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Kratom

Kratom

Kratom is a tropical tree in Southeast Asia. Its leaves have been used for hundreds of years to relieve pain, to help prevent withdrawal from opiates and can also act as an anti-diarrheal. They can be eaten raw, but more often they’re crushed and brewed as tea or turned into capsules, tablets, and liquids. While kratom leaves can be smoked, most people ingest the drug. The effects of it come on quickly and least between five and seven hours – although high doses can last longer.

Kratom is heavily promoted as a legal, undetectable, safe drug that can be used to come off stronger drugs. Because of its legality, the drug tends to be more popular among young people who cannot yet buy alcohol and who may be concerned about being arrested with weed or other drugs.

Is Kratom Harmful?

Scientific information about the effects of kratom is limited. Researchers have found more than 20 biologically active chemicals in the drug, including several that bind opioid receptors in the human brain and have the potential to lead towards physical dependence and addiction. There is some debate on that. Another study found mitragynine pseudoindoxyl, a synthetic compound derived from kratom does not lead to harmful side effects like respiratory depression, constipation and physical dependence in mice.

Some users embrace it as a natural painkiller and benign substitute for more dangerous substances that is legal. But its growing popularity and ease of access are raising concerns for substance abuse experts and government officials who say it is being marketed as a way out of addiction – even though it is addictive itself. Some of those experts go so far to say it can lead addicts back to heroin, which is both cheaper and stronger.

Although the plant has a long history of use as an herbal medicine in Southeast Asia, is has been banned in Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar due to its addictive potential.

The Internet is filled with websites proclaiming the benefits of using kratom – especially for those looking to overcome an addiction to opioid drugs. However, those statement are backed up only by potentially unreliable word of mouth “evidence” and the companies selling kratom products and are not backed up by scientific studies – suggesting kratom is likely not safe.

Potential Ban on Kratom

In August of 2016, the DEA announced its plan to make kratom a Schedule I drug – the same rating given to ecstasy, marijuana, heroin and LSD – and ban all sales as of the end of September 2016. The DEA says kratom has a high potential for abuse and no current medical use. The DEA did not solicit public comments on this federal rule, as is normally done.

However, the scheduling of kratom did not occur. This decision was delayed after Congress and kratom advocates urged the DEA to postpone the ban and give the public time to comment. Some research scientists were among those pushing to reverse the decision to ban it stating the ban would harm their ability to study whether it can help treat pain and addiction.

Kratom exists in a kind of legal grey area. Because it is categorized as a botanical dietary supplement, the FDA cannot restrict its sale unless it is proved to be unsafe or producers claim that it treats a medical condition. Some producers even label their packages with “not for human consumption” statements to avoid tripping alarms with the FDA. The FDA did ban the import of kratom into the United States in 2014 – which it is legally authorized to do when a substance is strongly suspected to be harmful.

History of Use

For centuries, farmers in Southeast Asia and Africa have chewed the leaves of it to get an extra boost of energy while working in the fields. However, due to the harmful properties of the drug, it was banned in Thailand in 1979 and in Malaysia in 2003. Despite the bans, kratom is often smuggled from jungles in Thailand and is sold in Western countries where it is still legal.

Ease of Access

Kratom bars are popping up and serving the drug as a brewed beverage – allowing you to sit and enjoy the narcotic effects of the tea drink. According to the New York Times, some bars serve kratom tea drinks under the name ketum to keep users from knowing what they are drinking.

It can also be found at local head shops, convenience stores and on the Internet.

Short-Term Effects

Because of the unique mix of chemicals in kratom, the short-term effects of the drug are complex and variable. The balance between stimulant-like and opiate-like effects depends on the dose taken, and different users have reported significantly different experiences with the drug even when taking the same dose.

Doses at the lower end of the range, roughly 1 to 5 grams, are said to produce mild stimulant effects while higher doses, roughly 5 to 15 grams, produce euphoric effects similar to those of opioids. Doses exceeding 15 grams can lead to a state of excessive sedation and stupor.

Effects at low doses:

  • Increased energy and alertness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased sociability
  • Heightened libido

A number of negative side effects have been reported with kratom use including:

  • Edginess or nervousness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Itching
  • Constipation
  • Delusions
  • Lethargy
  • Respiratory depression
  • Tremors
  • Aggressive or combative behavior
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Sedation
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased urination
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

While definite side effects of kratom have not been determined by clinical studies, case reports describe additional adverse effects including addiction, withdrawal, hypothyroidism, liver injury and aching of muscles and joints.

Long-term Effects

Little is known of the long-term effect of it. Based on research done in Thailand on high dose users prior to the drug being banned, it’s long-term effects may include:

Potential Health Hazards

Nine people reportedly died in Sweden over a one-year period after mixing kratom and tramadol. Tramadol, an opioid-like prescription pain reliever, was determined to have been added to kratom to boost its narcotic-like effect – a mixture being referred to as Krypton.

As with many herbal alternatives, designer drugs, or illicit products sold on the Internet, the possibility exists that kratom may also be contaminated with illegal drugs, prescription medications or even poisonous products. The effects of it when combined with other recreational and prescription drugs or alcohol are largely unknown and may be dangerous.

Kratom Withdrawal

In one study, more than 50% of people who used the drug regularly for at least 6 months developed a kratom dependency. Dependent users of the drug suffer physical withdrawal symptoms similar to those of opiates if they stop taking it suddenly.

Some of the symptoms of kratom withdrawal include:

  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • High blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny nose
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Insomnia
  • Intense cravings for kratom

Getting Treatment

Just as every drug has different effects for different people, the road to sobriety from kratom addiction differs from person to person. Recovery begins with detox and relief from cravings. Without a detox phase, withdrawal symptoms and cravings would likely cause relapse. Sauna treatments, nutritional supplements and daily exercise are common holistic rehab techniques used to help with detox.

If you are suffering from kratom addiction, contact us to learn more about addiction treatment and becoming drug-free.

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