Kratom is an herbal supplement that’s used to relieve pain, ease anxiety, combat insomnia, and help manage symptoms of depression. People also use kratom to increase their energy levels and stimulate their appetite. Even though most people use kratom as herbal medicine, the substance can also be used as a recreational drug. Because of this, many people wonder whether or not the substance is addictive. Understanding more about what kratom is, how it affects the body, and the side effects of this drug can help determine whether or not kratom is addictive.
What Is Kratom?
Kratom, also known by its scientific name Mitragyna, is a tree that grows in Southeast Asia. The leaves of the tree can be brewed into a tea, chewed, or crushed and made into a pill that’s swallowed. Even though kratom has been used for hundreds of years in the Asia Pacific region as an herbal medicine and relaxant, the substance has grown in popularity worldwide.
Kratom leaves are oval shaped and dark green with greenish-white or red veins. The substance, which is also known as “thang,” “kakuam,” “thom,” “ketum,” and “biak,” tastes like a combination of tea and coffee. When consumed, kratom produces pain relieving, stimulating, or sedative effects. When taken in small doses, either by chewing the leaves or drinking the substance as a tea, kratom provides energy. Larger amounts of kratom produce sedative and euphoric effects.
Whether kratom is taken in smaller or larger doses, the substance can have effects on the brain that are similar to heroin and morphine.
How Does Kratom Work?
Kratom contains two different types of chemicals: mitragynine and 7-a-hydroxymitragynine. These two chemicals act like an opioid drug by interacting with opioid receptors in the brain. This interaction blocks pain signals in the brain and produces sedative and pleasurable effects.
Mitragynine can also interact with other receptors in the brain to produce stimulant effects. These effects can make kratom feel like a stimulant drug such as cocaine, ecstasy, and amphetamine. The effects can vary but generally include:
- Increased sociability
- Enhanced alertness
- Higher energy levels
- Increased confidence
- Enhanced focus and concentration
7-a-hydroxymitragynine is an opioid substitute that also produces stimulant effects. When individuals consume large amounts of kratom, the substance produces effects similar to opioid drugs. These symptoms can vary but often include:
- Reduced anxiety
- Lowered pain sensations
Typically, kratom’s effects begin within 5 to 15 minutes after consumption and can last as long as 2 to 5 hours after the substance is ingested. People taking kratom as an herbal remedy or recreational drug may consider the substance a natural remedy to anxiety, stress, depression, and pain, but taking kratom can have some dangerous effects on the body.
How Does Kratom Affect The Body?
Many people taking kratom experience some type of adverse effects. These health effects can vary from person to person, but often include:
- Dry mouth
- Muscle pain
- Increased urination
- Loss of appetite
- Respiratory suppression
Not everyone taking kratom may experience these symptoms, but users ingesting the substance are likely to experience some type of liver damage. In fact, chronic kratom users have an increased risk of acute liver injury.
Research shows that within 1 to 8 weeks of regular use of kratom powder or tablets, individuals can start to experience fatigue, nausea, pruritus (an uncomfortable, irritating sensation), dark urine, and jaundice. All of these symptoms are associated with liver damage and can progress toward liver failure if left untreated.
Quitting the use of kratom can help the liver recover, but many people who regularly use kratom have difficulty abstaining from the substance.
Is Kratom Addictive?
Since kratom affects the brain similarly to heroin and morphine, there has been some debate about whether or not kratom is addictive. Some people claim that they can use kratom without experiencing any negative side effects after using the substance long-term. Others claim that kratom can be just as addictive as opioid drugs. Even though the debate about kratom’s addictiveness is ongoing, here’s what we know.
Kratom’s euphoric effects often lead to increased cravings for the substance. Kratom, which functions like heroin and morphine, changes the brain’s reward system. The brain, which is wired to repeat pleasurable experiences, starts to crave kratom more often. Because of this, kratom can quickly become a habit-forming substance.
Regular kratom use can lead to dependence. Like other drugs that act on opioid receptors, kratom’s interaction with the brain can lead to dependence. When individuals become dependent on kratom, they have a physical need for the substance. When this need isn’t met, the body goes through withdrawal, including physical and mental symptoms.
Trying to quit kratom can cause withdrawal symptoms. Because kratom operates like an opioid drug, kratom withdrawal is similar to opioid withdrawal. Common symptoms of kratom withdrawal include:
- Muscle aches
- Jerky movements
- Severe abdominal cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Hot flashes and sweats
- Mood changes
- Changes in heart rate and blood pressure
The symptoms typically begin within a few hours after the last dose and can last anywhere from 3 to 10 days.
Kratom withdrawal can cause individuals to continue using the substance. Even though kratom withdrawal is rarely life-threatening, it is uncomfortable. To avoid the discomfort caused by withdrawal symptoms, many people continue using kratom. Sadly, this pattern of behavior can increase the likelihood of kratom addiction.
Not everyone that uses kratom will become addicted to the substance. But the reality is kratom is a habit-forming substance that can, in fact, be addictive.
Risks Associated With Kratom
Even though many people try to categorize kratom as an herbal supplement, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers kratom a “drug of concern.” A drug of concern is any illicit substance, medication, solvent, inhalant, or any other substance that can change or adversely affect the way a person thinks, feels, or acts. Drugs of concern can also impair an individual’s ability to perform their job or daily activities safely and productively.
One of the reasons that the DEA has labeled kratom a drug of concern is because it can cause overstimulation and extreme sedation. Both effects can negatively affect the way an individual thinks, feels, or acts. In addition to that, kratom has no legitimate approved medical use.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also issued a warning advising consumers to not use kratom. In addition to receiving several concerning reports about the safety of kratom, the FDA has worked with the U.S. Marshals to seize:
- More than 25,000 pounds of raw kratom material in 2014.
- More than 90,000 bottles of dietary supplements containing kratom in January 2016.
- More than 100 cases of products containing kratom in August 2016.
Can Kratom Lead to Overdose?
In addition to being addictive, kratom can lead to overdose. Since kratom is often unregulated, there have been several cases of people being hospitalized after ingesting too much of the substance. Sometimes kratom is laced with other drugs which can lead to overdose. The factors surrounding kratom overdose can vary from person to person, but generally, the signs and symptoms of kratom overdose include:
- Tachycardia (fast heart rate)
- Agitation or irritability
Kratom Is A Habit-Forming Substance That Can Lead To Addiction
Kratom is a controversial plant that functions like an opioid drug. Even though kratom is growing in popularity as an herbal supplement, the substance is habit-forming and can lead to addiction and a number of adverse health conditions such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, constipation, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. The good news is that kratom addiction, like opioid addiction, can be treated.
There are ways to relieve stress, ease pain, and manage anxiety and depression without kratom. Our addiction treatment programs can help you learn how to do that so you can regain control of your life. Let us help you get there. Contact us today to talk to one of our recovery experts.