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Kratom: Symptoms, Addiction and Treatment

Kratom, commonly referred to as an herbal substance derived from the Mitragyna speciosa tree in Southeast Asia, is recognized for its ability to produce opioid- and stimulant-like effects.

Because kratom is legal, the drug doesn’t have the stigma of other hallucinogens.

Kratom’s legal status also makes it a drug that is popular with younger adults.

The leaves and stems are dried and either chewed or brewed into a tea-like substance. Depending upon the dosage, the sensations of using this drug can produce a mild stimulant, while larger doses can produce opioid-like effects in users.

Kratom is usually bought in leaf form. In the US, however, the drug is more likely to be purchased as a capsule filled with a powdered extract of the leafy material, or in a chopped-up form that is to be used for tea or smoking.

In nearly every use of kratom, the drug is orally ingested.

Once the drug is smoked or drank, the effects occur in five to ten minutes, and can last between two and five hours. Higher doses can last even longer periods of time.

While kratom and kratom-based products are currently legal and accessible in many areas, U.S. and international agencies continue to scrutinize the emerging evidence to guide policy decisions according to the 2021 United Nations, Commission on Narcotic Drugs report. Despite its legal status in the US, it is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for any medical use; however, people often use kratom to manage drug withdrawal symptoms, especially related to opioids, pain, fatigue, and mental health problems according to Dr Joseph J Palamar in 2021. Kratom is primarily consumed in leaf, capsule, or tea form, with effects manifesting within minutes and potentially lasting several hours.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse supports research to evaluate kratom’s potential medicinal uses and its overall health and safety effects, as serious but rare effects such as psychiatric, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and respiratory problems have been reported. Compared to other drugs, deaths linked to kratom are very rare and nearly always involve other substances or contaminants.

What are the effects of Kratom?

Researchers continue to investigate how kratom and its compounds affect the body and the health impacts of its short- and long-term use. The evolving evidence provides key insights, revealing kratom’s complex pharmacology and its variable effects on users. As reported by Garcia-Romeu et al. in their 2020 study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, and Grundmann’s 2017 survey in the same journal, these effects are influenced by factors including the dose, potency, formulation, method of ingestion, existing substances in the user’s system, underlying health conditions, and previous experiences with kratom.

The effects of kratom are notably diverse. At lower doses, it can increase energy and alertness, whereas higher doses tend to induce relaxation and pain relief, akin to opioid effects, as explored by Garcia-Romeu et al. and Grundmann in their respective studies. The primary active compounds in kratom, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, play crucial roles in its effects. These compounds’ impact varies with their concentration in different kratom products, which can lead to unpredictable effects, especially when contaminants are present, as noted by Leong Bin Abdullah and Singh in a 2021 article in Front Pharmacology.

Adverse effects range from mild to severe. Users have reported experiencing mild side effects such as nausea and constipation, and in more severe cases, issues like confusion, seizures, and respiratory problems have occurred, as detailed by Post et al. in their 2019 analysis for Clinical Toxicology. Although fatalities are rare, they have mostly involved the use of contaminated kratom products or its combination with other drugs, as discussed by Kronstrand et al. in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology (2011) and Henningfield et al. in Preventive Medicine (2019).

Interactions between kratom and other drugs can significantly affect its impact, potentially leading to severe health issues like liver damage, as found in case reports cited by Singh et al. in the Journal of Addiction Medicine (2021). Long-term effects remain poorly understood, though some evidence suggests that prolonged, heavy kratom use may lead to significant liver issues, a finding supported by research from Henningfield et al.

Despite the lack of FDA approval for medical use, many individuals use kratom to self-manage pain, anxiety, depression, and opioid withdrawal symptoms, highlighting its perceived benefits in these areas, as discussed by Cinosi et al. in Biomed Research International (2015). Ongoing research, supported by organizations like NIDA, continues to explore these potential therapeutic applications, aiming to provide a clearer understanding of kratom’s efficacy and safety.

