Kratom Addiction

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 way into the U.S. 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.

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.

 

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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 currently taking a closer look at kratom to learn more about it and just how dangerous it might be to the public.

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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:

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  • Teas
  • Juices
  • Powder
  • Tablets
  • Mixed in with caffeinated drinks
  • Mixed in with codeine cough syrup

Kratom, also known as herbal speedball, biak, and thang, is 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.

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.

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.

Some have argued that kratom may be potentially useful in medical maintenance therapy to help with opioid addiction in much the same way as methadone or suboxone, but it has not been studied thoroughly enough to support this claim. The adverse effects of kratom, on the other hand, are significantly more well-documented.

Side Effects of Kratom Use

Kratom has the potential to be unsafe for those who take it orally. Kratom can cause many side effects, which include:

  • Tongue numbness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Constant urge to urinate
  • Constipation (similar to opioids)
  • Aggression
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Thyroid problems

When kratom is used excessively, it can create a dependence that leads to addiction. Those who use the drug regularly and then stop taking it can experience:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Brain swelling
  • Seizures
  • Liver damage
  • Death

When kratom is used excessively, it can create a dependence that leads to addiction. Those who use the drug regularly and then stop taking it can experience:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Hot flashes
  • Fever

Those with an alcohol dependence who use kratom have been shown to have an increased risk of suicide compared to those who use kratom without alcohol dependency. In addition, using kratom while pregnant can be extremely dangerous.

The Mayo Clinic released an article that kratom and pregnancy is not a safe mix, and should not be taken during pregnancy. Using kratom during your pregnancy can cause withdrawal syndrome for your baby at birth.

A 2019 study showed reports released from the poison control center than seven cases involving infants, five of which were born in withdrawal because their mother had been taking kratom during pregnancy.

What Are the Signs of Kratom Addiction?

As its fellow opioids, prolonged use of kratom will change a person’s brain chemistry to expect regular doses of kratom. Because of this, users develop a dependence that can bloom into a full-blown addiction. Some physical signs of kratom addiction include:

  • Insomnia
  • Anorexia
  • Constipation
  • Withdrawal symptoms such as aches, vomiting, and irritability

Along with these symptoms are also the common behavioral signs indicative of addiction, such as:

 

  • Social withdrawal
  • Mood swings and shifts in personality
  • Inability to stop using kratom despite attempting to do so
  • Lack of motivation/productivity at school or work
  • 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 opioid dependency, it is essential to seek treatment quickly, as the length and severity of the addiction can complicate the detox process and make 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, when kratom acts 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
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Migraines
  • 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, therefore,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
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • 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.

 

Kratom Abuse Statistics

  • Kratom was banned in Thailand in 1979 as well as in Malaysia in 2003.
  • Kratom is still the most commonly abused illegal drug in Thailand.
  • Kratom abuse is currently not monitored by any national drug abuse surveys in the U.S., making accurate overdose and fatality statistics difficult to track.
  • In 2016, the DEA announced its intent to add kratom to the list of banned Schedule I drugs but said they would wait on the FDA to finish researching whether kratom has any credible medical uses.

Start Your Journey to Recovery

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 to speak with an experienced admissions professional.