Kratom is a tropical evergreen tree native to Southeast Asia. The tree’s leaves contain compounds that have mind-altering effects and are used for medicinal and recreational purposes in some cultures. Even though there isn’t much scientific evidence for kratom’s effectiveness as medicine, people use the substance to help relieve coughing, depression, and anxiety. Others use Kratom to help ease heroin, morphine, and opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Unfortunately, using Kratom can be unsafe. Despite the substance’s growing popularity, kratom can cause hallucinations, seizures, and liver damage. In some cases, kratom use can be fatal. Because of these concerns, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released several warnings about products containing kratom, but the substance remains legal in Massachusetts. Here’s what you need to know about kratom, its legality, and how it can affect your mind and body.
Quick Facts About Kratom
- Kratom is not illegal in the United States. However, many local statutes override this status.
- In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classified kratom as a drug and chemical of concern.
- Kratom is commonly sold as a green powder, extract, plant supplement, or gum.
- Most people who use kratom consume it as a pill, capsule, or extract. Others chew kratom leaves or brew the dried or powdered leaves as a tea. Sometimes, the leaves are smoked or eaten in food.
- Many people use kratom as an opioid alternative to help relieve pain.
- Kratom can cause dependence which means you may experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the substance. Withdrawal symptoms can include muscle aches, insomnia, irritability, aggression, mood swings, emotional changes, runny nose, and jerky movements.
- Kratom can cause nausea, sweating, seizures, and psychotic symptoms.
- Commercial forms of kratom can be laced with other compounds that have caused deaths.
- The Centers for Disease and Control have expressed concerns about kratom, stating that the substance could have been a likely source of salmonella cases across 38 states.
- When used recreationally, kratom may be referred to as “thang,” “kakuam,” “thom,” “ketum” and “biak.”
- Some users have become addicted to kratom.
Despite these facts, kratom remains legal in Massachusetts.
The History of Kratom Legislation in Massachusetts
Even though kratom is legal in Massachusetts, the state’s House of Representatives has tried to ban kratom in the past. Although the attempts have been unsuccessful, the state has been back and forth concerning kratom legislation.
In 2009, House Bill 1789 attempted to categorize kratom as a Class B substance under Massachusetts law. In the state, using Class B substances, such as cocaine, morphine, and LSD, can lead to jail time. Possessing, trafficking, and consuming Class B substances can also lead to a $1,000 fine. But the bill was not signed into law.
Two years later, House Bill 526 also aimed to classify kratom as a Class B substance. However, the bill never made it through the legislature. In 2013, Massachusetts lawmakers considered passing a bill that would ban kratom altogether, but they never did.
Today in 2021, kratom is legal wherever you are in Massachusetts. No city councils or county-based governing bodies have restricted the possession or sale of kratom within their borders. This means that Massachusetts citizens and people visiting the state can buy and possess kratom.
The fact that kratom is legal in Massachusetts doesn’t change the fact that the substance is still quite controversial and harmful.
Why Is Kratom Controversial?
Kratom is controversial because experts have divided views about the substance. Some people view kratom as a dangerous drug, while others view the substance as a healthier alternative to opioids. Here are some of the most common reasons surrounding the controversy about kratom.
Lack of Clinical Studies About Kratom
Many experts question the use of kratom because it hasn’t been studied in-depth or officially recommended for medical use. Clinical studies help identify harmful effects and interactions with other drugs. Clinical research also helps determine dosages of substances that are effective but not dangerous. Without many clinical studies about kratom, experts worry about the substance’s effects on the body.
Kratom contains alkaloids, chemical compounds that have a strong physical effect on the human body. In fact, kratom almost has the same amount of alkaloids as opium and hallucinogenic mushrooms. The effects of alkaloids can be positive or negative. Mitragynine, for example, is an alkaloid in kratom that can lead to pleasure and decreased pain as well as tremors, insomnia, excessive sweating, and hallucinations. Other potentially harmful effects of kratom can include:
- Dry mouth
- Muscle pain
- Liver damage
- Suppressed breathing
- Chills, nausea, and vomiting
- Constipation and urine changes
- Seizures and coma
Lack Of Regulation
Kratom is also a controversial substance because production isn’t regulated by the FDA. Since lawmakers haven’t classified kratom as a drug and the FDA doesn’t monitor the safety or purity of herbs, there isn’t an established standard for safely producing the substance. This means that kratom can be mixed with other harmful and addictive substances that can increase your risk of adverse effects, addiction, and overdose.
Kratom and The Brain
The compounds found in kratom leaves interact with opioid receptors in the brain. This means that kratom can affect the brain the same way opioids do, especially when users consume large amounts of the plant. Smaller doses of kratom typically produce stimulant effects.
The stimulant effects of kratom speed up activity in the brain. High amounts of dopamine flood the brain. Energy levels increase, making users feel confident, alert, sociable, excited, and happy. But stimulants have side effects. Stimulating substances like kratom can also increase impulsive behavior, diminish the brain’s decision-making ability, and cause cerebral hemorrhage, or uncontrolled bleeding in the brain.
The chemicals within kratom interact with opioid receptors in the brain to increase pleasure and decrease pain. But over time, the opioid-like effects of kratom can cause hallucinations, anxiety, and depression. Kratom can also decrease the brain’s oxygen supply.
Kratom and The Body
Even though low doses of kratom can increase your physical energy and boost your concentration, the substance can be addictive. Like any potentially addictive substance, kratom can negatively affect the body. Chronically using kratom can cause:
- Dry mouth
- Increased urination
- Loss of appetite, which can lead to weight loss
- Kratom, though legal, can also lead to overdose.
Kratom and Overdose
Information from the National Poison Data System found that between the years 2011 and 2017, there were 11 deaths associated with kratom exposure. Nine of the 11 deaths involved kratom and other drugs and medicines such as antihistamines, alcohol, fentanyl, benzodiazepines, and cocaine. Two of the deaths solely involved kratom. In 2017, the FDA identified 44 deaths related to kratom. Generally, kratom-associated deaths seem to be the result of adulterated products or mixing kratom with illicit drugs, opioids, benzodiazepines, alcohol, or over-the-counter medications.
Empowering You To Live A Substance-Free Life
Here at Meta Addiction Treatment, we know how harmful and addictive substances can be. We also know that substances don’t have to be illegal to harm your brain or body. Kratom may be one of those substances. As scientists continue to study kratom, we can help empower you to live a substance-free life. Our flexible treatment programs can help you deal with pain, depression, and anxiety without substances like kratom. Let us help you get there. Contact us today to learn more.