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What is Kratom?

Kratom is a tropical tree found in Southeast Asia, including the countries of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. The tree’s leaves have been used as medicine in these countries traditionally, but in recent years people have begun to consume them as a recreational drug for their psychotropic (mind-altering) effects. Other names for kratom include biak, ketum, kakuam, ithang, and thom.

What You Need to Know About Kratom

Kratom is not illegal in many places, including Texas, although the state has the option to regulate the sale of products containing kratom. A few states have recently banned the substance, but kratom is not regulated at the federal level. The lack of regulation means that the purity and chemical makeup of kratom is not checked by any government group, and there is no guarantee of safety or quality for products containing kratom. Around the world, almost 20 countries have banned the substance.

Kratom is available in multiple forms, such as pills, capsules, or as an extract. The leaves may be chewed or can be brewed as tea when dried. Many people who use kratom view the substance as safe because it is plant-based and derived from a natural source. However, consumers are unable to detect the level or type of active ingredients found in each kratom product, which makes it difficult to determine how much of each substance someone is taking.

Once ingested, kratom takes effect in about five minutes, and its effects on the body can last up to five hours. The more kratom an individual takes, the stronger their body reacts. Researchers don’t currently know what amount of kratom is toxic in humans. However, research indicates that pregnant women should avoid using the drug, as women have suffered severe withdrawal symptoms while pregnant. Kratom may also cause newborn infants to experience withdrawal symptoms which would need to be treated by an extended hospital stay.

Side Effects of Kratom

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains that two compounds found in the leaves of the kratom tree — mitragynine and 7-α-hydroxymitragynine — act on the same receptors in the brain that opioids do. Kratom causes similar feelings of sedation, pleasure, and decreased pain as opioids, especially when consumed in a large quantity.

If only taken in small amounts, kratom can also cause stimulant effects thanks to mitragynine, which interacts with other receptor systems in the brain. This results in users temporarily feeling increased energy, sociability, and alertness rather than sedation. However, kratom does cause some uncomfortable and even dangerous side effects as well, such as:

  • nausea
  • itching
  • sweating
  • dry mouth
  • constipation
  • increased urination
  • loss of appetite
  • seizures
  • hallucinations
  • symptoms of psychosis

Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms

Regular users of kratom have reported side effects when they have tried to stop. These include body pain, trouble sleeping, diarrhea, and fever. Others have reported feeling nervous, tense, angry, or sad if they aren’t actively taking kratom. More potential symptoms of withdrawal may include:

  • muscle aches
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • hostility
  • aggression
  • emotional changes
  • runny nose
  • jerky movements

Is Kratom Safe?

Currently, there is not a significant amount of research about the long-term effects or potential dangers of regularly using kratom, as well as whether there is any potential medicinal value to the tree’s leaves. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no approved use for kratom, and they have voiced serious concerns over the substance.

NIDA reports that the National Poison Data System found 11 deaths connected to kratom between 2011 and 2017. Of those deaths, all but two indicated other drugs or medicines present in the body as well. Meanwhile, the FDA reported at least 44 deaths related to kratom in 2017. Again, many of these kratom-associated deaths seemed to involve kratom that was altered with the addition of other illicit drugs, including opioids.

Finally, there have been instances where a product containing kratom was contaminated with salmonella bacteria. More than 130 people in 38 states became ill with salmonella after taking kratom as of April 2018.

Treatment For Kratom Addiction

Currently, there is no specific treatment for dealing with an addiction to kratom, but there is some indication that medications for opioid addiction, such as naloxone (Narcan) and buprenorphine (Buprenex), can help. As with all addictive substances, behavioral therapy and counseling should always supplement medication-assisted treatment for kratom.

Building on a belief that spiritual development and healthy recovery can bring inner peace to clients overcoming addiction and substance abuse, Into Action Recovery Centers takes a people-centered approach to addiction treatment. We are conveniently located in Houston, Texas, and are led by experienced master’s level counselors and medical professionals who specialize in personalized treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.

If you or a loved one are struggling with kratom use, we invite you to contact our program to learn more about how we can help you recover.

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