“Kratom, , can cause symptoms similar to stimulants and opiods simultaneously” explains Dr. Michael Olla, a Psychiatrist and Medical Director at Valley Spring Recovery Center. “We’ve also seen cases where individuals report a distorted sense of gravity, leading them to fall to the ground.” These reactions can be quite intense, causing users to panic or ‘freak out’ as they lose control over their bodily movements.”

How does kratom affect long-term health?

Research on the long-term health effects of kratom is still limited, but there are concerns about potential risks. Prolonged kratom use has been associated with liver damage, changes in brain function, and hormonal imbalances. High doses and frequent use can exacerbate these risks, leading to more severe health issues such as renal failure, cardiovascular problems, or neurological deficits. More research is needed to fully understand the long-term impacts of kratom use on overall health.

How does kratom affect mental health?

Kratom has psychoactive effects that vary depending on the dosage, exhibiting both stimulant and opioid-like properties. At lower doses, kratom typically enhances energy and sociability, making users feel more alert and interactive. In contrast, higher doses tend to produce sedative effects, which may include relaxation and drowsiness. The specific mental health impact of kratom can vary widely among individuals, with some experiencing positive effects on mood and alertness while others may encounter sedation and diminished cognitive functions.

What are the risks and safety concerns associated with kratom use?

While kratom may have therapeutic potential, it also poses significant safety concerns and it is available for public use without a prescription. The effects of kratom can be unpredictable due to the variability in how it is processed and the presence of unregulated compounds in commercial products. Users have reported side effects ranging from mild, such as nausea and constipation, to severe, including seizures, liver damage, and addiction. The interaction of kratom with other substances can exacerbate these risks, making it dangerous for users with certain health conditions or those taking other medications.

Kratom is a substance with complex effects and potential therapeutic benefits that are currently under extensive research. However, its safety profile is equally complicated, necessitating careful consideration and regulation. As the scientific community continues to unravel the pharmacological mysteries of kratom, potential users and healthcare providers must stay informed about the latest research and regulatory updates to mitigate health risks.

How Can Kratom Rehab Help?

A solid support group and a high-quality rehabilitation center are crucial in your recovery from kratom addiction. Comprehensive rehab not only helps you quit but also assists in identifying the triggers that could lead to relapse. Recognizing these trigger scenarios allows you to rely on your support group to maintain your path to recovery. While quitting kratom is challenging, with dedication, hard work, and a strong desire to overcome addiction, achieving a drug-free life is entirely possible. It’s never too late to take the first step toward a new life. Most alcohol and drug treatment facilities offer two primary options: inpatient and outpatient programs.

Kratom Inpatient And Outpatient Rehab

When a patient is so dependent on kratom he or she can’t detox or rehab alone, the patient will need inpatient rehab which comes with medical care and supervision. Residential treatment is reserved for users who have abused the substance to the point of developing physical dependence and require around-the-clock monitoring and support by qualified healthcare professionals.

Outpatient treatment allows the person seeking help to continue living at home while attending treatment.

What Is The Process For Kratom Rehab?

Along with the mental and emotional toll addiction can take on a person, it also causes extreme weight gain or loss, illness, injury, or other physical ailments.

Along with fighting addiction, rehabilitation can include getting back into good physical health. This means participating in low-impact, physical activities like yoga or stretching.

Recovery programs address the mental well-being of the patient along with the physical detox process.

What Is The Length Of Kratom Treatment?

Because each addiction is different, each timeline as to the length of treatment is also different. Depending on the degree of your kratom use, treatment could last anywhere from a few days, to months, or possibly longer.

Also keep in mind that kratom treatment doesn’t just involve detox and a week or two of recovery. To increase the likelihood of continued sobriety, your treatment will also involve extended counseling sessions.

In addition to helping you quit using kratom, your rehab will help give you the emotional, mental, and physical strength to stay sober in the face of temptation.

Inpatient Visitations

If you plan to visit someone during his or her inpatient recovery, be sure to clear it with patient’s counselor first, as it can affect the patient in different ways depending on they are handling the recovery process.

