Kratom Abuse and Addiction

Kratom has become a substance of abuse in the U.S. and other countries around the world.

Read on to learn more about kratom, its effects and withdrawal symptoms, and how to get support if you or a loved one has lost control of their kratom use.

What Is Kratom?

kratom plant leaves crushed into capsule or pill formKratom is a plant with psychoactive compounds that comes from a tree in Southeast Asia. Originally, leaves were taken off the tree and either chewed fresh, or dried and smoked, brewed, and chewed.

Kratom has gained popularity in the U.S. primarily as an inexpensive and natural way to end opioid addiction. It comes in many forms, including:

  • Powder.
  • Pill (sold as a dietary supplement).
  • Dried leaves, which can be chewed or brewed into a tea.

Other names for kratom include:

  • Herbal speedball.
  • Thom.
  • Kahuam.
  • Ketum.

Kratom can lead to stimulation, increased energy, elevated mood, and potentially act as an aphrodisiac. People who take very small doses of kratom report feeling more alert, social, and energized.

In slightly larger amounts, especially after it has been dried or processed into a powder, the drug can cause an opioid-like sedation, relaxation, and analgesia, which is why some people take the drug to wean themselves off prescription painkiller or heroin addiction.

Yes. Although it is still technically legal to use in the U.S., the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is strongly considering the restriction of its use under the Controlled Substances Act.

Is Kratom Addictive?

Yes, although it is a naturally occurring plant, kratom may still be addictive, especially for people who struggle with addiction or at risk of developing addiction. The chemicals in the leaves produce immediate euphoric effects. Even if this does not occur with the same rapid intensity as heroin or cocaine, the relaxing or stimulating effects from kratom may trigger the same type of brain activity associated with addiction.

Since kratom was only recently been introduced to the U.S., research regarding its addiction liability is scant. However, the DEA has collected information about its use in Thailand, where the substance is highly abused.

In these studies, people who used kratom anywhere between 3 and 30 years were found to have compulsive behaviors around using the substance and withdrawal symptoms when stopping use. They also often experienced relapses after periods of sobriety.

The DEA reported 15 known overdose deaths from kratom abuse between 2014 and 2016. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 42% of kratom abuse cases had non-life-threatening symptoms that needed medical treatment, including overdose and addiction.

Risks of Kratom Use

Kratom use may produce side effects similar to opioids. These include:

  • Changes in appetite.
  • Nausea and stomach cramps.
  • Constipation.
  • Itching.
  • Sweating.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Sensitivity to sunburn.
  • Increased urination.

A small dose of kratom is a few grams, usually fewer than 10. Effects from this size dose may begin within 10 minutes and subside over a few hours.

Larger doses range between 10 grams and 25 grams. This dosage produces opiate-like effects, which also wear off within a few hours. More than 25 grams of kratom can lead to overdose.

Since kratom has milder effects than opioids or cocaine, it may be hard to tell if a person is taking the substance. Some signs of kratom intoxication include:

  • Smaller or pinpoint pupils.
  • Changes in mood.
  • Either excitement or sedation, depending on the amount taken.
  • Analgesia (inability to feel pain).

Long-Term Effects of Kratom Use

People who continue kratom use for long periods of time may experience more severe health problems. These long-term effects include:

  • Consistent side effects (as listed above).
  • Skin darkening.
  • Dramatic weight loss (anorexia).
  • Chronic constipation.
  • Mood changes.
  • Liver damage and failure.

While opioid drugs typically do not affect the liver directly, kratom can, making it especially dangerous for people with existing liver disease or damage. The onset of liver damage begins within 2–8 weeks of high-dose use.

This has been noted among people who take kratom tablets or capsules, which have been sold as supplements. As the liver begins to fail, it can cause problems for the kidneys as well, leading to renal failure.

Withdrawal From Kratom

People who become dependent on or addicted to kratom are more likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug.

Kratom withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Insomnia.
  • Irritability and mood swings.
  • Hostility.
  • Aggression and other emotional changes.
  • Uncontrolled twitching or jerky movements.
  • Runny nose.
  • Muscle aches and pains.

Treatment for Kratom Addiction

Although kratom has been used as a “natural” remedy to end opioid addiction, it is not safe or effective for this practice. Oftentimes, kratom has simply triggered a new addiction, replacing the prior addiction with a new substance of abuse.

If you are struggling with opioid addiction, at-home detox measures often prove less effective.

At our Hollywood, FL medically supervised detox facility, clinicians ensure patients are as safe and comfortable as possible during detox, and if appropriate, may use proven medications to replace the substance of abuse and ease or taper the body off physical dependence.

Detox is generally followed by inpatient rehabilitation that addresses the psychological issues that underlie addiction and substance use disorders.

At Recovery First Treatment Center in Hollywood, Florida, we offer different types of addiction treatment.

Our inpatient rehab facility near Miami offers an intimate, personalized approach to drug and alcohol addiction, and tailors treatment plans to meet each patient’s individual needs.

To learn more about our programs or using insurance to pay for rehab, contact us at today. Our admissions navigators can answer any questions you may have and help start the admissions process.

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