A new type of drug, known as kratom, has emerged in America over the past years. It produces a high similar to that of opioids and opiates, and can be incredibly dangerous.
For years, Asian countries have relied on the medicinal effects of kratom, otherwise known as Mitragyna speciose korth. Only the leaves of this tropical forest tree have medicinal benefits. Some people call it Mitragynine. It is found in places like Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Borneo, Philippines and New Guinea.
The plant can grow up to 25 meters high. It has elliptical leaves that have a heart-shaped base and a hairy underside. When fully mature, these leaves are large enough to cover an average man’s entire palm.
The leaves contain psychoactive opioid compounds that mimic opioids and opiates. Consuming the leaves can result in medicinal effects, like uplifted moods and pain relief. The leaves can also be used as an aphrodisiac. It’s versatile, and can treat a wide array of conditions and disorders.
How Is Kratom Taken?
There are many administration methods for this drug. Both dried and fresh leaves can be chewed. Other common forms are loose chopped leaves to make tea, capsules, and compressed tablets.
Some individuals will opt to use the extracts instead, as the extracts have a much stronger effect. Extracts are basically the concentrated form of the leaves.
While kratom is a medicine, it can also become addictive. Long-term use can lead to abuse and dependence. This is due to the fact that the alkaloids and metabolites have similar properties to opioid and opiate alkaloids. They attach to the same receptors in the central nervous system.
What Does Kratom Do?
The popularity of kratom lies in its diverse alkaloid profile. This medicinal plant can allegedly treat a vast array of medical conditions and diseases. It’s said to be effective, and the medicinal properties supposedly take little to no time to kick in.
Some alleged medicinal effects of kratom include its ability to:
- Enhance cognitive function
- Improve the user’s mood
- Make the user feel more energized
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Prevent and treating inflammation
- Provide relief from opiate withdrawal symptoms
- Relieve pain
- Reduce anxiety and depression
- Stimulate the immune system
- Treat insomnia and other sleep conditions
Kratom is also thought to have anti-leukemic and anti-malarial properties. This is due to the fact that it is high in antioxidants and vitamins. While kratom allegedly offers many medical benefits, this plant can cause many scary side effects.
Is Kratom Legal?
The legal stance of kratom remains in a gray area in America. On a federal level, this plant is technically legal; however, some states have regulations in place for selling and using the drug. Other states have banned it completely.
States that have imposed regulations and bans include:
- Alabama, which has marked the plant as a Schedule 1 controlled substance since May of 2016, and banned it completely.
- Arkansas, which has marked the drug as a Schedule 1 controlled substance since February of 2016, and banned it completely.
- California, which has banned kratom use in San Diego only.
- Florida, which has banned the use of this drug in Sarasota Country only.
- Illinois, which only allows the sale of kratom to those over the age of 18. While kratom is legal in Illinois, it is banned in Jerseyville.
- Indiana, which has banned kratom use completely.
- New Hampshire, which only allows the sale of kratom to those over the age of 18.
- Tennessee, which has banned kratom use completely.
- Wisconsin, which has banned the use of this drug completely.
The debate for whether kratom should be banned on a federal level is still going strong. Many people believe that it should be banned because it has psychoactive properties that can become addictive. Others believe that kratom may be an efficient and effective solution for dealing with the nation’s opioid epidemic. Both arguments are sound.
Due to these reasons, there’s still a lot of chatter surrounding the kratom plant and whether it will still be legal in the future.
In August of 2016, it appeared that the DEA had finally made its decision to list kratom as a Schedule 1 controlled drug. That would put it on the same standing as ecstasy, LSD, and heroin. However, this decision was withdrawn in October. At the current moment, no other comments have been made by the DEA.
Various Kratom Strains and Their Effects
There are many strains of Mitragynine. Each variety offers unique chemical properties that cause certain medicinal effects. Some of the most popular strains include:
- Bali, which offers a euphoric effect and other effects similar to opioid use.
- Green Vein Kali, which is a stimulating strain with painkiller attributes.
- Maeng Da, which offers an energizing effect that also relieves pain.
- Red Vein Kali, which has a sedative effect that mimics opioids.
- Ultra Enhanced Indo, which is an extract with strong euphoric effects. It is often used to treat social anxiety.
- White Vein Kali, which has a euphoric and dissociating effect.
Other than the extract, most individuals will only need 1/2 to 3 teaspoons of the leaves to achieve the desired effect. Less than a gram of extracts will offer up the same effects as the leaves. Extracts are much more potent.
For years, kratom has been used to treat pain, social anxiety and other conditions and disorders. Only a small dosage is needed to achieve the results desired. This is why indigenous people tend to love this natural drug. It’s effective, affordable and versatile.
Is Kratom Addictive?
Long-term use of kratom can lead to both physical and psychological dependence. According to a study, over 50% of people who used kratom regularly for 6 months developed dependence on the drug. This means that kratom is an addictive substance, and has a potential for abuse.
But, why is it addictive?
The answer lies in its chemical formula. Kratom has chemical properties that are similar to opioids. This medicinal plant can activate opiate signalling and subsequent pathways in the brain. This means that users will experience a ‘high’ or strong euphoric sensations.
This is how the Mitragynine plant treats opiate addictions, and lessens the intensity of their withdrawal symptoms. The chemical compounds basically acts like a less potent form of heroin or methadone.
