Opioid users call kratom a godsend, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calls it a menace, according to an article published in The New York Times. Kratom is an herbal substance that has swept the nation with its effects, which are similar to opioids in larger doses, and speed in lower doses. The drug is still relatively new in the States, and not much research has been done to study the effects, but the latest studies have shown how similar it is to an opioid drug.
Unfortunately, the substance is still considered legal on a broad scale, but all that could be changing very soon. People who have opioid addiction have helped spawn the use of kratom because of its availability and lack of regulation. It is also being consumed by those who swear by it to help curb their opioid addiction. The same article goes on to say that an estimated “several million Americans are believed to use kratom.”
The drug has increased in popularity over the years, and according to social media outlets such as Reddit, many more people have been posting their experiences and how it affects them. Unfortunately, a spike in overdose deaths has followed the drug’s growing popularity. According to the New York Post, the herbal supplement kratom is linked to nearly 100 deaths in 18 months.
If something is killing us and causing addiction, there should be a significant concern as to why it is still legal. It’s important to note that of these deaths, seven of the individuals had kratom in their systems exclusively, while the others had drugs such as fentanyl or heroin along with kratom.
Kratom comes from a plant native to Southeast Asia. It is sold in capsules or powders claiming to ease pain, anxiety, and drug dependence. Reports show that it causes euphoric effects similar to other opioid drugs that have been fueling our current nationwide overdose epidemic. With an increase in deaths and many people speaking about their kratom withdrawal experience, it is necessary to shed light on an issue that many find harmless.
Substance use never causes problems immediately, but as dependence and tolerance begin to emerge, addiction becomes possible. Kratom withdrawal is similar to that of opioids, and more is being learned about how it has the same terrifying symptoms of much stronger opioids.
A Denver-area resident John, speaks to the online resource, Westword, about how kratom “ruined his life.” Another user goes on to say that “even proponents of kratom acknowledge that it isn’t entirely risk-free.”
“Some people become dependent on kratom for two reasons, one is that it works, and as humans, we’re naturally attracted to anything that works. But it’s also a plant in the coffee family, and coffee can have that effect, too.” When the drug is not used mindfully, you can start building a tolerance, which requires you to use higher amounts.
John mentions he was spending $110 a week for a kilo of kratom after losing his job and getting a DUI. He goes on to say, “When I ran out, I had a withdrawal — and I didn’t know anything like that was going to happen. I rode my bike 6 miles to a mall, and said, ‘Do you have anything for my withdrawal?’ And they didn’t. They gave me some vitamins that didn’t do anything. So I had to order more kratom.”
He began to hate kratom and what it was doing to him, and it led him to drink again. Eventually, John got sober, but it was an arduous road to get there.
Kratom works similarly to opioids. It binds to the brain’s opioid receptors. When this act occurs, pain signals struggle to reach the brain and euphoria occurs. Those who consume kratom typically use it to enhance their mood, relieve pain, or as a substitute to stop opioid or alcohol use. Abstaining from the drug, however, is not easy for some. Uncomfortable kratom withdrawal symptoms have been reported, and they include:
Kratom use has not been present in the United States for an extended period, and information that pertains to the withdrawal timeline is scarce. Due to its similarities shared with opioids, the kratom withdrawal timeline is much like opioid withdrawal.
Those attempting to abstain from kratom use may wonder how long withdrawal symptoms can persist, but this will vary based on various factors that include:
Once these factors have been reviewed, here is a general kratom withdrawal timeline:
Withdrawal symptoms will start around 12 hours after the last dose; however, some may experience these sooner. Early withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, nausea, and general flu-like symptoms.
At this point, symptoms may start to peak, and increased anxiety, body aches, migraines, mood swings, or depression can be expected. During this phase, you will be the most vulnerable to relapse.
Once you reach this point, the intensity of withdrawal symptoms will greatly diminish. The physical symptoms will be the first to go, but psychological symptoms such as cravings or anxiety can persist. As mentioned above, it will vary from person to person and how they went about detox.
Detox helps safely transition those attempting to abstain from drugs and mitigate the dangers involved. Typically, it consists of an evaluation to learn about things such as how much of the drug has been used and how often. What follows is the stage to taper off the drug, and at times, medication may be used. In the case of kratom detox, experts are not sure which medications to use to decrease withdrawal symptoms. How kratom effects the brain is still being studied.
It’s necessary to mention that someone using kratom should not stop cold turkey, as there can be severe or dangerous withdrawal symptoms. There have been cases where individuals coming off kratom exhibited psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions.”
During detox, clinicians will thoroughly assess your needs and determine your next step, which could mean a stay in residential treatment or enrollment in an outpatient treatment program to deal with the reasons that cause you to use kratom. While detox is essential in clearing the body of toxins, it does not establish the underlying causes of why you began using in the first place.
Many factors will determine where you are placed, and these can range from if it’s your first time in treatment, or if you have a sound support system at home. Despite where you are placed, you will go through therapies that address these issues.
Therapies and treatment plans you will attend can consist of:
If you or someone you love is abusing kratom, it’s crucial that they get help immediately. The uptick in overdose deaths is a cause for concern, and to avoid becoming one of those statistics, reaching out for help is necessary.
Singh, D., Müller, C. P., & Vicknasingam, B. K. (2014, June 01). Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) dependence, withdrawal symptoms and craving in regular users. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24698080
Roberts, M. (2019, February 25). "Kratom Ruined My Life," User Says. from https://www.westword.com/news/kratom-ruined-my-life-user-says-10023902
Oppel, R. A., & Kovaleski, S. F. (2019, April 17). Opioid Users Call Kratom a Godsend. The F.D.A. Says It's a Menace. from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/us/kratom-overdose-deaths.html