**Disclaimer: While kratom does have medicinal properties, we do not recommend the use of any mind-altering substances here at Denver’s Women Recovery. We are an abstinence-based program.**
What Is Kratom?
Native to Asian countries, like Borneo, Malaysia and Thailand, kratom, also known as Mitragyna speciosa, is a tree that grows up to 25 meters high. This tree has these unique elliptical-shaped leaves that can be chewed or ingested in other ways. The leaves contain the psychoactive compounds that many people are looking for. They’re what make this plant stand out. They’re also the reason why the kratom plant is often used for medicinal purposes among the indigenous people in Southeast Asia.
The active compounds have a similar effect to opioids. They attach to the same opioid receptors in the central nervous system (CNS). The interactions result in a pleasurable or sedative effect on the body. This herb is a natural painkiller.
The active compounds in this herb are mitragynine, mitraphylline and 7-hydroxymitragynine. A lot of these compounds are indole alkaloids. These compounds resemble the amines, like serotonin or dopamine, produced in the human body. They can work in a similar fashion and activate the same biological and neurological pathways.
With that said, there’s a lot of hubbub surrounding kratom use. There are many claims being made. If you’re interested in using this drug, it’s important to break down all of the information surrounding this plant to find out what are truths and what are merely myths.
TRUTH: Kratom Has Medicinal Properties
It’s true that kratom has medicinal properties. The indole alkaloid compounds in this plant behave similarly to amine compounds in the body. Amine compounds include serotonin, dopamine and histamine. These compounds also give this plant its medicinal properties. Many studies have explored its abilities as an antidepressant.
Kratom effects allow it to work in a similar way to many prescription opioid medications. Some people even use it as an alternative to opioids. Some of the medicinal effects of this herb that make it so popular include an ability to:
- Offer relief from pain
- Prevent and treat inflammation
- Improve moods
- Enhance cognitive function
- Increase one’s energy
- Provide relief from opiate withdrawal symptoms
- Treat sleep disorders like insomnia
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Strengthen the immune system
Since this plant can provide relief from pain, it’s also possible to get a kratom high out of its use. This is what’s making this herb so popular in America. Many Americans take advantage of the pleasurable effects induced by the herb. Many drug users describe the high as something similar to a mild opioid. It’s similar to a heroin high or an oxycodone high, albeit a bit milder. Still, to many drug users, this seems better than nothing.
MYTH: Kratom Is Safe
The reason why many Americans turn to kratom is because they believe that it is safer alternative to other drugs. After all, it’s a natural herb. They may use kratom to self-medicate if they are in pain or to get high. While kratom is organic and natural, it is far from safe. This is one of the most dangerous misconceptions about this drug. Many drug users think that they can take this drug with no consequences; however, this is absolutely not true.
From 2010 to 2015, the United States poison control centers have seen ten times more calls involving kratom. It’s possible to overdose on this herb. If it is ingested in a powder or tablet form, it’s also possible that other compounds and ingredients have been added to the drug. It’s almost impossible for the average consumer to figure out the purity level of the kratom that they are taking.
“There is no evidence to indicate that kratom is safe or effective for any medical use.”
Dr Scott Gottlieb, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner
While many people don’t realize it, it’s possible to overdose on this drug. 44 overdose deaths have been reported so far in America. Unfortunately, these numbers continue to rise year after year as more and more people discover this herb.
Common overdose symptoms include combative or aggressive behavior, delusions, lethargy, nausea and vomiting. Some overdose victims also experience paranoia, respiratory depression and seizures. The kratom dosage taken will influence the intensity of the overdose symptoms. The intensity of the symptoms may also depend on genetics, the presence of co-occurring disorders, whether other drugs were taken and one’s biological makeup.
MYTH: Drug Tests Cannot Test for This Drug
Another reason why many drug abusers end up using kratom is because they believe that it won’t show up on a drug test. This means that drug users can enjoy a similar high to opioids without causing any trouble. So, is this true? Does kratom show up on drug tests?
The answer is both yes and no. First of all, kratom and all of its alkaloids are not tested on standard drug tests. This means that government officials and employees are not usually screened for kratom use. The active compounds in Mitragyna speciosa do not have the same chemical structure as opioids. The structure is not close to cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin or other popular and common drugs. As a result, consumption in this plant should not lead to any false positives.
Although it shouldn’t be mistaken for any other drug, not all kratom capsules are pure. Some capsules, tablets, powder and tea are laced with other drugs. In these situations, you may be unknowingly taking other drugs, like methamphetamine. These other cutting agents will show up on standard drug tests.
