Kratom Withdrawal and Detox
Kratom is a substance extracted from the Mitragyna speciosa (commonly known as the kratom tree) in Southeast Asia. For years it has been used in many countries such as Malaysia and the Philippines to manage pain, improve mood and alleviate withdrawal symptoms from opioid use. Now, kratom use is becoming more prevalent in the United States.
Kratom can be consumed in a pill form, capsule form, liquid extract or as whole leaves that can be chewed, smoked or brewed as tea. The amount of kratom used determines the physical effects that are felt. Small doses give stimulatory effects similar to amphetamines or cocaine, which speed up the central nervous system. A person who uses a small dose of kratom may feel sociable, alert and have more energy. On the other hand, large doses of kratom give sedative-like effects similar to opiates and narcotics.
Although it is legal in the United States, kratom exhibits qualities that may make it addictive. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has listed kratom as a “Drug and Chemical of Concern” and many states have banned it or are in the process of doing so. There is concern that kratom may have the same qualities as opioids that lead to addiction, dependence, and abuse. With this, kratom withdrawal is a concern. Kratom withdrawal can result from consistent use over a period of time, and it is important to know the symptoms and where to seek help with kratom detox.
Symptoms of Kratom Withdrawal
Kratom acts on the mu- and kappa-opioid receptors of the brain, which are the same targets of morphine, heroin and other opioids. This means kratom will have similar effects on the body to opiates and stimulants. Furthermore, kratom withdrawal can exhibit similar physical and psychological symptoms to opiate withdrawal.
Physical kratom withdrawal symptoms include:
- Decreased or lost appetite
- Stomach issues including diarrhea and cramping
- Difficulty sleeping
- Muscle aches and spasms leading to jerky movements
- Runny nose
Psychological symptoms include:
Kratom Withdrawal Timeline
Kratom withdrawal lasts between 7 to 10 days, with symptoms beginning 12 to 24 hours after the last dose. Throughout the first 24 hours of kratom withdrawal, it is possible to experience five or more psychological symptoms, including:
- Intense cravings
Physical withdrawal symptoms can also occur, such as runny nose, sweating and muscle aches. After two to four days, kratom withdrawal symptoms may peak and intensify. It is possible to experience stomach problems, goosebumps and dilated pupils. After 7 to 10 days, kratom withdrawal symptoms begin to subside. In a survey of regular kratom users, 64% found their withdrawal symptoms lasted one to three days, while 36% had symptoms lasting longer than three days. It is important to remember that each person will experience kratom withdrawal differently.
Kratom withdrawal is dependent on many factors, including the amount of kratom taken, how many times per day it was taken and how long it has been taken. Higher, more frequent doses over extended periods of time can lead to a longer withdrawal timeline. One study found that regular users who drank more than three glasses of kratom per day had a greater chance of developing severe kratom dependence and withdrawal symptoms.
Dangers of Kratom Withdrawal
Kratom acts on the same brain receptors as opiates and stimulants. Kratom withdrawal can become dangerous if a person has been misusing it, as withdrawals can be similar to those from narcotic and opiate use. Respiratory depression is a major concern for opiate overdose and withdrawal and it is possible that kratom withdrawal can lead to the same dangers. It is important to know what the signs of kratom withdrawal are and what can be done to help.
Detox, short for detoxification, is the first step to recovery and it is important to understand the different methods that can be pursued. During kratom detox, the body undergoes an immense amount of stress as it clears the drug out and adjusts to its absence. Medically assisted detox is the safest way to stop using kratom and treat withdrawal symptoms. Other, less safe methods include tapering off kratom on your own and at-home detox. These are not recommended by healthcare professionals.
Medically Assisted Detox
Kratom withdrawal symptoms should be treated like opiate withdrawal symptoms, and are best dealt with under medical care. Medically assisted detox programs are available to help people struggling with kratom addiction and withdrawal. Such programs provide around-the-clock care, individual counseling sessions, meals and medications to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms.
Programs begin with an initial assessment, where clinical staff help develop an individual treatment plan for the duration of the detox period. Several factors are considered during this initial assessment, in addition to details about the actual kratom use. Staff will want to know about the use of other drugs and alcohol, whether there is a co-occurring mental health disorder and any other medical issues.
While there are no specific treatments for kratom withdrawal itself, medications are available over-the-counter or by prescription during medically assisted detox to ease withdrawal symptoms. These can include a combination of dihydrocodeine-lofexidine, antidepressants or anxiolytics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs).
Tapering Off Kratom
Tapering off kratom can be a safe way to ease withdrawal symptoms and decrease overall dependence. Tapering is the process of decreasing the amount of drug used, slowly, over time until it is no longer needed. This process allows the body to slowly adjust to decreasing levels of kratom and make withdrawal symptoms less severe.
When drugs are quit abruptly (“cold turkey”), it is a shock to the body because the body became accustomed to the presence of that drug. This can be uncomfortable — and at times dangerous — and the body will have a difficult time adjusting. Severe kratom withdrawal symptoms can result from quitting cold turkey.
A medical professional can help a person determine a tapering schedule that is most beneficial to their individual situation. Then, the amount of kratom can be scaled down every few days at their own pace. It is always recommended that detox and tapering be done with the help of a medical professional.
It may seem appealing to detox at home. However, this can be dangerous, especially if there are other complicating factors like previous failed attempts or other psychiatric disorders. There are recommendations for how to detox from kratom at home, which focus on easing kratom withdrawal symptoms and increasing comfort. Taking over-the-counter medications, such as sleep aids to combat insomnia, drugs that help with stomach discomfort and pain relievers, can be helpful in managing the physiological side effects of kratom withdrawal. Other activities, like going for walks and keeping busy, can increase energy, distract from cravings and relieve tension.
At-home detox is not guaranteed to be a safe process. Kratom detox, as with opiate detox, may result in complications that require medical attention. Withdrawal symptoms from kratom use include gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. Together, these symptoms can result in dehydration, disrupted electrolyte levels and aspiration risks and they can only be treated safely under the care of a medical professional.
Finding a Kratom Detox Center in Washington and Oregon
Kratom, although a legal drug in the United States, is a dangerous substance and can lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms that require detox. If you are concerned about kratom use and are seeking kratom detox centers and programs, help is available.
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For people living in Oregon and Washington, or someone wishing to travel out of state for treatment, contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield to speak with a representative about how professional addiction treatment can address a substance use disorder and any co-occurring mental health conditions. There are many programs available, including inpatient and outpatient treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction. Take the first step toward a healthier future, call today.
Drug Enforcement Administration. “Drugs of Abuse: A DEA Resource Guide.” 2017. Accessed October 09, 2019.
European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. “Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) drug profile.” Accessed October 07, 2019.
Henningfield, Jack E.; Fant, Reginald V.; Wang, Daniel W. “The abuse potential of kratom according the 8 factors of the controlled substances act: implications for regulation and research.” Psychopharmacology. December 23, 2017. Accessed October 09, 2019.
McCance-Katz, Elinore, F. “Urgent and Emerging Issues in Prevention: Marijuana, Kratom, E-cigarettes.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2019. Accessed October 08, 2019.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Drug Facts: Kratom.” April 2019. Accessed October 07, 2019.
Singh, Darshan; Müller, Christian P.; Vicknasingam, Balasingam K. “Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) dependence, withdrawal symptoms and craving in regular users.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, June 1, 2014. Accessed October 09, 2019.