The Dangers of Kratom

by | Aug 9, 2022 | Addiction

the dangers of kratom

Many people search for products to improve their mental and physical health, feel happier, and be more productive in their daily lives. In recent years, it has become more common for people to take Kratom as a health supplement for its stimulant-like properties and mood-enhancing effects. However, Kratom use can be dangerous and lead to serious health issues. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has listed Kratom as a Drug and Chemical of Concern. If you or a loved one is using Kratom and want to stop, help is available.

What Is Kratom?

Kratom, or Mitragyna speciosa Korth, is a tree indigenous to Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and New Guinea. Traditionally, laborers in Southeast Asia have used Kratom to decrease fatigue and increase productivity. Kratom has also been used for centuries in religious ceremonies and to treat a variety of medical conditions.

Due to varying amounts of several phytochemicals in Kratom preparations, toxicological and pharmacological evaluation can be difficult. The main psychoactive components in Kratom leaves are mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. Both of these are unique to Mitragyna speciosa. In addition, Kratom also contains other chemicals including speciogynine, paynantheine, and speciociliatine.

Is Kratom a Stimulant or a Depressant?

Kratom can be used either as a stimulant or a depressant, and the effect is dose-dependent. At lower doses, Kratom acts as a stimulant, and it produces opioid-like depressant effects in higher doses.

Kratom’s low-dose stimulant effects can include:

  • Increased alertness and energy
  • Decreased appetite
  • Higher libido

Depressant effects from moderate to high doses include:

  • Euphoric high
  • Drowsiness
  • Pain reduction
  • Dreamlike state
  • Sedation (high doses)
  • Unconsciousness (high doses)

The euphoria produced by Kratom is less intense than that produced by opioids, and some people who have experienced it claim that the effect can be unpleasant.

How Is Kratom Consumed and Why Is It Used?

There are a few different ways people consume Kratom. In the United States, Kratom is often taken as a capsule or tablet. It can be found in tincture and resin form as well. The leaves can also be dried and made into a tea or chewed. Laborers in Southeast Asia commonly chew the leaves.

People who use Kratom claim that it has multiple uses and benefits. Some of the reasons it is taken include:

  • To increase energy and productivity
  • Pain management
  • Opioid withdrawal management

There has not been much research on Kratom to date. However, according to a Mayo Clinic article, “Kratom: Unsafe and Ineffective,” researchers who have studied it conclude that the risks of Kratom vastly outweigh the benefits. Though there was once hope that Kratom might offer a safer alternative to opioids for pain management, it appears to offer no clear benefit.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns people to avoid using Kratom, and there are currently no FDA-approved uses for the substance. The safest route for pain management or treatment of an opiate use disorder is to seek help from your medical provider.

Dangers of Using Kratom

Just because Kratom is “natural” or marketed as a supplement does not mean it is safe. As it is not regulated by the FDA, there is a risk of getting a contaminated product or one that has a different dosage than stated on the package.

Serious health risks of using Kratom include:

  • Cardiac problems including abnormal heart rhythms, hypertension, and myocardial infarction
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Seizures
  • Respiratory depression
  • Encephalopathy
  • Liver damage or failure
  • During pregnancy, poor fetal development and withdrawal symptoms upon birth
  • Coma
  • Death

Other side effects include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Psychosis
  • Dry mouth
  • Numbness of the tongue
  • Nausea and vomiting

Is Kratom Addictive?

As with stimulants and opioids, you can become addicted to Kratom. When you try to stop using, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms, like:

  • Seizures
  • Pain
  • Tremors
  • Muscle spasms and rigidity

Some warning signs to look for if you think you or a loved one might be addicted to Kratom are:

  • Trying unsuccessfully to stop using Kratom
  • Inability to maintain responsibilities
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop or try to stop using
  • Cravings
  • Spending excessive amounts of time getting and using Kratom
  • Using higher doses of Kratom over longer periods than intended
  • Erratic or aggressive behavior
  • Preferring Kratom use over previously enjoyed hobbies or activities

Mixing Kratom With Other Substances Can Be Deadly

The use of Kratom in conjunction with other substances can greatly increase the risk of adverse health effects. Almost all cases of death from using Kratom involved other drugs or contaminants. Combining Kratom and other depressants like alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opiates can increase the depressant effects of both substances. This can lead to respiratory depression to the point where breathing stops.

How to Manage a Suspected Kratom Overdose

Since it is possible to overdose on Kratom, you should know the possible signs of an overdose. It can be frightening to encounter someone who has overdosed, so what do you do in the case of a suspected overdose? Despite the difficulty, it is important to remain calm, and call 911 immediately.

Make sure the person’s airway is clear and check for breathing and a pulse. If necessary, and you are trained to do so, start CPR. If the person is seizing, turn them on their side, cushion the head, and stay with them until help arrives.

The best way to prevent overdose is to avoid use. If you have been using Kratom, seek help today.

Although touted by some as a healthy supplement, Kratom use and abuse can lead to serious health risks. Using our strength-based, resiliency-focused programs, our expert staff can help you stop using Kratom. Sober Life offers treatment programs that foster independence and easily fit into your lifestyle. Whether you choose our partial hospitalization program (PHP), intensive outpatient program (IOP), or outpatient program, you will receive the best individualized, evidence-based care available. Our programs allow you to put the skills you have learned in treatment into practice immediately in your day-to-day life. We understand the importance of family support in addiction recovery, so we also offer a family program for clients’ family members. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you or a loved one stop using Kratom, do not wait. Call Sober Life at (619) 542-9542 to speak with someone about treatment. 

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