5 Things to Know About Kratom

kratom leaves and powder

Kratom is identified as Mitragyna Speciosa, a plant found in Southeast Asia. In the United States, it’s known as an addictive drug that’s on the rise. While the drug may be unfamiliar to many people, it’s becoming more well known and more commonly used. But that doesn’t mean that it’s safe. Five key facts about kratom can help you better understand the drug.

1. Kratom Is Legal

Currently, kratom is legal in the United States. Because of the drug’s legality, those with a kratom addiction may struggle with denial. In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency announced its intent to list kratom as a Schedule I drug, which would have made it illegal. Schedule 1 drugs have a high abuse potential and no accepted medical use. That regulation is still on hold and the DEA currently lists kratom as a “drug of concern.” That doesn’t mean that you can sell kratom without consequence. Because its safety has not been proven, the Food and Drug Administration issued a red list alert of over 80 firms selling or importing kratom. These firms are subject to “product detention without physical examination.”

2. Kratom Is Easily Obtained

Kratom is easily obtained on the internet. People with a kratom addiction can purchase it with just a few clicks. It’s also available at local smoke shops in many areas, making it readily available for many people. Kratom is marketed in different ways that may make it sound more appealing to those who would otherwise avoid illicit drugs or other substances. It is often marketed:

  • As a dietary supplement (the Food and Drug Administration warns that it has no evidence of benefit and a strong risk of harm)
  • As a natural alternative to opioids (Kratom is natural. It is also dangerous)
  • As a treatment for opioid withdrawal (Over time, kratom may actually increase the chance of opioid use)

Just like many harmful substances, kratom is currently legal and easy to obtain. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a healthy or safe substance.

3. Kratom Is Addictive

Despite the hype around health benefits and the illusion of safety, kratom is addictive. In 2016, the DEA announced an intent to list kratom as Schedule I, but has yet to do so. Drugs listed as Schedule I are those that have a high risk for addiction. If you’re using kratom, you may experience a stimulant effect at a low dose and an opioid effect at a high dose.

Reports to US Poison Control Centers by people on kratom have been rapidly increasing. In 2011, there were 13. By 2017, there were 682 reported exposures to kratom.

4. You Can Experience Kratom Withdrawal

Because kratom contains mitragynine and 7-α-hydroxymitragynine, which bind to opioid receptors in the brain, you can experience kratom withdrawal when trying to quit. This means that kratom can act like an opioid, and withdrawal symptoms can mimic those found in opioid withdrawal, including:

  • Cold-like symptoms, runny nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Hostility
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Aggression
  • Mood swings
  • Chorea (abrupt movements)

If you use kratom while pregnant, your baby could experience the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Sneezing
  • Excessive crying
  • Poor appetite
  • Jitteriness

Kratom withdrawal symptoms can have a severe impact on your health. If you or someone you know is addicted to kratom, talk with a medical professional about steps to take to stop using the drug. This may involve medical detox, which is a safe way of stopping drug use while monitoring withdrawal symptoms in a safe environment.

5. Kratom Use Has Side Effects

Using kratom can result in minor and serious side effects. These side effects may not be limited to the time when kratom is used, but may also impact the body in the long run. Short-term side effects associated with kratom include:

  • Agitation
  • Tachychardia (dangerously rapid heartbeat)
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • High blood pressure

Less common, but more serious side effects associated with kratom use may include:

  • Seizures
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Coma
  • Gall bladder dysfunction
  • Slowed brain activity
  • Bradycardia slowed heartbeat
  • Death of muscle fibers
  • Kidney failure
  • Failure to breathe
  • Heart attack

Death is a possible outcome for kratom use. Chances of a fatal outcome for kratom use are increased when combined with other drugs, such as:

  • Fentanyl
  • Alcohol
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Caffeine
  • Cocaine
  • Methamphetamine

While some side effects may end after you stop using kratom, others may become chronic. Speak with a medical professional if you notice any of the kratom side effects or other significant changes in behavior or health while using kratom.

You don’t have to face your kratom addiction alone. Are you someone, or do you know someone, who could benefit from recovery treatment? Contact The Recovery Village today to learn more about treatment options for kratom addiction or co-occurring mental health conditions. Reach out now to speak with supportive staff members today.

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Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.