What is Kratom?
Mitragyna speciosa is the official name for kratom. It is a tropical evergreen tree that is native to Southeast Asia and part of the coffee family. Kratom trees grow best in rainforest-like conditions where the climate is hot and humid and there is plenty of rain. It grows naturally (and on farms) in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, and Myanmar.
Kratom trees can grow up to 82 feet high. They have large dark green leaves with veins running through them that can be white, yellow, green, or red. The veins change color because of the alkaloid compounds running through them. The main alkaloids are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. When ingested, these alkaloids bind to certain receptors in the brain and can produce various effects.
Southeast Asian cultures have been using kratom leaves in traditional medicine for centuries. The most common way to use kratom is to pick the leaves, dry them out, and then steep them in hot water or grind them into a powder that can be added to food and drinks or ingested on its own. The most common kratom products sold in the United States include powder, capsules, and pressed tablets.
Is Kratom Legal?
Contrary to what many people believe, kratom is not illegal in the United States. Technically, it is considered a dietary supplement, so it is legal to buy and sell kratom products in most states. However, while kratom is federally legal, some states have banned kratom. These include Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Vermont, and California. Moreover, the FDA warns people not to use kratom because of the risk of addiction, dependence, and abuse.
What Are the Effects of Kratom?
Although kratom does not contain opiates, the main alkaloids it contains—mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine—bind to the same receptors in the brain that opiates do. In small doses, kratom can have an energizing, stimulating effect that is like the buzz you get from coffee or cocaine. In larger doses, it can cause a euphoric, calming effect similar to an opiate like morphine. Some people find that it also has a numbing, analgesic effect.
Kratom is considered a psychoactive drug because it interacts with receptors in the brain. Some people claim it can boost the mood and improve focus. However, it does not cause hallucinations or alter perception in any significant way. In fact, the concentrations of psychotropic compounds are so low that you would need to ingest an extensive amount of kratom to produce the same ‘high’ feeling you get from other psychotropic drugs such as THC.
Several studies on the effects of kratom indicate it may be safe at lower doses, but can be toxic at higher doses. Users may have an adverse reaction to kratom after just one use or on isolated incidents. Long-term use can also produce harmful side effects. These are a few reported side effects of kratom:
Potential Short-term Effects
- High blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Respiratory distress
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep problems
Potential Long-term Effects
- Hair loss
- Weight loss
- Liver damage
- Skin pigmentation
It is important to note that kratom can be dangerous when combined with other substances. Some researchers believe this is because kratom can have adverse drug-herb interactions. In addition, kratom has not been approved for therapeutic use in the United States, so it is not regulated. This means manufacturers can add whatever they like to their products and they do not have to test their products to ensure they are free of contaminants.
Is Kratom Addictive?
There is a great deal of debate over whether kratom is addictive. Some people believe that because it is not an opioid, it does not have the same risk of addiction. In fact, some point to studies that suggest kratom might help with opioid withdrawal. The fact remains though that kratom is a substance that produces reactions in the body and brain, and therefore it is possible to develop a physical and psychological dependence or addiction to the drug.
The first sign that you may be developing a dependence on kratom is if your tolerance rises and you need a higher dosage to produce the same effects. The average person only needs about one to four grams of kratom to feel the effects. If you find yourself needing up to 10 grams or more, you may have built up a tolerance. If you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking kratom, you almost certainly have a dependence on it.
Addiction is slightly different. When you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, you can’t stop using them. You don’t have to be physically dependent on the substances to be addicted to them, although many addicts do develop dependencies on the substances they are using. The best way to break an addiction is with a multi-faceted recovery plan. Get in touch with Windward Way Recovery to find out more about effective addiction treatment programs.
Signs and Symptoms of Kratom Abuse
Kratom can produce effects rather quickly that last for a few hours. Depending on the dosage and strain, users may exhibit different symptoms. They may be unusually energetic, talkative, or nervous. If the kratom produces sedative effects, the user may be lethargic, slow to respond, and insensitive to pain. Kratom use does not necessarily indicate abuse or addiction, although this can develop over time.
