Kratom (mitragyna speciosa), a tropical plant from Southeast Asia, is becoming well-known as a potential treatment for opioid dependence. In low doses, it acts as a stimulant, and in higher doses, a sedative. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, its effectiveness and safety regarding addiction treatment lacks concrete evidence and has been associated with some serious risks.
Kratom has been used by people for centuries as a stimulant and pain reliever. The leaves of kratom, which are from the same family as the coffee plant, can be chewed, dried and smoked, or brewed into tea or placed into capsules. Kratom is structurally different than opioids, but it acts on the same receptors, thereby inducing some opioid-like effects. For this reason, it has found useful by some to reduce the cravings and withdrawal symptoms commonly associated with cessation of heroin use and other opioids.
Can Kratom Assist in Drug Addiction Treatment?
There is anecdotal evidence that kratom can help in the treatment of opioid addiction by relieving withdrawal symptoms. Kratom’s effects include mild euphoria, sedation, reduced anxiety, and pain relief. These effects make it a potentially helpful tool for opioid dependence. Because kratom works on the same brain receptors as opioids, it can alleviate withdrawal symptoms that result from discontinuation of opioid use.
However, kratom activates a different class of opioid receptors than heroin or prescription painkillers do. Therefore, it does not induce the same high as many of these other drugs do. Although there is significant anecdotal evidence that suggests that kratom may be an effective tool in treating opioid use disorders, research addressing the scientific validity of kratom’s use in opioid addiction treatment is scarce or nonexistent.
Are There Risks?
Despite the many proponents for kratom’s ability to help with opioid withdrawal, there is still some concern regarding its own addictive properties. While some could argue that this is harm reduction par excellence, experts now believe that kratom does, in fact, have the potential for abuse and addiction following a prolonged period of use. What’s more, because kratom is not regulated by the government or administered by medical professionals, people who choose to use kratom for this purpose are more or less left to their own devices (except for anecdotal information) in figuring out how much to use and how long to use it.
Without regulation, the risks of kratom use may also include the consumption of unintended adulterants. Furthermore, there appear to be some serious side effects associated with kratom use, including paranoia, hallucinations, nausea and vomiting, muscle pain, and in some cases, liver damage.
There is also the risk of legal repercussions of importing or buying kratom. While it’s legal on a federal level and throughout most of the U.S., it is currently illegal in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Washington, D.C., Vermont, and Wisconsin. In 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced it was planning on banning kratom but later withdraw this action, saying that more research and time to consider public comments was needed. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved kratom for any legitimate medical use and has warned people to avoid its use.
Is Kratom Overdose Possible?
According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kratom was found to be a cause of death in 91 overdoses from July of 2016 to December of 2017. In seven of those deaths, 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
As the U.S. confronts a devastating opioid epidemic, Harmony Recovery Centers stays current on all of the possibilities that may make opioid addiction treatment a more successful and comfortable experience. Although anecdotal evidence shows some promise for kratom’s ability to be beneficial in opioid addiction treatment, there is little scientific evidence to support up these claims. As such, we do not suggest using kratom for this purpose. Instead, we encourage individuals to undergo long-term, intensive treatment, and different forms of medication-assisted treatment, such as Suboxone and naltrexone therapy.
We offer comprehensive programs in both partial hospitalization and outpatient formats that consist of evidence-based services that are essential for the process of recovery. These services include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Behavioral therapy
- Individual and family counseling
- Peer group support
- Health and wellness education
- Substance abuse education
- Treatment for co-occurring conditions
- Medication-assisted treatment
- Art and music therapy
- Adventure therapy
- Aftercare planning
If you or someone you love is battling an addiction to opioids, we urge you to contact us today! We ensure that our clients receive all the tools and support they need to reclaim their lives once and for all, free from the use of drugs and alcohol!