Kratom is a new drug, recently introduced to American markets. Its usage has stirred a debate between ardent followers and stalwart opposition about whether it’s a new, all-natural dietary supplement and possible painkiller, or just another opioid to add to the pile. Here’s an FAQ to shed some light on the substance.
What is kratom?
Mitragyna speciosa. This Southeast Asian tree and close relative of the coffee plant has long been a controversial plant in its
native land. Some locals use it as traditional medicine, some farmworkers use it as a stimulant before a long day in the fields, others mix it into alcoholic cocktails for recreation. Its leaves contain compounds that produce mind-altering effects, making the plant a source for painkillers and recreational drug use. People in America have found many uses for it in the past six years, ranging from dietary supplement to coffee substitute, from opioid withdrawal medicine to recreational substance.
What are the effects of kratom?
Kratom’s chemical makeup affects the brain in ways similar to stimulants and opioids. The plant contains two compounds that interact with opioid receptors in the brain. These chemicals can cause mild stimulation in small doses, alleviate pain in medium doses, and induce euphoria in large doses. Individuals who use kratom as a stimulant experience increased alertness and energy.
Its health and behavioral effects, which can range from mild to severe, include:
- Nausea; Vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Respiratory depression
Does kratom make you “high?”
Kratom affects the brain by altering its chemistry. Similar to opioids, it can produce a euphoric effect, or “high.” The compounds in opioids cause a flood of the brain’s neurotransmitters, which regulate moods and influence decisions. They cause a person to feel euphoric and reduce the sensations of anxiety and pain. Kratom interacts with the body in a similar way but its effects vary on the dosage taken. These effects of kratom come on quickly and typically last five to seven hours.
Can you overdose on kratom?
While there is no official medicinal research, overdose from kratom is highly unlikely, unless it is taken in anomalously large amounts or mixed with other substances. While kratom hasn’t been linked to overdose, there have been deaths reported by the FDA, where it is possible that kratom reacted negatively with other opioid and alcoholic substances, inducing a fatal overdose.
Is kratom addictive?
As with other drugs that produce opioid-related effects, kratom can be addictive. With continued use, it can also cause physical dependence, leading to withdrawal symptoms if the user stops taking it. These symptoms include hostility, irritability, insomnia, muscle aches, jerky movements and aggression. People seeking to beat kratom addiction have found behavioral therapy helpful.
Is kratom legal?
Kratom only started circulating widely in the US in the last six years. Currently, it is a legal substance in the US on a federal level. It is often marketed as a dietary supplement and sold in powder or tablet form in tobacco and head shops.
However, some states have banned the substance or are currently working to ban it. The FDA and DEA came close to placing kratom on the list of Schedule 1 drugs (which includes heroin and LSD), but withdrew the decision after massive public outcry, specifically from recovering opioid addicts who used kratom to ease withdrawal symptoms. The future of the drug’s legality is still up in the air.
Learn more about treatment options for alcohol abuse and addiction.