Kratom is an herbal remedy popular for self-treating mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, chronic pain, and opioid use disorder and withdrawal. While the effects of kratom can be medicinal, they can potentially contribute to the development of misuse and addiction.
What is Kratom?
Kratom comes from Mitragyna speciosa, a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia. The leaves contain psychoactive alkaloids, compounds that can have stimulant and opioid-like effects. For centuries, kratom was traditionally used by Thai and Malaysian laborers as an herbal remedy for energy and relieving muscle pain from hard work. It has recently gained popularity as a treatment for addressing symptoms of anxiety and depression, pain relief, and managing chronic opioid use. Understanding kratom’s benefits and risks is essential to make an informed decision.
Is it Legal?
Kratom and kratom-based products are legal psychoactive products accessible in the United States. While there are no medicinal uses for kratom approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) supports and researches the potential medicinal uses of kratom. Kratom’s legality varies worldwide. In the U.S., the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) has expressed concerns about its safety and potential for abuse, but it is not classified as a controlled substance. However, it’s illegal or controlled in several U.S. states and other countries.
Is Kratom Addictive?
The alkaloids in kratom, with mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine being the most prominent, interact with opioid receptors in the brain. Like opioids like morphine, these alkaloids produce effects ranging from euphoria to pain relief. Regular use of kratom can lead to physical dependence, manifesting in withdrawal symptoms like muscle aches, insomnia, and irritability when usage is cut down or stopped. Kratom users can develop a psychological dependence, feeling a need to consume more to manage stress or to feel normal. Over time, a tolerance to kratom can also develop, requiring users to consume larger amounts to achieve the same effects. Opioid tolerances like kratom escalate the risk of addiction and other side effects. While some research reports kratom might be a safer alternative to prescription opioids, such claims are informal due to limited proper research.
The Effects of Kratom on the Brain and Body
Kratom affects the brain primarily through its active compounds, mitragynine, and 7-hydroxymitragynine. These compounds interact with opioid receptors and other neurotransmitter systems, resulting in various effects. Not only does kratom have effects on the brain, but it also affects the body by influencing different bodily systems and functions.
How Does Kratom Affect the Brain?
- Opioid Receptor Interaction: The primary psychoactive compounds in kratom, especially 7-hydroxymitragynine, bind to mu-opioid receptors in the brain. This is the same receptor activated by opioids like morphine, oxycodone, and heroin, producing euphoria, pain relief, and sedation.
- Stimulatory Effects: At low doses, kratom acts as a stimulant. Users often report feeling increased energy, alertness, and sociability.
- Depressant Effects: At higher doses, kratom acts more like a depressant, leading to sedative effects similar to those produced by opioids. This can lead to reduced emotional or physical pain, calmness, and a sense of well-being.
- Neurochemical Release: Kratom can increase the release of certain neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin. This neurochemical release can produce mood-lifting effects and can play a role in the antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects of kratom.
- Cognitive Effects: Cognitive function might be impaired at higher doses, leading to clouded thinking or trouble maintaining focus.
- Potential for Addiction and Dependence: Regular and prolonged use can lead to changes in brain chemistry, resulting in physical and psychological dependence.
- Adverse Effects: Chronic use, especially in high doses, might lead to adverse cognitive effects, including memory issues or impaired decision-making.
Physical Side Effects and Symptoms
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Loss of Appetite
- Respiratory Depression
- Increased Heart Rate
- Blood Pressure Changes
- Potential Liver Toxicity
- Kidney Strain
- Weight Loss
- Reduced Testosterone Levels:
- Muscle Pain and Tremors
- Flushed Skin
Potential for Dependence and Addiction to Kratom
In 2021, 1.7 million Americans used kratom to self-treat chronic pain, opioid use disorder, anxiety and depression, and opioid withdrawal. Kratom’s interaction with opioid receptors in the brain produces effects ranging from euphoria to pain relief. This interaction, similar to traditional opioids, poses the risk of dependence and addiction. Regular and consistent use of kratom can lead to physical dependence, where the body becomes used to the effects. Physical dependence on kratom can lead to withdrawal symptoms like muscle aches and irritability when stopping kratom use. Alongside the physical aspects, psychological dependence can surface, feeling compelled to take kratom for its effects or to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Over time, users may develop a tolerance, requiring higher doses to receive the same effects, which further increases the risks for dependence. The potential for dependence might vary based on kratom’s specific strain and potency, as different strains possess varying levels of active compounds. While many users experience advantageous effects with minimal symptoms with kratom use, others report struggles with dependence and challenges when trying to quit. As with any substance, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional before considering kratom use to prevent risks for addiction and dependence.
Seeking Rehab Treatment for Addiction in South Florida
While kratom is self-treated as an herbal remedy, it still poses the risk of addiction and dependence. The market is poorly regulated regarding kratom and kratom-based products, highlighting the significance of caution before consumption. Considering its opioid-like effects, treating kratom addiction is similar to opioid addiction and opioid use disorders. Seeking drug rehab treatment for kratom addiction can help alleviate the stress and discomfort of withdrawal under the care of medical professionals. In medical detox for kratom, patients are under 24-hour care and supervision while their body undergoes the detox and withdrawal process. Following detox, drug and alcohol rehab programs support patients with evidence-based treatments and holistic therapies to ensure they receive full recovery from opioid addiction.
Rock Recovery Center administers drug rehab in Palm Beach, FL, for those with opioid use disorder, kratom addiction, alcohol abuse, and substance use disorders (SUDs). Contact Rock Recovery today for more information about our drug and alcohol rehab programs and services!
- Medical News Today, 2022. What to know about using kratom to treat opiate withdrawal.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2022. Kratom.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2022. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration, 2023. FDA and Kratom.