With that said, kratom is testable. There are special drug tests that can test for the plant and its alkaloids. However, these drug tests must be specially ordered. You won’t find them in most places. If you’re wondering whether a loved one has an addiction and need treatment, you should purchase a drug test online. You can also check out our addiction quizzes to get more information.
TRUTH: Some States Have Legalized This Herb
Although this plant has opioid-like properties, it is still legal in many states. Federally, kratom is legal although it is actively trying to ban this substance. Each state will have different restrictions and regulations regarding this substance. Some states believe that it is dangerous, while others have decided to follow the federal decision.
“The DEA proposed banning kratom in 2016 but backed off following massive public pressure. Instead, it asked the FDA to conduct a formal scientific evaluation.”
If you’re interested in taking kratom, you must first determine whether it is legal in your state. While this herb is legal in most states, the following states or cities have decided to take a stance:
- Alabama has marked the drug as a Schedule I Controlled Substance as of May 2016
- California has banned kratom use in San Diego only
- Indiana has banned the use of this herb completely
- New Hampshire allows the sale of this drug to people over the age of 18
- Sarasota County, Florida has banned the use of this drug completely
- Tennessee has banned the use of this drug completely
Many other states have strict regulations and rules concerning this drug. Make sure that you check with your state laws before purchasing or taking kratom. If you don’t, you may end up breaking the law.
MYTH: Kratom Is NOT Addictive
Many people argue about whether kratom is addictive or not. Some people claim that only kratom extracts are addictive, while others consider all forms to be addictive. Some people claim that the herb isn’t addictive if users switch from one strain to another regularly. With so much speculation surrounding this issue, it’s difficult to figure out what’s true and what’s not.
The bottom line is that long-term use of this drug can easily lead to addiction. Studies show that over 50% of people will develop both a physical and psychological dependence on the drug if they use it regularly for over 6 months. It doesn’t matter whether they ingest kratom powder or whether they steep the leaves to make tea. Any method of consumption can lead to addiction. It doesn’t matter if you switch up the method of consumption.
The active compounds in this herb are addictive because they are similar to opioids. They act on the same neurological and biological pathways as drugs like heroin and codeine. The only difference is that they are a bit less potent. As a result, the side effects tend to be less intense.
In fact, the active compound mitragynine is not only addictive, but also a drug that the body will build tolerance to. Over time, a larger and larger dose is needed to achieve the same effects. Since users can develop tolerance to the kratom plant, it’s possible for drug-seeking behaviors to develop.
MYTH: Withdrawal Symptoms are Mild and Rare
There’s also a rumor that kratom use doesn’t come with any withdrawal symptoms. Drug addicts that know how heroin and oxycodone withdrawals feel like can tell you just how intense the withdrawals can be. They can feel intense, and even unbearable at times. Many drug users are excited to try out any drug that they believe won’t come with any negative consequences.
While this herb is a mild opioid, it doesn’t mean that dependence won’t lead to withdrawal symptoms. In fact, the withdrawal symptoms can be equally as intense. Many addicts find them so intense that they often relapse. Those who experience withdrawal symptoms also will need to seek medical attention. From 2010 to 2015, Mitragynine use caused 660 emergency room visits.
Some of the more common withdrawal symptoms include diarrhea, high blood pressure, insomnia, intense cravings, mood swings, muscle and joint pain, nausea and vomiting and panic attacks. Withdrawal symptoms usually peak within 2 to 3 days, and will dissipate by a week. Many recovery centers now offer detox programs that help ease withdrawal symptoms. These detox programs help many addicts transition into recovery.
Abstinence Is Always Best
Although it’s true that kratom has medicinal properties, it’s also a drug that can be quite addictive. You should only take this herb if it was prescribed to you. Self-medication can lead to addiction and abuse. The side effects of kratom addiction can be quite dangerous. It’s also important to remember that there’s very little research surrounding this plant. No one really knows what the long-term effects are, or whether there are any dangerous drug interactions.
Here, at Denver’s Women Recovery, we recommend abstinence above everything else. Being and staying sober is wonderful. It can change your life and help you make better decisions. You’ll be healthier and be able to feel like yourself. The best part is that you won’t be shackled down by cravings. Your mind won’t be so focused on where and when you’ll get your next fix that you’ll miss out on the important things in life.
If you have an addiction to kratom, check out some of our treatment programs. If you have an addiction to opioids and are entering our facility, keep in mind that we are an abstinence-based program. We do not recommend nor allow the use of any mind-altering substances.