Kratom is a herbal supplement from the leaves of a tropical tree (Mitragyna Speciosa), mainly cultivated throughout Southeast Asia. The powerful alkaloids in kratom have mood-altering effects on the brain, similar to opioids, which can cause withdrawal symptoms when someone stops using kratom. Over the past decades, the use of kratom in the United States has skyrocketed. As people understand, it can be used as a natural alternative to opioids. More are choosing this for pain management. However, long-term use of kratom can lead to dependence, and withdrawal can be challenging. Here’s all you need to know about withdrawal symptoms, their timeline, and how to get help.
Kratom is popular in Asia for its effects on the human body. It can positively affect pain relief, relaxation, mood, and energy. However, it can lead to tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), kratom is an agonist that binds to the brain’s opioid receptions, which means the same part of the brain ignites when you take prescription opioids or illicit ones like heroin. The psychoactive effects of kratom are varied. In small doses, kratom acts like a stimulant that gives users that “high” feeling. At more significant amounts, it provides users a depressant type high. While kratom isn’t a controlled substance, it is a closely monitored substance by the FDA. Since it isn’t a controlled substance, kratom is easy to find as a pill, capsule, or extract. However, some people chew kratom leaves or brew the dried leaves to indulge in tea.
Symptoms of Kratom Withdrawal
Like many other herbal remedies, kratom can also cause side effects and leave some people with exponential health risks. Kratom withdrawal symptoms are very similar to opioid withdrawal. Although typically shorter and less intense. Physical symptoms include:
- Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
- Muscle aches
- Runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Abdominal cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dilated pupils
- Blurred vision
- Decreased appetite
Psychological symptoms can include:
- Mood swings
Other symptoms of long-term kratom use include brain swelling, thyroid problems, liver damage, host flashes, and uncontrollable twitches. Like with other drugs, withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person. People taking larger doses of kratom are more likely to experience moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms than more moderate users. One study of heavy users in Malaysia who self-identified as dependent on kratom found that almost 65% of participants experienced mild withdrawal symptoms and 35% severe symptoms. However, a US-based study found that only a little over 9% of participants reported withdrawal symptoms. According to both studies, symptoms appear within 12 to 48 hours of the last dose and can last for about three days.
Kratom Withdrawal Timeline
The period of time it will take for someone to experience withdrawal symptoms will vary on how much they were using and for how long. The amount of kratom used will also affect the overall withdrawal timeline. On average, most symptoms appear within a few hours for heavy users and about 24 hours the last dose for moderate users. Symptoms last between 3 to 10 days. A simplified timeline would look something like this:
- 6-12 Hours: Withdrawal symptoms begin. At this stage, most people only experience physical withdrawal signs.
- 2-3 Days: Withdrawal symptoms peak. Here, most physical symptoms are under control, but psychological signs are at their worst.
- 5-10 Days: Withdrawal symptoms should be under control and start to fade away entirely.
Anecdotal reports suggest that some heavy kratom users suffer from what’s known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome. In this case, people can experience depression or anxiety symptoms that come and go in waves for weeks or months.
What Affects Withdrawal Timelines
How long someone experiences withdrawal symptoms depends on the level of dependency on kratom. Genetics, a history of addiction, metabolism, age, and even gender are also determined by genetics. Other medical or mental health issues, any polysubstance (other drugs or alcohol) abuse, and certain environmental factors, such as trauma or chronic stress, may also impact the severity of drug dependence and the timeline for detox and withdrawal.
Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms Treatment
Kratom withdrawal can be difficult for some people. While most of these symptoms are not life-threatening, they can be very uncomfortable. When people choose to quit kratom cold-turkey, and without supervision, withdrawal symptoms can lead them to use more. This significantly increases their risk of overdose. People who choose o detox from kratom at home can try:
- Taking over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen o relieve muscle aches and fever.
- Stay hydrated to help replenish lost water and electrolytes, particularly if you experience vomiting and diarrhea.
- Taking an OTC antidiarrheal drug to stop diarrhea symptoms.
- Eating small and frequent meals from a bland diet to control nausea and vomiting.
Kratom withdrawal isn’t dangerous. In most cases, it is mild, like a bad cold. However, if you have struggled with drug use, talk with a doctor before quitting kratom. For people who used kratom to get off opioids, stopping kratom can increase their risk of relapse. For long-term kratom abusers, a combination of therapy and prescription medication can be helpful. Also, for polysubstance drug users, seeking medical detox attention can help control withdrawal symptoms in a medically supervised environment with the tools and personnel needed to deal with negative consequences. If you’ve been using kratom to manage a health condition or withdrawal symptoms from other substances, work with your healthcare provider to ensure you have a replacement approach in place.
Is Detox Necessary for Kratom Abuse?
It depends. Many people start using kratom to tamper off their opioid addiction. In this case, medical detox is necessary to prevent an overdose. Kratom detox can also help reduce the intensity of kratom withdrawal in heavy users. Research about kratom dependency on humans is unknown, but animal studies show that rodents develop a physical dependence after only five days. In humans, users that ingest kratom for an extended period of time are likely to develop a tolerance and start using more significant doses to achieve the same effects, eventually developing an addiction. In detox, a process known as tapering or weaning is used to help people get off of an addictive substance. This helps slowly rebalance the brain’s chemistry instead of shocking it by suddenly removing the drug. This is particularly common on drugs like kratom, which attach to the brain’s opioid receptors, effectively changing the brain’s chemistry makeup. Some medications can help reduce the psychological symptoms of kratom withdrawal. Most of these drugs are also beneficial in reducing symptoms of opioid withdrawal for those using both substances. Since kratom is not a controlled substance, it is often not included in regular toxicology screenings that may be performed upon entrance into a detox program. Therefore, it is essential to indicate to treatment providers if kratom is in your system and any other drugs or substances so that medications used during medical detox are safe and effective.
Getting Help for Substance Use Disorders
In 2017, the FDA identified at least 44 deaths related to kratom, with at least one case investigated as possible use of pure kratom. If you’ve been dealing with a substance use disorder, you can find support to help you overcome this condition. There are many online or in-person support groups available. There’s no specific medical treatment for kratom addiction. However, behavioral therapy, often included in many substance abuse treatment programs, might be helpful. We still need more research to determine a unique treatment plan for kratom addiction. If you or someone you know struggles with a kratom addiction and withdrawal, don’t hesitate to seek help. Our addiction center offers unique and personalized treatment programs because we believe no two addictions are alike. The journey towards recovery is a long one, but together and with your family and friends’ support, we’ll make it.