If you decide to visit a patient during rehabilitation, be sure to do so when the patient if feeling positive and upbeat. Visiting a patient when they are struggling through the recovery process could be counterproductive.

The rules regarding when visits are allowed will be determined by the rehabilitation center.

Most do not allow visits when the patient is in the detox process or during the vital first stages of the rehabilitation process. When the timing is right, a visit from a friend or family member can be very helpful in the recovery process.

A well-timed visit lets the person in recovery know that people still care and he or she is not struggling alone.

What Drug Class Is Kratom Part Of?

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime lists kratom in a newly defined drug class called “New Psychoactive Substances”.

In the 2013 World Drug Report, kratom is listed with khat, which is a plant from East Africa, Salvia divinorum, which is a plant widely available in the US, mephedrone and synthetics ketamine. Again, many of these drugs are not yet illegal in the US and Europe despite their dangerous and addictive effects.

Is There Actual Value To Taking Kratom?

Kratom has been used to wean addicts off heroin, however there are disputes as to whether this is an effective detox process.

Critics instead argue that kratom can cause dependence and addiction much like opioid drugs, with side effects such as suppressed respiration, nausea, vomiting, itching, constipation, and loss of appetite.

In some instances, kratom may be marketed and sold as a dietary supplement. Nonetheless, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an import alert on the substance in 2014. As of January 2016, the FDA placed a ban on imports of products containing kratom, such as the rapid relief mood booster, RelaKzpro.

In its decision, the FDA found that kratom does not have legitimate use as a dietary supplement (an original benefit espoused by kratom suppliers) and banned products claiming to have benefits from import into the United States.

The FDA also placed businesses selling known kratom-based products onto a red list. This gives authorities blanket power to seize any form of kratom, including capsules, resins, leaves, and liquids containing the leaves.

What are the Differences Between Kava and Kratom?

Kava Vs Kratom

Kava and kratom are both plants used traditionally in the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia, respectively and they are frequently sold in the same places and some users consume both. They are known for their psychoactive properties but differ significantly in their specifics, including the active compounds, effects, legal status, and cultural uses.

1. Botanical Background:

  • Kava (Piper methysticum): A crop from the western Pacific, utilized primarily for its roots to produce a beverage known for relaxation and social bonding.
  • Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa): A tree from Southeast Asia, where its leaves are used for their stimulant and sedative effects depending on the dose.

2. Active Ingredients:

  • Kava contains kavalactones, affecting the limbic system, the brain’s emotional center, to promote calm and relaxation.
  • Kratom has mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, which interact with opioid receptors to produce stimulating effects at low doses and sedative effects at higher doses.

3. Uses:

  • Kava is traditionally consumed during social and ceremonial occasions in Pacific cultures, and medicinally to relieve anxiety and insomnia.
  • Kratom is used by workers in Asia to increase energy and relieve pain during long labor hours. It has also been used to curb opium dependence.

4. Effects:

  • Kava induces relaxation and contentment, but excessive use has been associated with health issues, including potential liver damage.
  • Kratom can boost alertness or provide relief from pain depending on the amount consumed. It can cause side effects like nausea and constipation, with potential risks of dependency from long-term use.

5. Legal Status:

  • Kava is legal in many parts of the world but regulated in others due to health concerns.
  • Kratom faces more varied regulations, with some countries banning it due to its psychoactive properties and potential for abuse.

6. Cultural Significance:

  • Kava has a deep-rooted presence in Pacific Island societies, where it is integral to traditional practices and community gatherings.
  • Kratom plays a significant role in the traditional lifestyles of Southeast Asian agrarian communities but is less culturally integral compared to kava.

Both plants serve important roles in their native regions, offering benefits under traditional use scenarios. However, they also pose risks, particularly when used improperly or without adequate understanding of their effects.

Where to Buy Kratom?

In the United States, the legality of kratom varies by state, with most states permitting the sale of kratom to individuals who are at least 21 years old. The decision to allow the sale of kratom often comes down to legislative action, as seen in New Jersey with Bill A4071 and in Florida with Bill 842. These bills are voted on by state legislatures, which determine the legal status of kratom within their respective jurisdictions.

