Mitragyna speciosa, more commonly known as kratom, is a tropical plant native to Southeast Asia. It has a long history of medicinal use, but growing popularity has resulted in a number of studies examining its properties, many of which ask the same question— is it actually safe, or is it addictive?
What is kratom?
Kratom is often sold online or in vitamin/supplement supply stores as a natural or holistic supplement. In small doses, kratom can boost mood and energy, relieve muscle and stomach pain, treat panic attacks and, some say, be used as a supplement to ease the effects of opioid withdrawal.
Because it’s plant-based and widely available, many people assume that kratom is safe. While advocates report its beneficial properties, others say the risks far outweigh any potential benefits.
According to Mayo Clinic, kratom is “unsafe and ineffective…Poison control centers in the United States received about 1,800 reports involving use of kratom from 2011 through 2017, including reports of death. About half of these exposures resulted in serious negative outcomes such as seizures and high blood pressure. Five of the seven infants who were reported to have been exposed to kratom went through withdrawal. Kratom has been classified as possibly unsafe when taken orally.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) states that kratom consumption can lead to addiction. Any substance that alters the brain’s chemistry has a potential for abuse. Kratom contains two compounds, mitragynine and 7-α-hydroxymitragynine, that act on opioid receptors, thereby having similar addictive effects to those seen in other opioids.
In low doses, kratom acts as a stimulant. When taken at high doses, kratom leads to effects like euphoria, pleasure and, in extreme cases, sedation. Additionally, “[s]everal cases of psychosis resulting from use of kratom have been reported, where individuals addicted to kratom exhibited psychotic symptoms, including hallucinations, delusion, and confusion.”
Like other opioids, kratom may cause dependence, meaning that users experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the substance. People may also experience cravings for kratom just like other opioids.
Health effects of kratom
In addition to the potential for addiction, there are other reported negative, even dangerous effects of kratom use, including:
Nausea and constipation;
Hallucinations and delusions;
Mood disturbances, including depression;
Appetite decrease and weight loss;
Other effects may occur if kratom is taken with other supplements or medications, or if the consumed kratom wasn’t purely manufactured and contained dangerous chemicals/substances.
Is kratom legal?
Currently, kratom legality varies across the United States and its lack of regulation has led to increased availability throughout the states. But while it is legal at the federal level, certain states, counties and cities have banned it.
Kratom is not considered a controlled substance by the DEA, but has been labeled as a drug of concern. In fact, the DEA previously wanted to temporarily classify it as a Schedule I Drug, but withdrew its decision.
While kratom is a naturally occurring plant, its consumption is not widely considered to be safe. Its production is not regulated by the FDA and there is little evidence or scientific research proving that kratom is effective in treating opioid withdrawal.
In fact, certain FDA approved medications have been needed in order to treat withdrawal from kratom itself: “In a study testing kratom as a treatment for symptoms of opioid withdrawal, people who took kratom for more than six months reported withdrawal symptoms similar to those that occur after opioid use. Too, people who use kratom may begin craving it and require treatments given for opioid addiction, such as naloxone (Narcan) and buprenorphine (Buprenex).”
If you have been using kratom and find yourself wondering, “Am I addicted to kratom?” help is available. Reach out to Pyramid Healthcare today to learn more about addiction treatment options, including MAT.