Kratom is an herb that comes from the leaves of an evergreen tree that’s been around for centuries. Found primarily in various regions of Africa and Southeast Asia, the herb has been used by indigenous people all around the globe to treat things like coughs, muscle aches, GI problems, and diarrhea. However, the thought that it is a “natural, plant-based remedy” can be misleading.
Within the last few years, kratom has become quite popular in the West. You can find kratom pills in various smoke shops across the United States or in online stores, but this does not come without controversy. Those that argue against this herb being allowed to be sold and consumed say that the herb can produce feelings as opioids do – that super relaxed, euphoric feeling that numbs mental and physical pain. And, they say it’s addictive.
Those that are in favor of the herb say that it is not addictive and can help treat those who struggle with pain, including those struggling with fibromyalgia, muscle pain, back pain, and essentially anyone with chronic pain. However, the jury is still out when it comes to the specifics of just how helpful or dangerous kratom is. In other words, there’s a lot of varying opinions.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is trying to make kratom a Schedule 1 drug because it believes that it has no medical effectiveness. As a Schedule 1 drug, this means that it would be banned from being sold or consumed. Instead, they have listed it as a Drug of Concern.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is in agreement with the DEA, conducting research, and finding that kratom is indeed a dangerous substance. In fact, a public health advisory was issued by the FDA in 2017, saying, “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.”
Kratom has been heavily marketed as an alternative healing herb to treat things like anxiety, depression, or opioid withdrawal symptoms, but the reality is that the herb can be dangerous. The National Institute of Health says, “The natural history of kratom use, including its clinical pharmacology and toxicology, are poorly understood.”
Kratom can be consumed in a variety of ways. Once the leaves have been dried out, kratom can be used to make tea, chewed, or smoked. Kratom is also made in pill form. Some slang names for kratom include thang, gratom, krathom, kedemba, and mitragynine extract.
Not everyone who tries kratom will become addicted to it, but the reality is that some will. There’s no way to tell who will become addicted and who won’t. If you have a history of addiction, you may be more likely to become addicted to it. However, even if addiction is not in your past, you still run the risk of becoming dependent on or addicted to it.
If your body has become addicted to kratom, you’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you go a while without another dose or try to stop taking it. The following are some signs that you may have a kratom addiction.
There are some people who have overdosed on kratom, as evidenced by the calls to the poison control center. There have been 11 deaths reported due to kratom overdose, and according to a journal article in Clinical Toxicology, there were 1,801 kratom calls to the poison control center between the years of 2011 and 2017. Most of them happened in just one year – between 2016 and 2017.
Overdosing on kratom isn’t like an opioid overdose. If an opioid overdose occurs, the breath becomes very shallow, the heart rate slows way down, and you can become unconscious. A kratom overdose can cause similar symptoms, but experts say other symptoms occur that aren’t associated with opioids, such as tachycardia (fast heart rate), seizures, or high blood pressure. This makes it challenging to treat those who end up in the emergency room under the influence of a drug, but doctors can’t tell if the symptoms are from an opioid, kratom, or a mixture of drugs.
There has been an increase in kratom use over the past few years, partially because there’s some buzz out there about it possibly helping curb opioid withdrawal symptoms. While this may be true for some people trying to get off opioids, some report horrible stories when it comes to their kratom use. They might start off using it just fine, but then their body starts to build tolerance, so they have to take more and more.
Then, many fall into active addiction with kratom, suffering uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when they try to get off of it. While it may not be as dangerous as say, heroin, kratom pills can still be hazardous and lead to overdose.
The major concern with kratom is when it is mixed with alcohol or other drugs, or the herb is laced with other substances that could pose a danger. You may think you are getting pure kratom, but the purity level could be way off, and you never know what’s really in the pill. In fact, there are reports that say several deaths have been linked to people buying online kratom supplements that were marketed as “dietary supplements.” There were other, more harmful substances mixed in with the kratom.
It’s tough because there are no regulations in place when it comes to kratom. You can find online stores selling it, but no one’s checking it out to see if it’s pure kratom.
Health experts assert that no one should be mixing kratom with alcohol or other drugs due to the potential dangers. This includes any form of alcohol, benzos like Valium or Xanax, opioids, or gabapentin.
If you believe you are addicted to kratom, it’s best to stop using the herb as soon as possible. The best kratom addiction treatment is a medically supervised detox at a residential treatment facility or outpatient program. Detoxing gives your body time to rid itself of the harmful substances associated with kratom, and that’s best done with monitoring by substance abuse professionals.
Detox takes about a week to 10 days, and from there you can opt to continue treatment for 30, 60, or 90 plus days. The professional support can be beneficial, as some of the withdrawal symptoms can be quite uncomfortable. You’ll appreciate that care and support for sure.
Feel free to give us a call or chat with us online if you have any questions or would like to talk about treatment options. We want you to be safe and free from this addiction. Take your first step toward freedom today.
US Drug Enforcement Administrtion. Drugs of Concern. Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/taxonomy/term/311
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2017, November 4) Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. on FDA advisory about deadly risks associated with kratom. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/statement-fda-commissioner-scott-gottlieb-md-fda-advisory-about-deadly-risks-associated-kratom
National Institute of Health. Self-treatment of opioid withdrawal using kratom. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3670991/
healthline. (2019, February 14) Kratom: Is It Safe? . Stevens, C., Wilson, D.R. PhD., MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/is-kratom-safe
Healthline. Kratom Overdoses Are on the Rise. Why They're Hard to Spot. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-to-spot-a-kratom-overdose
Taylor and Francis Online. Journal of Clinical Toxicology. (2018, October 28) Poison Centre Research. Kratom exposures reported to United States poison control centers: 2011–2017. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15563650.2019.1569236?journalCode=ictx20
National Institute on Drug Abuse. What is Kratom? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/kratom