Kratom, scientifically known as Mitragyna speciosa, is a tropical plant found in Southeast Asia that has become well-known as a potential treatment for opiate and opioid dependence. In low doses, this substance works as a stimulant, and in higher doses, as a sedative. Unfortunately, its safety and effectiveness for addiction treatment have not been the focus of many studies and lack sufficient evidence. Furthermore, its use has been associated with some risks.
Individuals have used kratom for centuries as a pain reliever and stimulant. Kratom’s leaves, which come from the same family as the coffee plant, can be chewed, dried and smoked, placed into capsules, or brewed into a tea.
Kratom is structurally different than opiates, but it binds to the same receptors. Therefore it can induce some opioid-like effects—albeit milder. For this reason, it has been found to be beneficial by many at reducing the cravings and withdrawal symptoms commonly associated with discontinuation of the use of heroin and other opioids.
Can Kratom Help in Drug Addiction Treatment?
There is some anecdotal evidence that kratom can help treat opioid addiction by mitigating withdrawal symptoms. Kratom’s effects include pain relief, mild euphoria, sedation, and reduced anxiety. These effects make it a potentially useful tool for treating opioid dependence. Because kratom attaches to the same brain receptors as opioids, it can relieve the withdrawal symptoms that manifest from abruptly stopping opioid use.
However, kratom is thought to activate a different class of opioid receptors than heroin or prescription pain remedies do. These receptors do not induce the same high as many other potent drugs do. While there is significant anecdotal evidence that suggests kratom may be a useful tool in the treatment of opioid use disorders, research that has addressed the scientific validity of kratom’s use in opioid addiction treatment is scarce.
Are There Risks?
Despite the many proponents that claim that kratom has helped in opioid treatment, there is still some considerable concern regarding its addictive potential. While many could argue that this is harm reduction at its finest, experts now believe that people can potentially abuse and become addicted to kratom following prolonged use.
Also, because kratom is not regulated by the government or administered by licensed medical professionals, individuals who choose to use kratom for this purpose are forced to rely on anecdotal information to figure out how much to use and for how long.
Without regulation, the risks of using kratom may also include the ingestion of unintended adulterants. Furthermore, there appear to be some severe side effects associated with kratom use, including paranoia, hallucinations, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, and in some cases, liver damage.
There may also be a significant risk of legal repercussions of importing or purchasing kratom in some areas. While it’s not unlawful or considered a scheduled substance on a federal level and throughout most of the United States, it was illegal in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Washington, D.C., Wisconsin, and Vermont.
Moreover, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced in 2016 it was planning to ban kratom but later withdrew this action, claiming that more research and time to consider public comments were needed. The FDA has not approved kratom for legitimate medical use and has warned people to avoid its use.
Is Kratom Overdose Possible?
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kratom is listed as a cause of 91 overdose deaths from July 2016 to December 2017. In seven of those fatalities, kratom was the only substance identified in a toxicology test, although the CDC stated that they couldn’t emphatically rule out the presence of other substances.
Getting Treatment for Addiction
Although anecdotal evidence shows some promise for kratom’s ability to be beneficial in opioid addiction treatment, there is not enough scientific evidence to fully support these claims. As such, we do not recommend using kratom for this purpose. Instead, we encourage individuals to undergo detox and long-term, intensive treatment in a licensed and accredited treatment center to overcome the disease of addiction for good.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer comprehensive programs in both partial hospitalization and residential formats that feature evidence-based services essential for the recovery process. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Behavioral therapy
- Individual and family counseling
- Peer group support
- Health and wellness education
- Life skills training
- Relapse prevention
- Substance abuse education
- Treatment for co-occurring conditions
- Art and music therapy
- Aftercare planning