For those looking to purchase kratom, there are several options:

1. Local Specialty Shops: Many herbal, wellness, and specialty stores offer kratom in various forms, including powders, capsules, and teas. These local shops are often knowledgeable about their products and can provide guidance on usage and dosage.

2. Online Vendors: A wide range of online vendors sell kratom, often providing a broader selection than what might be available locally. When purchasing kratom online, it’s important to verify the credibility and reviews of the seller to ensure that the product is pure and has been responsibly sourced.

3. Kratom Bar Franchises: Kratom bars have become increasingly popular, particularly in areas where kratom is legal. These establishments serve kratom-infused beverages in a social setting. Some well-known kratom bar franchises include:

  • The Chill Room: Known for its relaxed atmosphere, The Chill Room offers a variety of kratom-infused beverages, catering to both newcomers and seasoned kratom users.
  • Island Vibes Kava Bar: This franchise provides a tropical setting where customers can enjoy kratom and kava drinks. It’s a popular spot for those looking to experience the calming effects of kratom in a vibrant, island-themed environment.
  • Pause Franchise: Pause focuses on offering a tranquil experience, serving up kratom teas and other herbal drinks designed to soothe and relax its patrons.
  • Kava Culture: At Kava Culture, the focus is on creating a community around the shared enjoyment of kava and kratom. Their bars offer a unique cultural experience alongside a menu of herbal beverages.

When purchasing kratom, it’s essential to consider the legal status in your area and opt for reputable sources that provide high-quality, uncontaminated products. Whether you choose to buy from a local shop, online, or at a kratom bar, ensuring the purity and safety of the product is paramount.

What Are The Treatment Options For Kratom Abuse?

Recovery from kratom addiction is a highly individualized process, with the length and intensity of treatment varying significantly depending on the severity of the addiction and the specific needs of the individual. The journey to recovery often demands a significant personal commitment, both emotionally and physically, as well as a robust support system to maintain long-term sobriety.

1. Detoxification and Medical Intervention: Kratom is associated with painful withdrawal symptoms similar to that of opioids that require a medical detox, particularly in circumstances of severe abuse and polysubstance abuse when kratom is mixed with other drugs. This process can be managed with the help of medical professionals in a controlled environment, especially for users experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, which can include muscle aches, irritability, mood disturbances, runny nose, aggression, and emotional changes. Medical professionals might use medications to mitigate withdrawal symptoms effectively, providing a safer tapering off from the substance rather than quitting cold turkey, which can be dangerous.

2. Behavioral Therapies: Behavioral interventions are crucial in the treatment of kratom addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly effective as it helps individuals identify and manage triggers for substance use, develop strategies to cope with cravings, and adjust behaviors associated with drug use. Therapy can occur in individual or group settings and is often integral to many rehab programs.

3. Support Groups and Peer Support: Support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or other community support groups can provide ongoing encouragement and a sense of community, which are vital for sustaining sobriety. Peer support helps individuals feel that they are not alone in their journey, offering a platform to share experiences and solutions that have worked for others in similar situations.

4. Residential Treatment Programs: For some, long-term residential treatment programs are the most effective form of care. These programs remove individuals from their potentially toxic environments and provide comprehensive, 24-hour support. This includes structured treatment programs that address not only the physical aspects of addiction but also psychological and social factors influencing addictive behaviors.

5. Outpatient Treatment Programs: As an alternative to residential treatment, outpatient programs can offer flexibility for individuals who cannot commit to a residential stay due to personal responsibilities. These programs can vary in intensity and duration and typically require participation in scheduled treatment sessions throughout the week.

6. Aftercare Planning: After completing a structured treatment program, developing a comprehensive aftercare plan is crucial. This plan may involve ongoing therapy, regular participation in support groups, and possibly a sober living environment to help transition back into everyday life. Aftercare is critical in preventing relapse and maintaining the gains made during treatment.

