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Kratom Addiction And The Best Rehab Centers For Treatment

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

February 1, 2019

Kratom is a leaf from a tree in the coffee family. In low doses, Kratom produces effects similar to those of coffee, in high doses, however, this drug can act similar heroin.

Kratom isn’t new, but it’s growing popularity in US markets is raising alarms with drug enforcement officials. Kratom, or mitragyna speciosa, is a tree in the coffee family whose leaves, when chewed, produce similar effects to coffee, though for a longer duration. In Thailand, where the tree is native, use of kratom is illegal. However, the reason for the banning of the drug ties into its impact on Thailand’s opium market more than the dangers of the drug. Deaths reportedly linked to the drug have led to additional bans in other parts of Asia and in Europe.

Kratom, which binds with opioid receptors, can help curb cravings for opiates and is sometimes used to treat opiate addiction. That said, use of kratom does not come without consequence. Epidemiological studies in Thailand reveal an increased rate of addiction in patients with co-occurring mental disorders. And more recently, a shift from chewing the leaves to a popular concoction known as 4×100 includes boiled kratom leaves combined with cocaine, codeine, coffee, or cough syrups containing antitussives, increasing risk of addiction.

Kratom users also report use of the drug as sexual enhancement drug for both men and women.

The raw leaves of kratom may be chewed, or are dried and prepared as a tea, part of a concoction, or sold in capsules. Kratom is also known as it’s scientific name, mitragyna speciosa, as well as common street names thang, kakuam, thom, ketum, and biak.

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How Does Kratom Work?

The effects of kratom vary with dose. At low doses, kratom is similar to coffee, acting as a stimulant that increases focus. At higher doses, it behaves more like the opiate heroin in its sedative qualities. Of the more than 25 alkaloids found within the plant, we know of only a few of the direct impacts a handful of these have on the brain and central nervous system.

Mitragynine, one of the primary alkaloids found in kratom, acts upon mu-opioid receptors in the brain and along the central nervous system. Mitragynine can produce the stimulant effects associated with use of the drug, as well as the sedative qualities described at higher dosages.

Another alkaloid found in kratom, 7-hydrohydroxymitragynine, affords an analgesic effect that rivals morphine, and one that is better absorbed orally. This makes it a promising alternative in treating opiate addiction, but a potential addiction risk for those who use kratom regularly.

How Does Kratom Become Addictive?

When someone uses kratom regularly in higher doses, the body’s pain threshold is altered. This effect is rewarded by a part of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens, or the “pleasure center” of the brain. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter is released, which is experienced as a sense of contentment or euphoria.

After a period of use, these effects are reduced, and an individual may increase use of the drug to achieve the euphoria they experienced when they first began using. These subtle increases can quickly lead to unsafe levels of use. Addiction risk is increased if you have been using kratom regularly for a longer duration, if you have combined kratom with other addictive substances, if you have a co-occurring mental disorder, or if you experience severe withdrawals when attempting to wean off the drug.

One Swedish report linked nine deaths since 2009 in that country to abuse of kratom. Additional deaths have been reported in other European and Asian countries where the drug is banned.

Adverse Health Effects with Regular, Long-term Use

  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Increased urination
  • Constipation
  • Increased sensitivity to sunlight
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Muscle aches
  • Mood changes
  • Seizures

Treatment Of Kratom Addiction

Withdrawal and treatment management for kratom addiction will vary depending on the severity. In cases where the drug has been used in high doses, a medically-managed program may be necessary. Even if withdrawal symptoms are not severe, managing addictive behaviors can prevent future dependence on kratom and other drugs.

Kratom Withdrawal

The severity of withdrawal symptoms from kratom will vary depending on a range of factors including dose and length of use, and symptoms usually last for upwards of one week. Withdrawal symptoms from kratom include mood changes, aggressive behaviors, flu-like achiness and muscle spasms, and may amplify symptoms of any co-occurring mental disorder like anxiety or depression.

Withdrawal Symptoms from Kratom include:

  • Aggression and agitation
  • Mood changes
  • Flu-like achiness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Amplification of symptoms relating to co-occurring mental disorder
  • Psychosis (in rare cases)

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