What Is Kratom? Can It Be Addictive?

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You may have heard about an herbal supplement known as kratom. Derived from a Southeast Asian tree, this supplement has caused some controversy. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is still considering how to classify it, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned consumers not to use kratom. However, there have been many personal anecdotes about beneficial properties.

With all the conflicting information out there, you may be confused about what kratom really is and whether it’s addictive. Here is everything you need to know about kratom and its potential for abuse.

What’s in Kratom Supplements?

Kratom supplements may come as a pill, capsule, powder, or dried leaves. People may eat the leaves themselves, smoke them, or make tea with them. 

Kratom supplements are supposed to just contain the leaves of the tree. However, an FDA lab report found unsafe amounts of lead and nickel in several brands of kratom supplements – enough to cause heavy metal poisoning.

Additionally, there was a salmonella outbreak in January 2017 that was linked to kratom supplements. The CDC could not trace the outbreak to a single brand of kratom. It is warning consumers that contaminated products could still be on the market.

What Are the Effects of Kratom?

There have been reports of the positive effects of kratom, from reducing anxiety to managing pain. Some people have even reported using it to manage withdrawal symptoms from opioid addiction. However, these claims are mostly anecdotal and further research is needed to determine what benefits, if any, kratom may have.

On the other hand, there are a number of documented negative effects from the supplement, including:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Itching
  • Chills and sweating
  • Constipation
  • Increased urination
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Seizures

There have even been cases of death that involved kratom. However, most of these cases also involved additional drugs, or kratom products that were adulterated (did not meet legal manufacturing standards).

Is Kratom Legal?

Kratom is currently legal at the federal level, but several states have banned it. The DEA is considering a Schedule I classification for Kratom, which would make it illegal, but no action has been taken yet. Kratom remains on the DEA Drugs and Chemicals of Concern list. 

In 2014, the FDA banned importing or manufacturing kratom as a dietary supplement. However, it’s still available under other labels, such as aromatherapy.

Is Kratom Addictive?

There are two compounds in kratom, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, that affect opioid receptors in the brain. This means kratom can cause effects similar to opioids, including pain relief and sedation. However, at low doses, kratom has a stimulant effect.

There have been cases of people developing a physical dependence on kratom and experiencing unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they tried to stop taking it.

Teens and Young Adults Are Using Kratom

Since kratom is still legal in most of the U.S., that means it is easily accessible – even to teens and young adults. Kids may be exposed to the substance by their peers as a recreational drug. Some individuals try to self-medicate with kratom or keep themselves focused with its stimulant properties.

If you suspect your child is using kratom, it’s important to intervene quickly, since substance use may lead to dependence. These age groups are especially at risk for developing an addiction. Talk to your doctor and consider getting an evaluation to see if your child has developed an addiction.

Treatment for Kratom Abuse

If you or a loved one is abusing kratom, traditional addiction treatment can help. This could include therapy with a counselor, as well as holistic methods such as art therapy and yoga. Medication assisted treatment may also be of benefit, since kratom targets opioid receptors in the brain.

For proven, compassionate treatment in southeastern Pennsylvania, find a Rehab After Work location near you.


Resources:

https://www.fda.gov/news-events/public-health-focus/laboratory-analysis-kratom-products-heavy-metals

https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/kratom-02-18/index.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/kratom/art-20402171

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/kratom

https://childmind.org/article/kratom-a-legal-drug-thats-dangerously-addictive/

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20190211/regulations-are-on-hold-as-kratom-debate-rages

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/kratom-fear-worthy-foliage-or-beneficial-botanical-2019080717466