An Overview of Kratom
Originating in Southeast Asia and only recently becoming known in the United States and Europe, Kratom is an unusual substance that is sometimes grouped into the category of opioids because it shares some similar effects. It is currently a topic of much debate in the drug world, but for the time being it is considered legal in the Western world, although there are already movements to make it illegal.
In the region that it comes from, Kratom is used as a painkiller, anti-diarrhea medicine, and as a recreational drug. It may also be used to boost energy levels or combat the withdrawal symptoms of addictive drugs.
Although there is still discussion regarding the addictive nature of Kratom, research on the substance both in Asia and in the United States shows that it is without a doubt addictive, although the degree of that risk is debatable. In either case, it is important to act quickly and contact a rehab center if you or another user develop symptoms of dependence and withdrawal related to Kratom, as these are signs of an addiction.
If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or alcoholism, our facility specializes in substance use disorder treatment. Please contact Brookdale immediately to get the highest quality of effective care.
What is Kratom?
Produced from a Southeast Asian tropical tree of the same name, Kratom is a natural substance still under study for its effects and risks. It is said to serve primarily as a pain killer, energy booster, and pleasant sedative, making it popular for both medical and recreational use. Some people argue that it has value in helping people manage an opioid addiction, meanwhile others argue that it is a gateway drug for stronger opioids. When used to help break another opioid addiction, there is also the risk that a patient will simply trade one addiction for another, in this case, Kratom.
Part of the confusion regarding Kratom is related to how its symptoms vary depending on the dose used. When taken at a lower dose, Kratom acts like a stimulant, boosting the user’s energy, alertness, and making them more socially outgoing. If taken in high quantities, Kratom acts more like a depressant, slowing down a person’s system and dulling their senses. This is the point where it is effective as a pain reliever since it becomes harder to feel senses like pain.
Curious enough, despite having these two physical effects that mimic stimulants and depressants, based on the way Kratom impacts the brain by affecting opioid receptors, it is most accurately classified as an opioid. Taking Kratom can produce a euphoric high similar to opioids, lending to its role in that category. It shares other effects with major name opioids like morphine, although research suggests that is less potent, therefore requiring higher quantities.
Kratom is usually available in pill, capsule or extract form, although it may also be purchased as leaves from the tree. These leaves may be chewed, smoked, eaten in food, or powdered and made into tea.
In many cases, Kratom that is sold commercially is mixed with other substances to alter its effects. This can potentially be very dangerous, and there are numerous cases of some products being laced with illegal drugs and other deadly substances.
Nicknames for Kratom
In most cases, drug dealers and users create street names for drugs, so they won’t arouse suspicion from authorities. However, since Kratom is a legal drug in the United States, and one that is hardly recognized even by its primary name, there is less of a reason to do that. Nonetheless, there are several nicknames that people use in place of the drug, such as:
How Addictive is Kratom?
While some people try to advocate that Kratom is not an addictive substance, this is simply a myth, as Kratom has been shown to have the potential to be addictive. Up until 2018, it was even illegal in Thailand, which is a country worth noting because it is one of the places where Kratom originated. At this point, it and marijuana were both legalized for medical use only.
To understand how Kratom is addictive, it is important to remember that while it is not truly an opioid, it impacts the brain in the same manner that one would, just with less potency. When Kratom enters the body, be it as a stimulant or depressant compound, it affects the brain and causes the body to release a wave of endorphins. These chemicals occur naturally in the body, but in smaller doses being regulated by transporters within the central nervous system. When Kratom comes into play, the quantity of endorphins produced becomes greater than the body is accustomed to.
At lower doses this may simply cause an energy boost, but as the quantities increase, the body becomes overloaded which causes a euphoric high. The high overrides feelings like pain and because it is pleasurable, it serves as the primary reason for someone to abuse the drug. With repeated use, the body adapts itself to the heightened endorphin levels and develops what is called a tolerance, at which point it will require a user to take more Kratom to achieve the same effects. Given that higher doses provide greater risks, doing this significantly increases the chances of developing harmful side effects and of course, addiction. It is also likely at this point that the user will develop a physical dependence on the drug, which means that their body will have difficulty functioning as it is supposed to without the constant presence of Kratom in its system.
Since some Kratom’s main uses solve common problems like low energy and discomfort from pain, a person can also develop a psychological dependence before a physical one. This happens when the individual begins to treat Kratom as a coping mechanism or cure for problems that would be healthier to manage in other ways, but with regular use they learn to rely on it instead. In cases where a person develops this kind of psychological dependence, a physical one is almost certain to form at some point later in life.
Signs of Kratom Abuse
The symptoms of taking Kratom vary depending on the dose that a person uses, making it a rather unusual substance. With lesser amounts it acts like a stimulant and in greater amounts it produces results more like a sedative or an opioid. When being abused users should expect similar effects to a typical opioid.
Knowing the side effects of Kratom is a useful way to identify when it is being abused and an addiction may have formed. Other symptoms that are valuable to watch for include:
Skin sensitivity (higher risk of sunburns)
Loss of appetite
Statistics and Additional Information
When it comes to monitoring the impact of Kratom on society, four of the leading organizations running studies on the substance are the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. While all of these organizations advise that more research be conducted, they have already gathered some valuable statistics and facts worth knowing to better understand Kratom.
A few of these of particular note include that:
- Most Kratom related deaths involve mixing the substance with other drugs
- In 2017, the FDA reported that there were at least 44 deaths related to kratom, with at least one case resulting from pure kratom
- Commercial Kratom that is sold as a dietary supplement is sometimes laced with other dangerous chemicals that may be lethal
- Common substances to mix with Kratom include illicit drugs, opioids, alcohol, benzodiazepines, and over-the-counter medications
Treatment for Kratom Addiction
Since Kratom acts similarly to an opioid, many rehab centers treat addictions to it in the same ways that they would a traditional opioid. While there are many options available, the most effective form of care is through residential treatment. At this level of care, a patient would remain on campus for an allotted period of time, restricted from the outside world.
When a person first enters rehab for a substance use disorder, they must first undergo a thorough evaluation to determine what modalities will best address their needs. While detoxification is a typical first step for many patients, it is not always appropriate for everyone.
If detoxification, or detox, has been deemed necessary, the patient will be closely monitored by licensed physicians and nursing personnel while undergoing this level of care. During detox, all harmful and addictive substances are slowly removed from the individual’s system so they may begin the recovery process with a clear mind and body. Detox may cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, but with the proper medical interventions, they can be treated accordingly. Some withdrawal symptoms have also shown to be potentially dangerous, thus it is imperative to seek the help of experienced professionals.
Once a person has successfully completed detoxification, they can begin the transition into residential treatment. During this phase of care, patients will participate in a variety of therapeutic groups and sessions, learning to address their addiction head-on. Clinical and holistic treatment is essential in the recovery process, because it teaches the individual healthy coping mechanisms to combat future cravings and obstacles, as well as address past experiences and traumas that may have contributed to their addiction in the first place. Alongside various therapeutic modalities, the clinical team will help the patient establish an effective aftercare plan that is conducive for long-term recovery.
Getting Help Today
While Kratom may be a legal substance in the United States and praised as a safer alternative to popular opioids, it is not without risk! Like any other drug, Kratom has the potential to wreak havoc on a person’s life when abused. Furthermore, if left untreated, it could potentially lead to the abuse of other substances and life changing consequences.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a Kratom addiction, it is imperative to seek help immediately. As our facility specializes in the treatment of substance use disorders, Brookdale can offer the care and support you need to break free from addiction and experience a life…recovered.
Call us today at 855-575-1292 to find out more about admission into our program.