In the ongoing fight against the opioid crisis, drugs like heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl have taken center stage, but more opiate-based substances are finding their ways into the country and making themselves available to people vulnerable to dependency and addiction. Whether they’re an entirely new synthetic opioid or just one that’s new to the United States, the fact that we know so little about them is what makes them so dangerous.
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In the case of opioids such as kratom, even though it has been used in countries like Thailand for more than half a century, information about its use and abuse in the U.S. is often anecdotal at best, as its use is unregulated and largely unmonitored.
However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a recent tenfold spike in calls to poison control centers for kratom exposure: from just 26 in 2010 to 263 in 2015. As of last year, both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are both currently taking a closer look at kratom to learn more about it and just how dangerous it might be to the public.
What Is Kratom?
Kratom is the common name for Mitragyna speciosa, a tropical tree that’s in the coffee family of flowering plants. Native to Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Indonesia, kratom has been in use for decades in these countries as a substitute for opium meant to boost energy as well as manage pain. Traditionally, Thai farmers would chew kratom leaves to counteract the exhaustive effects of hard labor, but in recent years it has been available in several other forms, including:
- Mixed in with caffeinated drinks
- Mixed in with codeine cough syrup
Kratom is also known as herbal speedball, biak, thang, and frequently served in bars under the name ketum to avoid the connection to kratom.
Kratom is classified as an opioid because it binds itself to the brain’s opioid receptors to block pain and produce euphoric effects in a manner similar to morphine. However, these effects are only achieved at high doses. Kratom differs from most opioids in that, at very low doses, it has the effects typical of a stimulant, including increased energy, talkativeness, and alertness. The onset of these effects is typically within 5-10 minutes and can last between two and five hours.
However, while there have been no clinical trials as of 2013, kratom’s effects were found to be 13 times more powerful than morphine when used on mice.
Due to how little the pharmacology of kratom has been studied, not much is known about how it works and its dual status as both sedative and stimulant, and why different varieties of kratom will have stronger opioid effects than stimulant effects and vice versa.
What Are the Signs of Kratom Addiction?
Like its fellow opioids, prolonged use of kratom will alter a person’s brain chemistry to expect regular doses of kratom, developing a dependence that can bloom into a full-blown addiction. Some physical signs of kratom addiction include:
- Withdrawal symptoms
Along with these symptoms, there are also the common behavioral signs indicative of addiction, such as:
- Social withdrawal
- Mood swings and shifts in personality
- Inability to stop using kratom
- Lack of motivation/productivity
- An overall increase in risky behavior
- Hiding your abuse from family and friends
If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms and behaviors while taking kratom, it is indicative of kratom dependence. You should seek help as soon as possible to avoid an overdose and prevent further mental and physical damage caused by kratom abuse.
What Is Involved in Kratom Addiction Treatment in South Florida?
When dealing with an opioid dependency, it is essential to seek treatment quickly, as the length and severity of the addiction can complicate the detox process and make the withdrawal symptoms more painful. Even so, however unpleasant the withdrawal may be, going through medical detoxification is a crucial first step in getting treated for kratom addiction.
Additionally, detoxing at a professional medical treatment center will help mitigate the risk of relapse and ensure that you purge your body of kratom safely and under close supervision.
The fact that there is still so much about kratom and the factors involved in detoxing from it that we don’t know only serves to highlight why you should not attempt to detox alone but instead seek out experienced, professional assistance. What we do know is that, as an opioid, there are still some common withdrawal symptoms that can be expected during the first phase of kratom treatment, including:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms (sweating, chills, etc.)
- Extreme irritability and hostility
Based on kratom’s similarity to opioids like morphine, it is estimated that kratom withdrawal will typically begin within 12 hours of the last use, peak in about two to three days and overall last about a week.
Once the detox phase has been completed, the next step is ongoing treatment—whether it’s residential care with us or outpatient treatment with one of our sister facilities—which can depend on factors such as the severity of the addiction. Whichever you choose, entering a rehabilitation treatment program is the only sure way to lower your risk of relapse and remain abstinent. Rehabilitation treatment will generally involve at least some of the following:
- Cognitive Behavioral therapy
- Dialectical Behavioral therapy
- Group therapy
- Addiction education
- Family counseling
- 12-Step support programs
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How Dangerous Is Kratom?
The now-notorious dangers of opioid abuse notwithstanding, as we previously mentioned, a big part of what makes kratom so dangerous is how little we know about it. It is largely untracked and completely unregulated, which means that depending on how you obtain kratom and what form it’s in, there’s no way of knowing exactly what you’re getting.
Kratom is frequently sold online as an “herbal supplement,” but there’s no way to verify where it was made, how it was made, or if it was cut with something potentially fatal, such as fentanyl. The lack of knowledge concerning kratom also makes it easier for someone to accidentally overdose because we don’t know how much kratom is a lethal amount.
What we do know, due to recent research by the FDA, is that long-term use of kratom has been linked to toxicity in multiple organ systems, which can lead to a whole host of health issues, including:
- Respiratory depression
- Skin hyperpigmentation
- Loss of libido
Other clinical research states that heavy, prolonged kratom use can lead to severe liver damage and even kidney failure as the body struggles to process the toxins created by kratom. Using kratom with other substances such as alcohol or codeine can also lead to serious health consequences, including dangerously shallow breathing, seizures, and even death.
If you or a loved one is suffering from kratom dependency specifically or opioids in general, know that Arete Recovery is here to help and support you on the path to freedom from addiction. Contact us online or call us day or night at (855) 781-9939 to speak with an experienced admissions professional.