According to FDA research, kratom is an antagonist that connects to mu-opioid receptors in the brain. They affect the same receptors as heroin and other painkillers. So What does kratom do? The two major alkaloids in kratom mitragynine and 7-hydroxy mitragynine interact with the opioid receptors to produce seductive pleasure and reduce pain, especially when the user ingests it in large quantities. Kratom interacts with the brain to also bring about some stimulant impacts. When used in small amounts, kratom is also believed to lead to increased stability, alertness, and energy.
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What Kratom Does By Experts’ Insight
According to an online survey done in 2014, most kratom users in the US are middle-aged and middle-income earners. Most of the respondents said they use kratom to reduce pain and to boost their mood. A small percentage said that they were using kratom to quit opioids and treat opioid withdrawal. However, research on kratom benefits as a painkiller and an alternative to opioid alternatives is rare.
According to an international journal on drug policy, published in 2010, where scientists tested 136 kratom users found out that kratom was described as an affordable herb that was readily available. However, this survey did not involve any testing of kratom effects or its potential dangers. In 2014 a report published in Drug and Alcohol dependence surveyed 293 active kratom users. More than half of them had severe dependence with withdrawal symptoms such as tension, anger, and muscle cramps.
A mouse study done in 2016 in the Journal of Medicinal Chemical concluded that kratom might lead to slower breathing but not as much as other painkillers such as morphine. Given that most deaths caused by opioids are due to respiratory stress, more research on the substance is required. Some kratom experts argue that kratom could serve as a solution to the opioid crisis.
Even though kratom is believed to be a natural opioid, it brings about various risks like addiction, tolerance, withdrawal, and dependence.
Addiction to Kratom
Addiction is the state at which an individual can’t stop using the drug regardless of the negative consequences caused by the substance. Addiction can occur even without physical dependence, but it is common in almost all individuals experiencing addiction.
What Causes Addiction?
Addiction can be a result of life and environmental factors. Consistent and excessive use of kratom is the biggest cause of kratom addiction.
How Do You Know you are Addicted to Kratom?
Addiction has the following signs:
- There is an urge to use the substance every day or several times a day. Sometimes, the urge is extreme that it makes it hard for someone to focus on something else.
- Taking more substance or using it for a more extended period than intended.
- Requiring more doses to attain similar results as the use of the substance continues
- Spending more money to buy the substances even when you have other important things to budget for
- Engaging in unpleasant behavior such as unprotected sex and reckless driving under the substance’s influence
- Using the substance even when you are aware of the risks involved
- Spending a substantial amount of your time using the substance and recovering from its effects
- Engaging in risky activities such as stealing to ensure that you get the substance
- Being unable to stop using the substance even when you are willing to quit
- Having withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop
Somebody around you may try to hide their addiction to kratom. However, some visible signs cannot be hidden or suppressed: Other signs of kratom addiction include:
It is common for drug and substance addicts to act secretive, aggressive, or violent. Sometimes one may depict one of these behaviors or all the three as a result of kratom addiction.
Change in one’s Social Activities
Some people may withdraw themselves from friends and family and start forming new relationships with known drug users.
Skipping work or school and poor performance is another indication of addiction. Sometimes, one loses interest in their work since they spend most of their time taking and recovering from the drug’s effects.
Fatigue, depression, and other chronic illness are common problems related to drug and substance abuse. Kratom also causes constipation and stomach upset, which bring about a lack of appetite, making the victim weak and malnourished.
Depression, anxiety, and change in mood are also a common characteristic of addiction.
Financial and Legal Issues
Stealing and asking for money from friends and family without a concrete reason is common to those addicted to various substances. It is also common to find themselves on the bad side of the law, like using and purchasing kratom in prohibited regions.
When used in very low doses, kratom has euphoric and stimulating impacts; at high doses, the plant produces sedative impacts with similar effects as opioid drugs such as morphine, oxycontin, and heroin. Those abusing mitragyna speciosa are at risk of developing physical and psychological dependence on the drug. Consuming kratom in large quantities for a long time can also lead to tolerance.
It has been proven by scientists that kratom is dangerous. However, many users urge that their body does not develop tolerance compared to drugs like benzodiazepine and opioid.
Many people use kratom in an attempt to quit opioids. Kratom tolerance develops very fast because the drug will develop a cross-tolerance with the opioid since they have the same effects in the body. Those people abusing opioids are also likely to use kratom in large quantities to ease their withdrawal symptoms. The body gets used to the presence of kratom, which makes it hard to quit kratom use.
Lack of Regulation
Kratom abuse is expected in the US since the drug is not regulated. The risks of the drug being contaminated and substandard are high since there is no proper oversight during the manufacturing and the selling process. Different vendors pack kratom in different doses; this increases the chances of abuse, overdose, and tolerance.
Continuous use of kratom can lead to tolerance and dependence, which can lead to chronic illnesses like liver damage. Liver damage can begin after eight weeks of kratom use in high doses.
Since kratom affects the brain as an opioid, it can be accompanied by various withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, yawning, restlessness, and runny nose.
Stages of Kratom Withdrawal
- Acute: These are the symptoms experienced from the first day and the seventh day of withdrawal. During this stage, the symptoms are so intense and almost unbearable.
- Intermediary: This is the second stage when the person is already feeling better but still experiencing some mild withdrawal symptoms. This begins mostly after one week. The stage is accompanied by symptoms like depression, fatigue, anxiety, muscle cramps, and kratom cravings. The intermediate stage comes to an end by day 10.
- Post-acute: This stage is not familiar to everybody, but people who have been into kratom abuse and have struggled with addiction will experience this condition. This stage occurs for at least six months after one stops using kratom. Psychological issues mostly accompany it, but some physical symptoms like nausea and exhaustion can be experienced. People who go through this stage take at least 90 recovering days before their minds can adjust and function without kratom chemicals.
The health risk caused by kratom withdrawal is bait limited depending on severity. However, the physical and psychological issues accompanied by kratom withdrawal can lead to relapse. Getting support from professionals during the withdrawal period can help one successfully recover from kratom addiction. When a person is experiencing kratom withdrawal, there is a high chance of mental health problems becoming worse.
Why is Kratom Controversial
Studies about kratom have not been done intensively—that why it has not been recommended for medical use. Clinical research and studies are very crucial for the development of new drugs. Research helps to identify the harmful drugs effects and other risks that it brings along. It is essential to identify the benefits and the expected effects expected from the drug.
Kratom has a high potential of causing strong effects on the body. It contains numerous alkaloids as opium and hallucinogenic mushroom. Alkaloids cause substantial physical impacts on humans. While some people use it to relieve pain, other effects can be a cause for concern. This is the primary reason why more research on this drug is necessary. The animal study shows that mitragynine, which is the principal alkaloid of kratom, has addictive properties. Kratom dependence can also cause side effects such as nausea, tremors, and sweating.
The FDA does not regulate kratom production; hence, the FDA does not monitor the drug’s safety and quality. However, it is hard to distinguish kratom’s positive and negative effects of just some shallow studies done by a few scholars. There is a great need for more research on kratom to ensure that kratom users make the right and informed decisions.
Before using kratom for any reason, you should consult your caregiver. Caregivers should advise the patient on the expected risks when dealing with kratom. Despite kratom having many desirable effects on the users, it can also cause life-threatening experiences like liver damage and respiratory stress.