Kratom is a relatively new drug to hit the streets. This means the signs of use are often overlooked. In some ways, that can make it all the more dangerous, and parents or loved ones of addicts should do their best to be informed about it in order to be aware of the warning signs of kratom use.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to kratom, we urge you to call New Life House at 888-357-7577 or email us at [email protected] for more information on how we can assist in getting and staying sober.
In the midst of the largest opiate epidemic to ever hit the country, a whole new market has emerged, growing rapidly with the population of addicted individuals. That market is legal drugs.
Countless new substances, usually marked as “safer” alternatives, have hit the shelves and the internet, drawing a crowd enticed by the seemingly legal status and the lack of detection on most drug tests. While the myths surrounding a lot of these drugs have been debunked, one substance has largely maintained its reputation as a safer, healthier alternative – Kratom.
Found online and in any number of seedy head shops, or even some health food-stores, kratom has gained increasing popularity given its neurological similarities to poppy-derived opiates, such as heroin or morphine. Usually purchased in powdered extracts, the dried plant material comes from the Mitragyna Speciosa plant which is native to Southeast Asia.
The tropical evergreen tree from the coffee family has been utilized as a traditional medicine for hundreds of years in countries like Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Natives have utilized the plant for its analgesic (pain killing) qualities and partial stimulating effects by chewing on the leaves or making tea from the dried material. Much like cocaine, the drug’s potential for harm remained relatively low until recently, when the psychoactive chemicals were extracted from the leaves in extreme potencies.
The active chemical in Kratom, Mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, work on the brain as a selective full mu-opioid agonist. This means that it stimulates the activity at the receptor site of certain opioid neurons, specifically the ones that largely contribute to the feelings of euphoria that users will experience with various illicit and prescription opiate narcotics.
Kratom is marketed predominantly under three major strains according to the different species of plant leaves.:
Kratom demands further investigation as it holds some promise as a relatively lower risk medication than mainstream opiates. The fact remains, however, that kratom is risky territory for those that struggle with addictive tendencies as it still stimulates the reward pathways in the brain related to eliciting the craving phenomenon in addicts.
Traditionally, Kratom has been a staple of southeast Asian countries, particularly amongst farm workers, who have utilized the plant for many years for its ability to mitigate aches and pains caused by excessive manual labor, and also for its anxiolytic (anxiety relieving) and mood-enhancing properties. Kratom has also been used for hundreds of years for a number of medicinal purposes, but also to curb the withdrawal effects caused by the cessation of opium.
Because of this long history as an aid for withdrawals, vendors have capitalized greatly on Kratom’s marketability as a “safe alternative” to opiates. Of course, there is almost no research to back those claims, and many believe that Kratom is almost equally as addictive as traditional opiates.
As with many other “alternatives” that have flooded the market in the last few years, kratom’s semi-legal status makes the drug easily accessible and nearly impossible to regulate. This has led to a major increase in reports of Kratom abuse here in the United States, from healthcare professionals, researchers, and individuals who have experimented with the drug.
Despite what many online sources will say, most of which are either written or directly sponsored by vendors, kratom has an exceptionally high potential for abuse. Many individuals discover kratom as a means of bypassing drug-testing for any number of reasons. Even though it is not tested for on common 12 panel drug tests, kratom can be tested for at almost any reputable lab-testing facility.
The drug will offer many of the same pleasurable sensations as heroin or oxycodone, without the risk of legal repercussions. In that same light, many individuals become exposed to kratom as a means of stopping or slowing an addiction to harder opiates. Although some have had success in ceasing their opiate addiction by a titration of kratom, most find that they either simply transfer addictions, or end up going back to the drug which they were originally trying to discontinue.
Means of how kratom is administered has evolved drastically from the chewing of raw leaves in Asia. The drug is now largely exported in powders and pills to be dissolved and ingested and can also be found as oil reductions that can be inhaled through vaporizing devices sold in smoke and paraphernalia retail locations.
Although Kratom is not an opiate in the traditional sense, meaning it is not derived from the poppy plant, it reacts in the body much the same way.
As science has advanced, what was once a seemingly beneficial medicinal herb has been refined and concentrated, then marketed to drug addicts; either as a stand-alone recreational drug or as a method of alleviating withdrawal from opioids.
The main difference between classic opiates and kratom is the latter’s ability to create a stimulating effect in lower dosages with an opiate-like sedation only being achieved at greater dosages. For example, someone with a consistent, yet low dose kratom habit would exhibit side effects similar to a cocaine or methamphetamine user, whereas someone with a high dose habit would have much more pronounced opiate side effects, such as small pupils, nausea, vomiting and constipation.
This can make detection, as well as official classification, of the drug difficult.
As of 2018, little is known regarding the validity of kratom’s therapeutic effects, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) went as far to say that there are no medical uses for the plant in 2013. There are over 40 active compounds in Mitragnya speciosa, but mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitraginine are the most significant psychoactive compounds, both of which are selective full agonists of the u-opioid receptor.
As previously mentioned, a unique aspect of kratom is that side effects vary greatly depending on dosage of the drug, with higher doses resembling opiate properties and low doses producing stimulant side effects.
