What is Kratom? THe Herbal Drug Connected to Nearly 100 Overdose Deaths

What is Kratom?

Often marketed as a holistic alternative to opioid medications, Kratom is derived from a tree of the same name found in Southeast Asia. Kratom leaves contain the psychotropic compounds mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, which are only found in this plant. These compounds interact with opioid receptors in the brain, causing:

  • Feeling of euphoria
  • Increased energy and alertness in small doses
  • Sedation in larger doses
  • Decreased pain perception
  • Nausea and loss of appetite
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased urination
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Potential psychosis

Much like other mind-altering substances that slip into the gray area of legality, Kratom is not regulated by the FDA as it is often labeled ‘not for human consumption.’ In many areas, it can be easily obtained online or in specialty herbal stores where it is usually sold as a green powder, in capsules, or as an extract. It can also be found as gum or as an ingredient in teas.

Is Kratom Dangerous?

Kratom has been tied to 91 overdose deaths- more than twice the initially estimated rate. While a majority of these cases also showed other illicit substances such as heroin, Fentanyl, and other drugs, seven cases only showed evidence of Kratom use. There has also been a drastic increase in calls made to poison control centers across the United States as it pertains to Kratom: from 13 in 2011 to 682 in 2017.

For people in recovery, Kratom is a polarizing subject. Some promote Kratom use as a non-pharmaceutical means of treating withdrawal symptoms and addressing cravings. Others recognize the potential for danger of Kratom use for addiction and overdose.

Is Kratom Addictive?

Kratom is an addictive substance that interacts with the same neural pathways as opioids. Just as with prescription and illicit drugs, there is a potential for both physical and mental dependence. For people in recovery, extended use of Kratom can cause cravings for stronger substances, leading to relapse to drugs such as prescription opioids, heroin, or Fentanyl. This is especially dangerous as tolerance may be greatly reduced, increasing the danger of fatal overdose.

For people who develop Kratom addiction, the withdrawal symptoms can be just as uncomfortable as those experienced during opioid withdrawal. These symptoms include:

  • muscle aches
  • insomnia
  • irritability
  • hostility
  • aggression
  • emotional changes
  • runny nose
  • jerky movements

Because Kratom is technically legal, its use is somewhat controversial in recovery communities. While some swear by its ability to promote long-term recovery, others question if using Kratom complicates the recovery process because of its psychotropic effects and addictive nature. Supporters of Kratom use as part of the recovery process refer to it as an alternative to long-term medication as well as citing its potential benefits for people living with other ailments.

Opposers refer to instances in which Kratom contributed to relapse, believing Kratom use inhibits one’s ability to fully commit to sobriety.

If you are experiencing Kratom addiction, recovery is possible. Contact Niznik Behavioral Health today for information about how we can help.


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