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Industry News: Treatment for Kratom Addiction

Published on: August 23, 2017

Written by: Janet Russell.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock and failing to see the harsh realities in society, you’ve probably heard of the substance called kratom. This drug has been the subject of debates from supporters and the opposition, but the threat of addiction to the substance is becoming more real. In this article, we will delve into kratom addiction and how to treat it.

The Century-Old Drug from South East Asia

Kratom (Mitragyna speciose) has been part of the indigenous culture of Southeast Asia for thousands of years. It is not treated any differently from coffee, tea, or tobacco.

Kratom is a member of the coffee family, and is used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It acts both as a stimulant and a narcotic.

Dried kratom leaves are chewed by workers in Thailand as their means to help them endure all of the day’s work. It enhances their mood, thereby preventing them from facing difficulties in having to do their routine jobs.

Kratom Use

plant leaf kratom addiction
(Photo by ThorPorre via Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Kratom has become popular even outside of Thailand and other nearby Asian countries. Most people who use kratom have taken it as their natural or organic means of getting over addiction from prescription medications. It has also been used as an adjunct treatment for substance abuse withdrawals.

Nowadays, kratom is being used therapeutically for personal healthcare management or recreationally for its euphoric effects. There are various kratom strains commercially available and each kratom strain possesses a unique characteristic.

The effect of kratom to the body may depend on the quantity of kratom taken. At high doses similar to the effects of morphine, it produces the following signs and symptoms:

  • Constipation
  • Cough suppression
  • Dysphoria
  • Euphoria
  • Itching
  • Nausea
  • Reduced pain
  • Sedation

At low doses, its effects are similar to that of amphetamine. A dose lesser than 5 grams of raw leaves can produce the following signs and symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased appetite
  • Greater alertness
  • Heightened sex drive
  • Impaired coordination
  • Increased sociability
  • Reduced fatigue and increased energy
  • Tremors

Generally, the effects of kratom usually last from 5-6 hours. If kratom is taken on an empty stomach, the onset would be approximately between 30-40 minutes after ingestion. If the individual has taken a meal prior to ingestion of kratom, the onset of the effects will take place after 60-90 minutes.

In January 2016, the Food and Drug Administration planned to ban the substance. They reported that the substance has no legitimate use as a dietary supplement. However, the issue has been pending for a while now.

Some clubs offer drinks infused with kratom extract, which has become quite popular among teens and adults. The effect of kratom use may not be completely understood, although generally, it is known to have some psychoactive effects that may possibly lead to kratom addiction.

Different Forms of Kratom

Consumers from the U.S. and Europe use kratom products in different forms. Traditionally, kratom leaves are chewed fresh after taking out the central vein of the leaves. However, some prefer to crush them until it becomes in powdered form so that it can be easily swallowed.

Powdered kratom may be converted into paste by adding water. This can be mixed with yogurt or applesauce. Kratom powder can also be put into capsules.

Dried kratom leaves when strained can be taken as tea. Some would also smoke the kratom leaves.

A resin-like extract may be produced by evaporating the water from kratom tea, and stored for later use. Small particles of these extracts can be swallowed or dissolved in hot water, then consumed as tea. The substance is naturally bitter, and so some kratom users add sugar or honey to sweeten the concoction.

Kratom Statistics

The popularity of kratom use is clearly increasing, as demonstrated by the higher number of kratom products sold online and by the number of online forums where kratom users share their experiences with kratom use. According to a report from Texas Poison Control Database, the number of reported kratom cases has increased from 3 between years 2009-2010 to 7 between January and September 2013.

DEA has earlier declared using its emergency scheduling authority to place a temporary ban on kratom due to the number of reports referring the substance as posing as a public risk. However, this has caused a major controversy that initiated several public demonstrations and petitions. DEA then withdrew its notice of intent and opted to solicit public comments to help them decide on the issue.

Between January 2010 and December 2015, there had been at least 660 counts of kratom exposure reported to various poison control centers all over the U.S. About 65 percent of these cases were isolated kratom exposure, while the rest was due to the use of kratom in combination with other drugs.

The DEA has received reports on the number of overdose cases as well as kratom-related accidents that have led to fatalities.

The Risks of Kratom Use

Having presented the possible effects of kratom use, it clearly demonstrates the fact that it is not safe to operate different types machinery or vehicles when under the influence of this substance. Being a mind-altering substance, kratom disables the individual to make decisions and that coordination may be too impossible.