In terms of physical effects and signs of kratom use, they can vary greatly depending on the dosage and tolerance of the user. In low doses, consistent users will experience effects commonly associated with stimulants, like methamphetamine and cocaine. These could include:
With consistent use of high doses of kratom, users can experience effects that are usually associated with opiates or “downers” like heroin. These can include:
One of the major issues with kratom is its dose-dependent-effects make it unpredictable when combining with other drugs. Users taking kratom for its stimulating properties (typically under 5 grams) experience increased heart rate, sex drive, and energy with decreased appetite. Interactions at this dose have been reported with the newer attention deficit disorder chemicals like Modafinil and various cardiovascular regulatory chemicals.
More significant issues are seen in users seeking the sedative effects by heavier users. Large doses of kratom (5 grams or more) can result in respiratory depression, itching, and liver toxicity. The risk of liver toxicity at high doses of kratom in combination with alcohol consumption compounds damage to the liver. This interaction contradicts the argument for kratom as a safer alternative because of the lack of thorough research on the drug and pervasive sense of blind faith in head shop advertisements.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to kratom, New Life House can help. Please call us at 888-357-7577 or email us at [email protected] for more information.
Just like opiates, kratom is addictive, and can lead to long-term mental and physical dependence sometimes causing addicts who are seeking relief from narcotics to relapse in an attempt to fulfill the need created by kratom.
Tolerance is another serious risk of kratom use, meaning that over a short period of time, a user will have to continue to up the dosage they take in order to experience the same effects they did with smaller doses. This phenomenon can often lead to physical dependence as well as accidental overdose.
The first case of kratom specific addiction was reported in Betty Ford in 2015 with withdrawal symptoms identical to opiate withdrawal. Signs of abuse are irritability, lethargy, insomnia, and body aches. Chronic users have been found to have elevated heart rate, blood pressure, and in some cases liver toxicity and epilepsy.
A large contributor to growing interest in use of kratom has arisen in opiate addicts attempting to reduce withdrawal discomfort. Where the drug succeeds in lessening some discomfort, a further disservice is afforded the user in fostering new neurological imbalances with the selective agonistic relationship mytraginine and 7-HMG have with the brain.
People seeking relief from chronic pain also use kratom, as the drug does have analgesic (pain relieving) properties. This being said, the risk of using kratom greatly outweighs the reward, as there are many other non-narcotic options for pain relief that do not have nearly as many negative side effects and are not habit forming, which kratom has been proven to be.
Because it is widely used in the addict population, kratom has become a popular method of recreational abuse because it is not as easily detected on traditional drug tests as other drugs, and abusers can get away with using it if they are not being tested through a lab.
Regardless, laboratories are able to distinguish kratom present in samples.
To put it simply, there are no home drug tests on the market at this point that can detect kratom directly. It could potentially be flagged as another drug, but that tends to be pretty uncommon.
As for how long kratom actually stays in the system, it can depend on several different factors such as age, body fat, genetics, and food and water intake. There has not been much research done in this area, but the few studies that have been done seem to show that alkaloids left behind by kratom use will typically last in a user’s system for anywhere between a day and a half to two weeks.
As with many other drugs, the dosage and frequency of use can also affect the amount of time kratom can stay in a user’s system.
While addicts may be experiencing temporary relief from detoxing by using kratom, most of the time they are further prolonging their abuse of other narcotics and reducing their chances of achieving complete abstinence from opioids.
In regards to kratom’s medicinal value as an opioid substitute, the FDA stated in 2017 that:
“There is no reliable evidence to support the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid use disorder; there are currently no FDA-approved therapeutic uses of kratom…and the FDA has evidence to show that there are significant safety issues associated with its use.”
Signs to look for if kratom use is suspected can vary based on the dosage and frequency of use and the potential use of other drugs along with kratom.
High dosage use effects can include:
Low dosage use effects can include:
There are no consumer available drug tests at this point in time that will detect kratom in urine, so a home drug test will usually not pick it up. In the rare case that it does, it will be flagged as another drug. However, if a lab test is conducted, kratom can easily be detected in urine, blood, saliva, and hair.
If an opiate user is saying that they have quit using opiates but does not seem to be experiencing symptoms of an opiate withdrawal, there is a possibility that they may be using kratom. If you are concerned that your child is abusing or addicted kratom, please reach out to New Life House immediately at 888-357-7577 or email us at [email protected]. We can help you determine if New Life House is right for your family and provide you with resources and advice on how to move forward.
Kratom withdrawal is not life-threatening, so a medical detox is not exactly necessary. It can make the process of detoxification easier on the addict, but it could also potentially prolong the beginning stages of recovery due to the common use of medications to ease the detox process. In most cases, a good old cold turkey detox is just as effective, though the symptoms of withdrawal will be somewhat more acute.
Symptoms of a kratom withdrawal and detox are highly similar to those of opiate withdrawals, due to the fact that they both affect receptors in the brain the same way. These symptoms can be psychotic, physical, and psychosomatic, but they do pass typically within 5-10 days total. These symptoms can include:
The process of a cold turkey detox is not fun, but it is not life-threatening and does not require special medical supervision.
New Life House is a highly structured sober living community that has been in operation for over 30 years. We offer an environment that supports high levels of accountability, both with sobriety and character, and comradery built through experiences shared by those who are a part of our program.
Our mission is to help young men from the ages of 18-30 create a new life for themselves free from the bonds of addiction to drugs and alcohol. This is accomplished through rigorous observance and practice of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, support from those enrolled in the program along with our large and involved community of program graduates, and a healthy dose of fun enjoying all of the benefits that Southern California has to offer.
We are not a glum lot, and we would love to help you and your family find the path toward happiness with us! Please call us at 888-357-7577 or email us at [email protected], and we can provide you with more information about our program.