7. Education and Lifestyle Changes: Educating individuals about the effects of kratom, potential triggers, and the importance of a healthy lifestyle can bolster recovery efforts. Encouraging a balanced diet, regular exercise, and constructive hobbies can help individuals rebuild their lives and find satisfaction and joy outside of substance use.

Recovery strategies must be tailored to the individual, recognizing that effective treatment often requires a multifaceted approach. With appropriate support and treatment, individuals struggling with kratom addiction can achieve lasting recovery, ultimately leading to a healthy, fulfilling life.

What Are Kratom’s Legal Challenges and Medical Potential?

While legal, kratom faces scrutiny due to its psychoactive properties and potential for abuse. Categorized by some authorities as a “drug of concern,” it remains accessible in various forms across the US. Interestingly, kratom is studied for its potential in opioid addiction treatment, although this application is contentious among medical professionals.

How do kratom compounds work in the brain?

Kratom’s primary compounds, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, impact the brain by binding to and activating opioid receptors. These interactions induce effects similar to opioids, such as pain relief and euphoria, albeit generally less intense. Unlike traditional opioids, kratom compounds tend to cause fewer dangerous side effects like respiratory depression, which is a common cause of overdose-related deaths among opioid users. Research published by NIDA in 2022 titled “Kratom.” indicates that kratom also affects other neurotransmitter systems in the brain. It interacts with serotonin and dopamine receptors, which may contribute to its use as a self-treatment for depression and anxiety by some users.

Can kratom replace antidepressants?

Kratom is sometimes used by individuals to alleviate symptoms of depression due to its stimulant and sedative properties, derived from the evergreen tree, Mitragyna speciosa. However, it is important to note that there is limited scientific evidence supporting kratom’s effectiveness as an antidepressant. Additionally, kratom can pose severe risks, including dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms. Due to these factors and the lack of regulatory approval, kratom should not be considered a replacement for traditional antidepressants without professional medical advice.

Does kratom increase dopamine levels?

Research indicates that kratom impacts dopamine functioning in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter involved in reward, motivation, and pleasure systems. Kratom contains compounds that may enhance or modify dopamine pathways; however, it is unclear whether this effect significantly boosts dopamine levels similar to traditional drugs of abuse. Users should be cautious, as the alteration of dopamine can lead to dependency and other neurological effects.

How does kratom interact with prescription medications?

Kratom may interact with prescription medications in ways that can be potentially harmful. Because kratom acts on the body’s opioid receptors, it can interfere with drugs that also influence these receptors, such as pain medications or opioid addiction treatments. Furthermore, combining kratom with other drugs that affect the central nervous system, like benzodiazepines, antidepressants, or anticonvulsants, could increase the risk of side effects such as sedation or respiratory depression. Individuals considering using kratom should consult with healthcare providers to discuss potential drug interactions.

Can kratom cause withdrawal symptoms similar to opioids?

Yes, regular kratom use can lead to dependence and withdrawal symptoms similar to those associated with opioid addiction and withdrawal. These symptoms may include nausea, sweating, muscle aches, irritability, emotional changes, and cravings for the drug. The severity and duration of withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the length and intensity of kratom use. Medical supervision is often recommended for individuals trying to quit kratom, especially those who have used it heavily.

Is it legal to drive while under the influence of kratom?

Driving under the influence of kratom is not recommended as it can impair motor skills, reaction time, and judgment. While kratom is not regulated in the same way as other narcotics in many regions, driving while impaired by any substance, including kratom, could be considered illegal and result in DUI charges. The effects of kratom on driving ability can vary based on the dosage and individual response, so it’s safest to avoid driving if you’ve consumed kratom.

Can kratom be detected in drug tests?

Standard drug tests typically do not screen for kratom, but there are specialized tests that can detect kratom compounds like mitragynine and 7-hydroxy mitragynine. These specific tests are not commonly used but may be employed in certain contexts where kratom use is suspected. The detectability of kratom in these tests can depend on the dosage, frequency of use, and the time elapsed since last use.

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