If you read online health columns or visit vitamin stores, you’ve probably heard about kratom. This herbal extract comes from the leaves of a Southeast Asia evergreen tree. The leaves can be chewed, and dry kratom can be brewed or swallowed. There is also a liquid form of kratom that is sold as a treatment for muscle pain and panic attacks.
From the looks of it, kratom sounds like a pretty great supplement, right? Not so fast. Just because something is “natural” and sold at vitamin stores does not make it safe. In fact, taking kratom can be dangerous for your health, especially because you don’t know what’s in the plant or how your body will respond.
In this article, we’re going to take an objective look at kratom, what it’s used for and what the available research says.
What is Kratom? How Does it Work?
Kratom is a plant-based supplement that is sold as an energy booster, pain reliever and mood enhancer. It’s believed to affect the opioid receptors in the brain, though it has a number of effects on the brain and body. At low doses, kratom acts as a stimulant. At high doses, it acts as a sedative and makes people quiet and sleepy. Some people even use kratom to avoid the unpleasant effects of opioid withdrawal.
Clearly, kratom is dose-dependent. Users must experiment with the different doses to achieve their desired effects. However, there is more than the main ingredient mitragynine in kratom. These other chemicals are still being researched. And, there are varying levels of the active ingredient in kratom, making it hard to gauge the appropriate dose. Therefore, you could end up taking a lot more than you need.
Why Do People Take Kratom?
It’s understandable why people turn to kratom, especially for pain relief. A lot of the prescription medications on the market have adverse side effects and are difficult to obtain. Many are addictive as well. Here are some common reasons why people take kratom:
- Increased energy. Low doses of kratom act as a stimulant. The stimulant effects occur about 10 minutes after taking the drug and last for about 1 hour.
- Pain relief. Kratom has analgesic or pain-relieving properties at moderate doses. It seems to work best for pain from an injury or trauma.
- Euphoria. Kratom is also used in recreational settings to promote relaxation and euphoria. The reason why kratom provides this effect is because it releases dopamine in the brain.
- Sociability. Because of the relaxation effects, some people take kratom to make them more friendly in social situations.
I Heard that Kratom is Safe. Is this True?
There are mixed opinions regarding kratom. Advocates say that it’s a safe alternative to opioids when treating pain, depression and anxiety. Some researchers even believe that it could be the key to treating opioid addictions at Phoenix treatment centers.
But, the other camp feels that kratom is an “imminent hazard to public safety.” In fact, the DEA has suggested that kratom be a Schedule I drug, the same as heroin and LSD. According to this Mayo Clinic article, kratom is unsafe and ineffective, despite what advocates say. The potential benefits do not offset the side effects and safety issues of kratom.
The reasons why kratom is not considered a safe alternative include:
- Known side effects. Kratom is not without side effects. Sure, you might feel more relaxed on the drug, but it could also leave you with chills, nausea, vomiting, liver damage, muscle pain and dry mouth.
- Nervous system effects. Kratom also affects the nervous system, causing dizziness, drowsiness, hallucinations, delusions, depression, seizures and breathing difficulties.
- Possibility for toxicity. It’s unclear at what level kratom can become toxic. With the freedom to take kratom in the dose of your choice, it’s possible to overdose on the herb.
- Variations in potency. The purity of the herb determines how effective it will be, and also the side effects you could experience. Because each plant is different, you could easily take more than needed.
- Risk for drug dependence. Kratom can be addictive. If you’re not careful with how you use the herb, you can develop a dependency and require drug rehab in Phoenix.
What Does the Research Say about Kratom?
There was a time when researchers believed that kratom could be a safe alternative to prescription opioids and other pain medications. However, this opinion has changed. New studies on kratom report safety concerns and no documented health benefits.
In fact, the research we do have available shows that kratom can cause abnormal brain function when taken with other medications. It’s not uncommon for people to experience headaches, confusion and difficulty communicating. Kratom also has adverse effects on infant development.
Another problem is that the herb can be potentially contaminated with salmonella, which can be fatal. Even the poison control centers in the U.S. have received thousands of calls involving kratom. Roughly half of these reports resulted in serious outcomes like seizures and high blood pressure.
At this time, kratom is not regulated in the United States. It’s only legal in some states, and even in these cases, some cities are excluded. For example, kratom is legal in California but banned in San Diego. Here in Arizona, kratom is legal. However, in April 2019, Arizona passed the Kratom Consumer Protection Act which regulates kratom in the state.
Continuum Recovery Center does not advise taking kratom for relaxation or euphoric purposes. We feel this is potentially dangerous to your health, and it can lead to tolerance, dependency and the need for an outpatient drug rehab.
In terms of treating anxiety or pain, kratom probably isn’t the best choice either. If you don’t want to take prescription medication, there are safe, effective alternative treatments to try instead. You can discuss them with your doctor or contact Continuum Recovery Center. We offer various holistic healing practices that work well for treating chronic pain, substance abuse and mental health disorders.