Kratom abuse and addiction share common signs with alcoholism and other forms of substance addiction. If you find yourself experiencing strong urges to do more kratom, needing more kratom to feel effects, and spending money you can’t afford on kratom, you may have a problem. You may also find yourself constantly thinking about kratom, lying to loved ones about your use, or engaging in out-of-character behavior to get it.
It’s not always easy to tell when someone you know is suffering from a kratom addiction. Kratom products typically do not leave a strong smell like cannabis or alcohol might. In addition, kratom users almost always ingest it, so there are no outward signs similar to what you might see with drugs that are injected.
If you suspect that a close friend, family member, or someone you know is struggling with a kratom substance use addiction, contact Windward Way Recovery to find out how you can support them and help them get the support they need.
Common Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms
When the body becomes physically dependent on a substance like kratom, it will react when that substance is no longer present. These are some common withdrawal symptoms people experience when they stop taking kratom:
- Muscle aches
- Emotional outbursts
The severity and length of the withdrawal symptoms depend on how much kratom an individual was using and how long they were using it for. Typically, users who consume large amounts of kratom for long periods of time will have stronger withdrawal symptoms and for longer than those who take small doses or use kratom for short periods. That being said, every person is different, so withdrawal symptoms can vary widely between users.
How to Treat Kratom Abuse
Battling kratom abuse and addiction is entirely possible with the right addiction recovery treatment plan. What works for one person may not work for another, so it is important to develop a recovery plan tailored to your unique situation and circumstances. An effective recovery plan could include detox or rehab, medication, therapy, a 12-step program, and healthy activities such as yoga and community involvement.
The first step on the road to recovery is finding an accredited drug and alcohol addiction treatment center that uses evidence-based practices and therapies. The center should have professional healthcare experts on staff who are experienced in a variety of treatment methods. Look for centers like Windward Way Recovery that have proven track records and come highly recommended.
What to Expect From a Kratom Addiction Recovery Program
Because every substance user is different, no two recovery programs will be alike. Depending on your needs, these are some components that might be part of your kratom abuse and addiction recovery program.
Detoxing involves abstaining from a substance so that substance ceases to exist in the body. This usually happens in a controlled, medically supervised environment like a residential addiction recovery center. The best detox programs will offer 24-hour clinical care and zero access to the substances you are abstaining from. During this time, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. The healthcare staff may provide you with medication to ease the withdrawal symptoms.
If you are experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, your doctor or the healthcare professionals at your addiction recovery center may prescribe you medication. One study shows that the medications dihydrocodeine and lofexidine can be effective in mitigating the symptoms of kratom withdrawal. These medications are often used to ease opioid withdrawal, so the belief is that they act on the same receptors in the brain that kratom affects. Some doctors may also prescribe anti-inflammatories or antidepressants.
Rehabilitation is an important part of any recovery plan because it addresses the psychological dependence on drugs and alcohol. Rehab usually consists of intensive therapy sessions where you delve into the underlying issues behind your addiction and work on methods of coping with it in the future.
You can opt for an inpatient addiction treatment program where you stay at a residential center and receive 24-hour care and support without the distractions of the outside world. Alternatively, you can try a partial hospitalization program or intensive outpatient program where you live outside the center, but attend regular therapy sessions and structured programs.
Aftercare is an integral part of any recovery program. Studies show that anywhere from 40 percent to 60 percent of addicts relapse in the first month after a rehab program. The studies also show that 85 percent of people relapse the first year after a rehab program. Aftercare programs are designed to prevent people from relapsing. The goal is for the addict to remain healthy and sober for the rest of their life.
A good aftercare program will teach recovering addicts skills to cope with their addiction and the pressures of the outside world. The program should provide the support an individual needs to maintain sobriety and readjust to a new way of life. Aftercare programs can include ongoing therapy, support groups, and healthy activities such as yoga, meditation, and sports.
Kratom use may start off small and gradually turn into a much larger problem without the user even noticing it. By the time dependence has developed, the kratom abuse may be difficult to manage. However, there is always a way out. A qualified addiction recovery center can help you fight the addiction and get back to living a kratom-free life. Talk to the experts at Windward Way Recovery to see how they can help you with your recovery journey.