Kratom is a dietary supplement that is used for its energetic and pain-relieving properties. While some consider it a safe alternative to other substances the DEA warns that regular kratom use can lead to dependence.
Continue read to learn more about kratom, withdrawal signs, and how to get help if you’re struggling with dependence on or addiction to kratom.
What Is Kratom?
Kratom is a plant-based substance from Southeast Asia with mind-altering effects. Kratom comes from the leaves of the Mitragyna speciosa tree, which is related to the coffee plant. Active ingredients in kratom, 7-hydroxymitragynine and mitragynine, work to produce stimulant effects at low doses and sedative effects at higher doses, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports.
Kratom, also called thom, ketum, biak-biak, herbal speedball, ithang, and kahuam, is ingested by chewing the leaves, brewing them into a tea or beverage, or swallowing them in the form of gel capsules.
Small amounts of kratom can cause higher energy levels, talkativeness, alertness, and increased sociability. In higher amounts, kratom may activate opioid receptors in the brain, dulling pain sensations and causing a euphoric and mellowing “high.”
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) warns that regular use of kratom can be habit-forming and lead to addiction.
Why Do People Use Kratom?
According to NPR, within the United States, kratom abuse is popular among individuals attempting to self-medicate pain sensations or those using it as a substitute for more powerful opioid drugs, like prescription narcotics or heroin, to combat opioid withdrawal.
Opioid addiction is a major public health concern in America, as the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports that nearly 5.6 million adults in the United States battled addiction to either prescription painkillers or to the illegal opioid drug heroin in 2021. Kratom may seem to temporarily manage opioid cravings and withdrawal side effects that can be intense by activating the same receptors in the brain, but not to the same extent. This does mean that the drug can cause dependence just like other opioids can, leading to its own set of withdrawal side effects that likely parallel opioid withdrawal symptoms.
Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms may start as soon as a drug been processed out of the body. Since kratom has a half-life of around 3-4 hours, it is likely out of the system in about 6-8 hours, meaning that withdrawal will likely start during that period
As with most opioid drugs, kratom withdrawal likely begins with agitation, anxiety, sweating, a runny nose, watery eyes, insomnia, and muscle aches. Other symptoms include:
- Jerky limb movements.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Cravings for kratom.
This is known as acute withdrawal and can last for up to a week. After that point, insomnia, dysphoria (difficulties feeling pleasure), cravings, and mood disturbances can continue for several weeks or even months.
Kratom Withdrawal Factors
The detox timeline and duration of withdrawal are not the same for everyone. In fact, it is a highly personal experience that can differ greatly from person to person. Some people may be able to stop using kratom more easily than others, for instance. There are several factors that can play a role in how significant, and how long, kratom withdrawal may be, including:
- Amount of kratom used at one time. The amount of kratom ingested in each dose can influence addiction. Regular high doses can result in a more intense withdrawal process.
- How long kratom was used for. The longer a person has been using the drug, the more difficult it may be to stop using it.
- Polydrug use. Kratom is often mixed with other substances (e.g., laced with opioids, consumed in a “4×100” solution mixed with cough syrup, or mixed with other drugs and/or alcohol). Combining drugs can complicate withdrawal and the detox process.
- Co-occurring mental health or medical conditions. Kratom may be often used as a method to self-medicate pain sensations or combat opioid dependence. The presence of additional medical and/or mental health problems can make withdrawal symptoms more significant and require specialized care and attention during detox and treatment.
- Personal and/or family history of addiction. As a heritable disease, individuals with close family members who suffer from addiction may be more likely to also suffer from addiction and drug dependence. Similarly, a personal prior history of addiction can influence the detox timeline and withdrawal side effects as well.
- History of trauma or high levels of stress. Environmental factors, like previous incidents of trauma or chronic stress, can exacerbate withdrawal symptoms and potentially increase the duration of the process. A lack of a strong support system and negative influences in a person’s surroundings can also impact cravings and the ability to abstain from returning to drug use.
Kratom acts on opioid receptors in the brain. With continued use, it can affect changes to brain chemistry and structure. This is what can make withdrawal so significant, as it can take time for the brain to rebuild itself to how it was previously. Both physical and psychological side effects during this time can be hard to manage without help.
Drug Addiction Treatment in Tampa Bay
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to alcohol or drugs, like kratom, there is effective help available. At our Hillsborough County inpatient rehab, we used evidence-based addiction-focused healthcare to help people get on the road to recovery and back to living the life they deserve.
Reach out to one of our compassionate and knowledgeable admissions navigators at 24/7. Our navigators understand how difficult it can be to live with addiction and they have to the tools and resources available to help you. When you speak with our navigators they can also answer all of your questions about how to pay for rehab, help verify your insurance coverage for rehab, and help you start admissions.
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