Thanks to public education efforts, most people are aware that drugs like heroin and other opioids cause withdrawal symptoms. Because of how uncomfortable withdrawal can be, people may seek out alternatives that can make it easier to quit taking opioids.
Kratom became popular as a way for people to deal with opioid detox. Touted as a natural alternative, kratom has also been known to cause the symptoms people are trying to avoid.
In trying to cure themselves, they may continue to experience the discomfort of withdrawal.
If you use kratom, you can expect to start feeling withdrawal symptoms after it leaves your system. These can last an average of three days.
What Is Kratom Exactly?
Kratom is native to Southeast Asia and has been used to enhance mood and relieve pain, according to Medical News Today. The Mayo Clinic reports that kratom has also been used as a way for people to deal with the symptoms of withdrawal from opioids. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved kratom for any of these uses.
Kratom is a natural opioid that interacts with opioid receptors in the brain. It has become popular because it can cause feelings of pleasure and relaxation, much like many popular opioids today. Most people take kratom as a tablet or capsule, but others brew dried kratom leaves into a tea and drink it.
When taken in small doses, it can work as a stimulant because of a compound called mytragynine. Patients who take kratom in small amounts report increased energy, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Since it is legal and available online, you may think that kratom is safe. Research currently shows that you can become dependent on, tolerant to, and ultimately addicted to kratom.
These Stages Are Different In The Following Ways, Per NIDA:
Tolerance means that you have become used to a substance, and your body needs larger doses to feel the same effects. It is possible to become tolerant of a drug without becoming addicted.
Addiction occurs when you try to quit taking a drug, such as kratom, but cannot stop even if your drug use results in negative consequences.
Dependency occurs when your brain and/or body require that you use a drug to function. This does not always mean you are addicted, but it means you will experience symptoms of withdrawal if you suddenly stop taking a substance.
NIDA reports that some kratom has been found in people who have overdosed on drugs. As of now, most people who have overdosed on drugs have mixed kratom with something else, such as fentanyl, cocaine, caffeine, or alcohol.
Does Kratom Cause Withdrawal?
As NIDA states, kratom can cause withdrawal in people who have become dependent on it to function. Withdrawal symptoms are mostly physical and can resemble a cold or flu.
Withdrawal symptoms from kratom include:
- Runny nose
- Aggressive behavior
- Sudden movements
- Difficulty sleeping
Some people may also experience hot flashes, kratom cravings, and watery eyes. Data shows that only 9 percent of kratom users experience withdrawal once they try to quit. Overall, people tend to rate their symptoms as quite mild.
Though kratom is, in essence, an opioid, its withdrawal symptoms and severity are not as difficult or intense as opioid withdrawal.
- You are more likely to experience withdrawal if you use kratom multiple times per day.
- About 35 percent of moderate kratom users report feeling intense withdrawal symptoms, but the majority say their symptoms are moderate, per a study conducted in Malaysia.
Some people may experience PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome) if they take kratom for a long time. PAWS results in feelings of withdrawal that last weeks, months, or even years. PAWS can occur for substances other than kratom.
Precautions During Withdrawal
Kratom withdrawal is not severe in healthy individuals, but you should discuss your kratom use and withdrawal symptoms with your doctor. This is especially important if you suffer from a medical condition that must be controlled with medication.
Women who take kratom during pregnancy should talk to their OB/GYN as soon as possible. It is possible for babies to experience neonatal withdrawal syndrome because of a mother’s kratom use.
In a case study published in the Canadian Family Physician, a pregnant female patient was addicted to kratom and using between 18 to 20 grams of the powder up to three times per day. She reported feelings of withdrawal if she did not take her regular kratom dose every four to six hours.
The woman’s baby experienced symptoms of withdrawal, and doctors observed the infant in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The baby was given morphine to deal with neonatal withdrawal.
NIDA says that people who are addicted to kratom are often treated with behavioral therapy. There are currently no approved ways to treat kratom addiction or withdrawal, specifically.
Unlike opioids, quitting kratom cold turkey is not dangerous. Some people prefer quitting cold turkey because it means their withdrawal symptoms will be over much faster.
Tapering is probably a better choice for most people, as it is a gentler method.
Strategies To Deal With Kratom Withdrawal
No guidelines for dealing with kratom withdrawal have been set. If you experience withdrawal and have discussed this with your doctor, you may benefit from the strategies below to help you deal with the discomfort of withdrawal.
Try Detox Or Anxiety Medications
Talking with your doctor ensures they are aware of your withdrawal symptoms. Your physician can prescribe a detox or anti-anxiety medication to help you feel better during withdrawal.
Staying distracted, finishing tasks, and going to work while keeping up with a social schedule could distract you from the symptoms of withdrawal.
Remember Your Goals
You may have started taking kratom as an alternative to opioids if you have chronic pain. Alternatively, you may have started taking it to deal with opioid withdrawal naturally. No matter how you started taking kratom, remember that kratom use is getting in the way of reaching your goals. Writing these goals down could remind you of why you are quitting kratom. This list could come in handy if you start craving the drug.
This can be a way to release stress and tension. It is also a good distraction from withdrawal.
Take Warm Showers
Withdrawal often makes people irritable or depressed. A shower can improve your mood and help you feel better if you experience muscle cramps or aches caused by quitting kratom.
Try Over-The-Counter Medication
Withdrawal is known to cause diarrhea, headaches, or difficulty sleeping. Discuss the potential use of OTC medication with your doctor if you have a medical condition. Many OTC medications can treat some of the most difficult withdrawal symptoms.
The Mayo Clinic says that in extreme cases, patients may require the same types of medication used to help people quit opioids. These include buprenorphine or naloxone. These medications can prevent cravings while also stabilizing you as you detox from kratom.
It is possible to safely undergo kratom withdrawal at home if you do not have any ailments or medical conditions. Be aware that those who started using kratom to stop taking opioids will be at a heightened risk of relapse during withdrawal.