One of the most troublesome aspects of Mitragynine use is that the body can build tolerance. This means that a larger dosage is needed to experience the same effects. Tolerance causes users to develop compulsive drug seeking behaviors, and will also lead to overdoses.
Side Effects of Kratom Use
While kratom does have some medicinal effects, it is equally as likely to cause side effects. The intensity of the side effects will depend on the dosage taken. Users are more likely to experience side effects if they take moderate to high doses, which is anywhere from 5 to 15 grams.
Whether users will experience any side effects will also depend on the purity of the drug, and the length of the drug use. Some side effects are relatively minor, but others can be quite severe.
Common side effects include:
- Respiratory depression
Long-term use can also cause additional symptoms, like dry mouth, weight loss, anorexia, and constipation. Due to these reasons, use caution when taking kratom for medicinal reasons. Stop and see a doctor if any of these symptoms persist or worsen.
Detection Methods for Kratom Abuse
Although kratom has similar properties to opioids, they are not structurally related. This means that they are not detectable through opiate drug tests. This doesn’t mean that its metabolites are not in the user’s system. It is. The only difference is that kratom is not normally tested for with normal drug tests.
Most normal drug tests check for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, PCP and opiates only. This means that kratom will go undetected in these tests.
Luckily, there are specialized drug tests and kits that can detect kratom use. These detection methods will need either a sample of urine or blood.
It takes about 5.3 days for kratom alkaloids to completely disappear in urine. As a result, urine drug tests can usually detect kratom use for up to a week.
Blood tests look for concentrations of Mitragynine. The concentration must exceed 300ng/ml for the test to come back positive. Unfortunately, Mitragynine and its metabolites are usually only detectable in the blood for the first 24 hours.
Kratom Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms
Since most long-term users will develop a physical dependence on kratom, they will go through withdrawal symptoms when quitting. The intensity of the withdrawals will depend on the dosage that was taken, as well as the length of the drug use.
Some of the more common withdrawal symptoms include:
- High blood pressure
- Insomnia and sleep disorders
- Intense cravings
- Muscle and joint pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Profuse sweating
- Runny noses
These withdrawal symptoms can be quite hard to bear. Symptoms can be so intense that they cause relapses.
Many people who are addicted to kratom will want to seek professional help to deal with the symptoms. Many people already have without knowing about it. For example, 660 emergency room visits from 2010 to 2015 are due to withdrawals caused by Mitragynine use.
While there hasn’t been a single death caused by kratom use, high doses can result in an overdose. The effects can kick in pretty quickly after the plant is ingested, and can last for hours. This means that overdose symptoms can last just as long. Typically when kratom overdose is mentioned, it is more about the extremely negative effects from someone taking too much.
Common overdose symptoms include:
- Respiratory depression
If you or anyone you know is possibly dealing with a kratom overdose, please reach out to emergency services for assistance. Even though no one has yet died from kratom use, it can still be very dangerous if consumed in large amounts.
Kratom Withdrawal Timeline
Kratom will usually linger in the bloodstream for anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. The withdrawal symptoms will begin to kick in once the drug leaves the body. In most cases, this only takes a few hours.
The withdrawal symptoms often peak within 2 to 3 days. This timeline is quite similar to the timeline for opioid and opiate withdrawals. This is when users experience intense cravings, get goosebumps and have difficulties concentrating.
Most withdrawal symptoms will only last anywhere from 7 to 10 days. At which point, the withdrawals become more psychological than physical. Intense cravings may not subside until months later.
The withdrawal timeline will differ from person to person. This is mostly due to the fact that each person’s body reacts differently to the drug. Symptoms are also often milder for those who are less dependent on the drug. In short, there are many factors that might influence and length of the withdrawal timeline.
Some of the most common factors include:
- Co-occurring disorders. Those struggling with co-occurring disorders are more likely to struggle with more intense withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms will also often last a lot longer. It’s vital that both the addiction and the disorder are treated at the same time.
- Dosage taken. Higher dosages lead to longer withdrawal timelines.
- Environment and support system. An individual’s surround can affect the quality of their withdrawals. If a person is withdrawing in a high stress environment, their withdrawal symptoms may become more severe and may be prolonged.
- Genetics. An individual’s biological makeup can contribute to how the drug is metabolized. It also affects how a person will respond to withdrawals.
- Length of drug use. The longer that an individual has used Mitragynine, the more likely they will experience intense withdrawal symptoms.
Mixing kratom with other drugs and alcohol can also lead to more intense withdrawal symptoms. It’s possible that these users will often experience more withdrawal symptoms as well. Other drugs and alcohol can easily complicate the effects of kratom use.
Since stress can worsen withdrawal symptoms, many experts recommend using a residential addiction treatment program when withdrawing from the drug. Residential treatment programs are able to offer serene and relaxed environments.
Abstain from Kratom Use
Kratom overdoses can be dangerous, and long-term use can lead to unsavory side effects. With that said, kratom does have medicinal properties, and can be used for medical purposes.
Still, those who have found that they have strayed from the path of medicinal usage to addiction should seek professional help. Depending on the length of the usage and the dosage, the withdrawal symptoms can be intense.
Here, at Ashwood Recovery, we have the resources needed to help you get sober. We have many medical detox programs that treat the withdrawal symptoms. We also treat the root of the addiction with counselling and behavioral therapies.
If you’re struggling with an addiction and would like to get sober, contact us for more information about the programs we offer. We can tailor the treatments to your needs and expectations.