Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a dark, leafy green herbal plant native to Southeast Asia and is also commonly imported into the United States for distribution. At low doses, kratom has a stimulating effect and can induce pleasant feelings and energy. At higher doses, effects tend to be more sedating. Some evidence has found that persons who use kratom chronically and in high doses can develop some level of dependence on it and therefore encounter withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit.
Kratom can be ingested in a few ways. Historically, it has been taken by indigenous people by removing the leaves from the tree and chewing. This method of ingestion could also be accomplished by eating dried leaves, which could prolong their ability to be stored. The preferable method involves crushing the dried leaves into a powder for consumption.
When people purchase kratom commercially, they typically buy it in powder to be mixed in standard drinks or capsule form that can be swallowed. Sometimes the leaves were brewed as a tea using either powder or crushed leaves.
While kratom is not technically an opioid, it does interact with opioid receptors. Its use can lead to dependence—a condition that causes withdrawal symptoms in a person who has developed it. Withdrawal symptoms associated with kratom may be comparable to the flu-like symptoms (such as those listed below) that frequently manifest during opioid withdrawal.
Using Kratom for Opioid Withdrawal
It should be noted that kratom has been used by many who report that its effects have helped them get clean from heroin. Although health providers do not generally recommend it, many individuals have reported using kratom as a tool to discontinue the use of “true” opioids. Kratom’s ability to bind to opioid receptors is what may make it somewhat effective for this purpose. However, persons attempting to stop using opioids should strongly consider undergoing a medical detox instead and potentially enter a comprehensive treatment program.
Despite some advocates claiming that using kratom may be beneficial for opioid withdrawal purposes, there is still some significant concern in health and scientific communities regarding its addiction potential. While many could make a case that this is harm reduction at its best, many experts now believe that some individuals can potentially abuse and become addicted to kratom following extended use.
Also, because kratom is not regulated by the federal government or administered by licensed medical providers, people who choose to use kratom for this purpose are forced to rely on anecdotal information to determine how much to use and for how long. If used in excess, effects can certainly be unpredictable and cause significant mental and emotional issues.
One significant risk is that without regulation, the risks of using kratom may also include the ingestion of contaminants. Furthermore, there appear to be some potentially severe side effects associated with kratom use, including paranoia, hallucinations, nausea and vomiting, muscle pain, and in extreme cases, liver damage.
There may also be a significant risk of legal repercussions of importing or purchasing kratom in some areas. At the time of this writing, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) refers to the kratom as a “drug of concern.” Efforts to schedule this drug as a controlled substance have been met with substantial backlash.
For this reason, kratom is currently legal at a federal level, although it has been banned in many states and municipalities, including Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.
Symptoms of Kratom Withdrawal
According to the DEA, kratom withdrawal symptoms may include the following:
- Rapid mood swings
- Runny nose
- Muscle aches and pains
- Joint or bone pain
- Jerky movements
- Chills and sweating
- Skin darkening
In instances of severe dependence, psychosis, including hallucinations and hallucinations, has the potential to occur.
Like opioid withdrawal, kratom withdrawal symptoms generally onset between 6-12 hours of the last dose and are at their most severe in about 2-3 days. Most physical symptoms will wear off after 5 to 7 days, but emotional issues, such as anxiety or depression, may persist for a prolonged period.
The duration and intensity of withdrawal symptoms are closely related to the person’s level of abuse and the length of time it was used. Furthermore, other co-occurring medical or mental health conditions may affect the intensity of withdrawal. Polysubstance abuse, or the concurrent use of other drugs or alcohol, may lengthen or worsen the withdrawal process.
Detoxing from Kratom
Many addictive substances can be safely and slowly weaned over time by gradually reducing the dose to prevent the potentially severe symptoms and cravings associated with sudden withdrawal. The primary objective is to rebalance brain chemistry gradually over a prolonged period instead of shocking it by abruptly discontinuing the drug.
When a physically dependent individual stops using an intoxicating substance, unpleasant withdrawal effects will occur as the body attempts to restore balance rapidly. Tapering down the dosage of kratom can reduce withdrawal side effects as the body’s biochemistry is allowed to heal and regain its natural balance over time.
Moreover, instead of stopping the use of kratom “cold turkey,” tapering down the dosage slowly during an extended detox may be preferable. Detox can include the use of medications or certain herbal supplements and vitamins to mitigate both withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. If a rapid detox is warranted, individuals are generally advised to undergo a professional medical detox rather than attempt to do so independently.
Advantages of Medical Detox
Medical detox is performed in a clinical environment and may be done on an inpatient or outpatient basis. In either case, a person is provided with consistent access to medical and mental health professionals and medications, if needed. In this setting, patients will be safe and comfortable and may experience a significant reduction in the number and intensity of withdrawal symptoms.
Medications commonly administered to treat emotional withdrawal symptoms may include antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication. Other pharmaceuticals may also be prescribed to treat physical symptoms such as nausea, insomnia, and high blood pressure.
Other medications may be required to avoid complications or unwanted drug interactions if other substances have also been abused. It is essential that a person attempting to recover from kratom use inform their treatment providers if there may be any other substances in one’s system in addiction to kratom so that medications and interventions used during medical detox are safe and effective.
Getting Treatment for Addiction
Just Believe Recovery offers individualized, state-of-the-art detox services and curative interventions intended to treat addiction and address all aspects of each individual’s health and emotional wellness. All of our programs feature a wide variety of therapies and activities clinically proven to be helpful for the process of recovery, including the following:
- Behavioral therapy
- Individual/group counseling
- Peer group support
- Relapse prevention
- Health and wellness education
- Substance abuse education
- Aftercare planning
- Alumni activities