In an earlier post, we talked about kratom and the reasons why it may not be as safe as you think. Nevertheless, this supplement continues to have very mixed reviews. For every person who says it’s not safe, another one says it is. So what’s the deal? Is kratom really the addictive and dangerous drug people think it is? Or is it just a harmless supplement that requires caution?
What is Kratom?
Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia. Its leaves have certain compounds that can have mind-altering effects. Kratom is not an illegal substance and is easy to order off the internet. It’s sold in different forms such as gums, extracts, pills, capsules or dried leaves. The leaves can be smoked or added to food or tea.
People take kratom because of its physical and mental effects. Two compounds in the leaves affect the opioid receptors in the brain, causing users to feel pleasure and relaxation. Small amounts of the drug have the opposite effect, leaving users feeling alert, energetic and sociable.
What’s all the Fuss Over Kratom?
Like other drugs that have opioid-related effects, kratom can cause dependence. Users chase this high, so it doesn’t matter whether it’s coming from kratom or heroin.
But it’s not just the potential for dependency that is worrisome. Kratom can be laced with other compounds that can lead to death. There have been multiple reports of deaths in people who ingested kratom, though the majority of these cases involved other substances as well.
Additionally, the supplement can have negative side effects like nausea, itching, sweating, dry mouth, seizures and hallucinations. The more a person takes, the more serious these side effects can be. Due to the unknown nature of kratom, the FDA has cracked down on marketers and sellers of these products.
Currently, kratom is legal on a federal level, though it’s illegal in several states and cities.
If Kratom is Harmful, Why Do People Use It?
There are a number of reasons why people use kratom. According to this online survey of nearly 2,800 people, here are the main motives for taking the herb:
- Relieve pain (91%)
- Lessen anxiety (67%)
- Reduce depression (64%)
- Reduce or stop opioid abuse (41%)
Of these respondents, 76% used kratom more than 100 times. Most were not concerned with their use and felt the pain treatment was effective. Only a small percentage (10%) of people said they experienced withdrawal effects and most users (88%) showed no signs of a substance use disorder.
What are the True Risks and Benefits of the Herb?
While there may be side effects to taking kratom, all drugs (legal and illegal) have risks. If you’re currently suffering from pain or entering drug rehab in Phoenix to treat an opioid addiction, is it possible that kratom can help?
Let’s take an unbiased look at the true risks and benefits to this supplement.
- Unregulated. Kratom products are unregulated. There is always some risk of consuming unregulated products because you don’t know what’s in them. Even though prescription drugs have side effects, they are known and documented.
- Potential for serious side effects. When combined with other drugs like alcohol, some reports show that kratom can raise the risk for seizures, hallucinations and liver damage.
- Schedule I advisory. The FDA advised categorizing kratom as a Schedule I drug because it has no proven medical application and a high risk for abuse.
- Habit forming. Because of the way the herb interacts with the opioid receptors in the brain, it’s possible to become dependent on this drug for relaxation, happiness and pain relief.
- Boosts energy. In Asia, people have used kratom for decades to boost energy and decrease pain. It’s similar to coffee here in the U.S. but doesn’t give you that anxious, jittery feeling.
- Treats opioid use disorder. People in Asia have also been using the native plant to treat opioid addictions. Due to this, researchers in the U.S. are looking at safe ways to use the herb to treat opioid problems.
- Improves pain levels. The alkaloids in kratom produce a painkilling effect. The pain relief lasts for about 4-6 hours and can be a safer alternative compared to opioid painkillers.
How Does Kratom Treat Opioid Use Disorder?
As an outpatient drug rehab in Phoenix, we stay on top of the latest trends and advancements in addiction treatment. Kratom has certainly come up from time to time, though we are not comfortable using it. There are safer alternatives to treating pain and anxiety. However, it’s important to look at all angles of a drug to fully understand its potential.
When you take opioids for a long time, your body gets physically and mentally dependent on them. If you stop taking them, you’ll suffer intense withdrawal effects like sweating and trembling. Because these effects can be unpleasant, people look for things to help them get through.
Kratom is promoted as a way to treat opioid withdrawal. In Asia, people have used this supplement to ease withdrawal symptoms, relieve pain and reduce anxiety, all things that are important during withdrawal. Furthermore, the herb decreases the brain’s desire to use opioids, helping people kick the habit faster.
Should You Trust the Supplement to Treat Opioid Use?
There may be some legitimacy to using kratom to treat an opioid use disorder. However, there is just too much we don’t know about the herb, as well as how pure and safe the products are.
In the future, it’s possible that the FDA will get involved and regulate kratom so that it’s safe when used accordingly. But for now, we just don’t know. And with an opioid epidemic still in effect, it’s not smart to push another potentially addictive drug onto people who are already fragile.
The good news is that you don’t need kratom to treat an opioid addiction, manage anxiety or relieve pain. There are safer, more effective alternatives, and you can learn about them at our outpatient rehab in Phoenix. Contact Continuum Recovery Center today and we can discuss the various therapies we offer to help people with opioid withdrawal, detox and treatment.