combat old habits.
- Through dialectical behavioral therapy, you’ll learn about the triggers that lead to substance abuse.
- In motivational interviewing, you’ll identify key issues, learn how to think positively, and embrace changes that can improve your life.
- You’ll learn how to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into your daily life.
- Since addiction is often described as a family disease, family therapy will help you heal some of those wounds.
To ensure your post-treatment success, you’ll go through aftercare planning, which helps to prevent relapse.
How Dangerous Is Kratom?
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.
One of the biggest problems with kratom, even the legal, over-the-counter kind, is that it’s not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It’s classified as a supplement, so it doesn’t have the same rules and regulations medications have. When you buy and use kratom, you could be getting an inert substance, a substance that only has a small amount of kratom in it, or something more harmful.
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 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) went so far as to label 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.”
The bottom line is that there are a lot of unknowns surrounding kratom. What are its effects on the brain and body? What are you actually taking when you buy kratom at a supplement store? Those questions can only be answered with time and research that doesn’t yet exist for kratom.
Kratom Abuse Statistics
- The American Kratom Association estimates there are 3 to 5 million kratom users in the U.S.
- Between 2010-2015, U.S. poison control centers received 660 calls about reported exposure to kratom, a tenfold increase.
- Thirty-six deaths have been linked to kratom use.
- The drug has been banned in 16 countries.
Do I Need Addiction Help?
Even though kratom is legal in most U.S. states, it is a psychoactive substance, and it should be taken seriously. Like most substances that affect the brain, the dose taken matters, and high doses can be potentially dangerous.
For some, the fact that it is a legal naturally occurring drug is used to justify abuse. In reality, kratom abuse qualifies as a substance use disorder. If you become addicted to it, it may become a severe substance use disorder.
If you or someone you know has been using kratom and might be abusing it or developing an addiction to it, it’s important to seek addiction treatment as soon as possible. Addiction is a chronic disease that affects the reward center of the brain. It’s difficult to get over, especially if you try to do it on your own.
Plus, kratom is not without its risks. Abusing the drug can have an impact on your health, social life, and your financial security.
Addiction treatment can help you avoid some of the most severe consequences. But even if you’ve been struggling with addiction for a long time, there is still hope for recovery. To start moving toward lasting freedom from addiction, learn more about kratom addiction and how it can be treated today.