Kratom is the name commonly used for Mitragyna speciosa, a tropical plant in the coffee family. Kratom is native to Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, and Indonesia. It is in this part of the world that kratom has been in use for nearly 100 years as a kind of opioid substitute. It also has been used to help manage pain as well as boost energy.
In the United States, however, kratom is still fairly new, and its use is still unregulated and largely unmonitored. While there is much we do not know about kratom, as its effects are only recently being studied and reviewed by addiction researchers and the medical community, there have been many reported and confirmed cases of serious, adverse health consequences associated with kratom abuse and addiction. There have even been documented instances were kratom use has proved to be deadly.
Kratom is not a drug to be taken lightly. Within the past several years, there has been a significant spike in kratom use, and its murky legal status means it is fairly easy to obtain, especially over the internet. Because it is not very well known, people are more likely to underestimate its potency and addiction potential, as well as the health risks associated with its abuse.
Kratom’s pharmacology is still a bit of a mystery. It is currently classified as an opioid because it works in much the same way as most other opioids. It slows down activity within the central nervous system as well as around the brainstem and spinal column to keep nerve impulses carrying pain signals from reaching the brain.
The body’s natural opioids already do this to help manage pain, but kratom mimics the body’s opioids to bind with what’s known as opioid receptors, activating them into overproduction. This floods the nervous system and brain with opioids and creates intense feelings of pain relief and sedation, similar to opioids like morphine.
However, kratom only achieves these effects at very high doses. Unlike opioids, while low doses of kratom still mainly act only on opioid receptors, it produces effects that are much more similar to stimulants, including increased energy and alertness. Different varieties of kratom also have an impact on whether its effects will be more like a stimulant or an opioid.
Being able to recognize the signs of substance abuse and the early stages of addiction is often more difficult than someone might think. Sometimes, even the person who is misusing or abusing a substance won’t realize that it is a growing problem until things have spiraled out of control.
The abnormal behaviors associated with misuse and abuse don’t manifest all at once and can escape notice if you are not specifically looking for them. In the case of kratom, because it is not as familiar as other drugs, people are less likely to suspect someone of abusing it, and the person misusing it may not be fully aware of its addictive dangers.
While the effects of long-term kratom abuse still have not been studied nearly enough, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has confirmed the following side effects that can act as clues toward consistent kratom abuse:
The characteristic that marks the transition from kratom abuse to addiction is compulsively and obsessively using the drug. Someone addicted to kratom will have lost all control over their use to the point where obtaining and using kratom becomes the driving force behind the majority of their actions and decisions, even if doing so causes financial difficulties, relationship problems, job loss, and even legal issues.
Other behaviors commonly associated with substance use disorders and signs of kratom addiction include:
If you have seen these symptoms in the behavior of someone you care about or are experiencing them yourself, it is important that you seek out professional addiction treatment services for help to avoid any permanent mental or physical damage caused by kratom abuse.
As with all addictive substances, the first step in kratom addiction treatment is to undergo supervised medical detoxification, a process that rids the body of any drugs, alcohol or other toxins from the body to achieve sobriety and mental and physical stabilization.
Because kratom affects the body and brain in a way that is so similar to opioids, its withdrawal symptoms are also usually similar to those associated with opioid withdrawal, which is on the milder end of the substance withdrawal spectrum.
However, kratom withdrawal is still being studied, and can often manifest unpredictable, more dangerous symptoms like panic attacks, suicidal behavior, hallucinations, and even psychosis. Because of this, kratom detox should not be attempted alone or without some level of professional medical intervention.
Once someone has finished detox, the next step in kratom addiction treatment is to receive ongoing care at an addiction rehabilitation treatment program. Depending on the severity of someone’s addiction, as well as factors like if they have a history of relapse or a co-occurring disorder, they may opt for either inpatient or outpatient treatment.
During treatment, a client will learn to better understand addiction and address the issues behind their addictive behaviors through the use of various therapies and treatments, including cognitive behavioral therapy, dual diagnosis treatment, holistic therapy, and more.
Part of what makes kratom so dangerous is all that we still don’t know about it. This is what makes it so easy for people to assume there are no dangers associated with misusing or abusing it.
However, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there have been published case reports of kratom causing grand mal seizures, psychosis, and death. The deaths associated with kratom largely seem to have been associated with polysubstance use, meaning people taking kratom at the same time as benzodiazepines, alcohol, and other opioids.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with kratom dependence or addiction, take action now to get on the path toward a brighter, sober future with the help of Ocean Breeze Recovery.
Quitting is never easy, but you don’t have to do it alone. At Ocean Breeze Recovery, we are with you every step of the way through the entirety of your treatment program and beyond. We offer the full continuum of care and will do whatever it takes to help you achieve lasting recovery. Call 844-554-9279 now to speak with one of our specialists about getting a free and confidential consultation to help find the treatment that’s right for you or your loved one. You can also contact us online to learn more.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, August 24). Notes from the Field: Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) Exposures Reported to Poison Centers. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6529a4.htm
Mammoser, G. (2018, February 13). Kratom: Is It an Opioid? Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/should-we-care-that-kratom-is-classified-as-an-opioid
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018, September). Drug Facts: Kratom. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/kratom
Warner, M. L., Kaufman, N. C., & Grundmann, O. (2016, January). The Pharmacology and Toxicology of Kratom: From Traditional Herb to Drug of Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26511390