Due to limited research on the effects of kratom use, pregnant individuals are strictly advised not to take the substance as a precaution.

Why is Kratom Abused?

(Photo by ThorPorre via Wikimedia Creative Commons)

The varying effects of kratom lead some individuals to choose it over the usual kind of drugs. Apart from being a stimulant when taken in low doses and providing an analgesic-euphoric effect, kratom is an inexpensive alternative to other commonly abused drugs like heroin.

Thinking that using kratom has only a few unfavorable effects compared to opioids or other narcotic prescription medications, this has become the drug of choice for people looking to alleviate their pain. This is especially true for those who are suffering from chronic pain associated with cancer.

Kratom as Pain Medication

The analgesic effect that kratom may provide is one of the primary reasons why people started using kratom. Individuals who may be suffering from chronic pain and have been taking opioids may develop a form of dependence to prescription drugs. To be on the safe side, some of them have chosen to use kratom to relieve them from their pain.

Kratom as Treatment for Opiate Addiction

Those who use kratom may either be opiate dependents or under opiate medication but somehow became dependent on the drug.

Believing that kratom use poses fewer health risks than other medications to treat addiction, kratom has become the drug of choice for some individuals. However, since kratom isn’t among the commonly prescribed alternatives by doctors to treat opiate addiction, some individuals decide to do self-medication in the hope that they are dealing with a much safer substance and that they can completely turn away from taking opioids.

Kratom Addiction

Long-term kratom use may lead to constipation, dry mouth, frequent urination, skin discoloration on the face, insomnia, and weight loss. It is also common that individuals with kratom addiction may exhibit anxiety, tremors, nausea, and sedation. Additionally, more harmful physical effects may be experienced when kratom is used in combination with other drugs.

Dangerous drug interactions may cause interference with the metabolism of other drugs by the liver when used in conjunction with kratom, which can result in either underactivity or overactivity of the currently taken medication. This may lead to seizures and liver damage.

Kratom Dependence

Just like any type of drug dependence, individuals engaged in kratom addiction are likely to suffer from withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal and muscle pain
  • Cravings for kratom
  • Diarrhea
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritability
  • Sweating

Withdrawal symptoms occur when the individual suddenly stops using the drug. It has been reported that the withdrawal symptoms experienced by individuals with kratom dependence are longer-lasting than those who had an opiate dependence.

Treatment for Kratom Addiction

Treatment for any form of drug addiction starts with detoxification. Detoxification is the process of slowly reducing the amount of the drug from the individual’s system until the individual is capable of being completely drug-free. During the said process, the individual may experience unfavorable withdrawal symptoms, which sometimes cause other drug dependents to have a relapse.

A full drug recovery can only be achieved when accompanied with psychological treatment, which comprises one-on-one mentoring and support group activities. Families and friends also play an important role in the success of the treatment. It is best that the main cause of the addiction be resolved so that the possibility of relapse will no longer be possible.

Testing Method for Kratom Use

Most drug tests cannot detect the presence of kratom in the body, but there is a specific drug test for kratom that can be used. Kratom does not leave the system until after 5-6 days. This is due to kratom being lipophilic or fat-soluble. This means that kratom adheres to fat tissues longer.

Some individuals are concerned with having false positive results when undergoing kratom drug test. This is because some incidents involved individuals who consume a bagel with poppy seeds that resulted positive for heroin.

With kratom, however, this is highly impossible since kratom is not an opiate. Although kratom may generate the same effects as an opiate, it does not comprise the same chemical makeup as opiates.


Kratom remains to be legal in the United States except in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin. It is banned in countries like Australia, Denmark, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand. Although people have the freedom to buy kratom products online, it is not recommended that kratom should be used more than once or twice a month to avoid developing an addiction.

According to users, kratom has been beneficial in helping them alleviate the pain that they are suffering from. While this can be true at some point, due diligence should always be made. Moreover, knowing that taking kratom with other drugs can only pose health risks, this should also be avoided.

Nevertheless, it should be kept in mind to keep kratom at a safe level. It should be taken with minimal amount and frequency to avoid developing tolerance and dependence.

The safety of kratom has yet to be proven by further research. The DEA is continuously gathering necessary data to ensure that kratom use will not put such a high risk on the public.

[Featured image courtesy of drogen.bz via Wikimedia Creative Commons]