Kratom: Facts, Myths, Risks, and How to Get Help

kratom-everything-to-know-guide

Written By: Lighthouse Editorial Team

Our editorial team includes content experts that contribute to Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s blog. Editors and medical experts review our blogs for accuracy and relevance. We consistently monitor the latest research from SAMHSA and NIDA to provide you with the most comprehensive addiction-related content.

Published on May 26, 2020 | Rehab Treatment Options, Types of Drug Addictions

Besides Sarasota County, kratom is legal to purchase and consume in Florida. Although a few states have pending legislation regarding kratom or have banned the substance, the herb continues to be legal in most states. Can kratom addiction be a problem for our state? 

What is Kratom? Anyway?

Kratom is the popular name for the leaves of the tree Mitragyna Speciosa. This is a native plant of Southeast Asia and is actually in the same family as the coffee plant. Kratom has a long history of use by indigenous people. People from southern Thailand have chewed kratom leaves for thousands of years. Many people use it as a pain reliever, but others use it for its opioid-like effects. As a result, some individuals may develop dependence or kratom addiction.

Medical Pills and ThermometerHow Kratom Affects the Body

The psychoactive effects of kratom are varied. In small doses, kratom acts like a stimulant that gives users that “high” feeling. At larger doses, it provides users a depressant type high. 

Over the past few years, kratom has become increasingly popular in the U.S. This is due to one major factor – the introduction of additives to kratom powder. The most popular additive is O-Desmethyltramadol, which is a metabolite of kratom itself.

When O-Desmethyltramadol is added to kratom powder, it goes from being a harmless substance to being incredibly addicting. When it’s mixed with these metabolites and alkaloids, kratom becomes much more potent and more addicting. 

Many even use kratom as an aid for opioid withdrawal. However, there’s no scientific evidence backing up these claims or evidence that it’s approved for medical use. So, why is this potentially addictive drug legal?

How do People Use Kratom

It’s easy to find kratom as a pill, capsule, or extract, found on the streets as “K Shot.” However, some people chew kratom leaves or brew the dried leaves to indulge as tea. People might also include kratom leaves in their food. 

The type of kratom ingested also alters the psychoactive effects. White-vein kratom leaf is known to produce stimulating results. Red-vein, on the other hand, has sedating and depressant effects.

Other Known Names for Kratom

It’s common for drugs to go for other names, primarily when available on the black market. Kratom is also known as:

  • Biak
  • Ketum
  • Kakuam
  • Ithang
  • Thom

Graphic with myths and facts about kratomMyths & Facts about Kratom Addiction

Although kratom use isn’t new, there’s very little evidence to back its beneficial claims. Many people believe that kratom is safe because it’s a herbal supplement. However, not all herbal supplements are safe for everyone. 

  • Fact: Kratom comes with a risk of tolerance, dependence, and withdrawal.
  • Fact: Kratom isn’t FDA-Reviewed, so it might not contain the ingredients listed on the label or the right amounts.
  • Myth: Kratom isn’t necessarily a deadly drug; it all depends on its use and abuse. 
  • Myth: People smoke or inject kratom. The truth is kratom is only available in capsules or liquid form. 
  • Myth: People only use it to get high. While that’s partially true, they also use it for pain relief and other health benefits. 
  • Fact: Kratom is still a legal substance and herbal supplement in most states.

Kratom Dosage

One myth to debunk has to deal with dosage. Appropriate kratom dosage depends on many factors. So far, there’s not enough scientific evidence to determine the best dose of kratom for a specific ailment. 

Kratom Side Effects & Health Risks chartRisks and Side Effects of Kratom

Like many other herbal remedies, kratom can also cause side effects and leave some people with exponential health risks. When taken by mouth, kratom is possibly unsafe for most people, leading to side effects such as:

  • Nausea
  • Tongue numbness
  • Dry mouth
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Aggression
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions

However, the bigger issues come when people ingest large doses of kratom, which can lead to:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Brain swelling
  • Thyroid problems
  • Liven damage
  • Seizures
  • Death

Those who take kratom regularly or have a dependency for the substance can experience withdrawal symptoms, including:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle pain
  • Watery eyes
  • Anxiety
  • Hot flashes
  • Anger
  • Fever
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Twitches

Can People Overdose on Kratom?

To date, there are multiple reports of deaths linked to kratom; however, most cases included over substances. A paper analyzing data from the National Poison Data System found 11 deaths linked to kratom exposure. Almost nine of those deaths also have to deal with cocaine, caffeine, alcohol, and fentanyl. On the other hand, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there are around 44 deaths related to kratom, with at least one case exclusively talking about kratom overdose. 

Like with many other substances, most deaths result from adulterated products that contain other drugs, such as opioids and gabapentin. Some kratom supplements included compounds that caused deaths. Since kratom is an unregulated dietary supplement, consumers can’t know precisely what they’re ingesting, which might lead to the potential risk of death. 

The Legal Debate Over Kratom

In states like Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Washington D.C., kratom is illegal. Reports by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) show that consumption for kratom, sold as powder, capsules, or a liquid “K Shot” keeps rising mostly because opioid users are looking to switch to a less expensive alternative and kratom can produce opioid-like effects. However, because it can also help with withdrawal symptoms, the debate over its legality remains. 

So far, results from one study show that kratom can be addictive, and dependence can cause side effects. Thus, the push for controlling the production and supply of the drug. 

Today, kratom is illegal in 16 countries across the world, including Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. Note how even Thailand, a country that used kratom for centuries, has also labeled the drug as an illegal substance.

Public comment in the U.S. has stopped the DEA from labeling kratom as an illegal drug. Only the future will determine if kratom will continue to be a legal substance across the U.S. 

Black and white photo of man extending hand for help

How to Get Help For Kratom Addiction

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 is kratom dependent, don’t hesitate to seek help. As you read above, kratom side effects can be life-threatening. Start your path towards a drug-free life at the Lighthouse Recovery Institute

Together, we work with our patients to decipher the absolute best course of treatment that caters to their unique needs. We don’t believe in cookie-cutter treatment plans. Instead, we look at each patient on a case-by-case basis, so we can ensure your path to recovery is the right one for you. 

Cite This Article
Lighthouse Editorial Team. "Kratom: Facts, Myths, Risks, and How to Get Help." Lighthouse Recovery Institute., Published on May 26, 2020, https://lighthouserecoveryinstitute.com/kratom-controversy-south-florida/.

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