Kratom is an herbal plant that comes from a tropical tree that’s native to Southeast Asia, used for traditional medicine and in spiritual rituals. Kratom can be taken in many forms. It can be chewed, boiled in tea, smoked, or crushed.
Kratom has garnered some recent attention by the media and federal officials as more and more shipments of this substance have arrived in the country. Before, its effects and side effects were relatively unknown. Now there is an emphasis on research to determine how kratom affects people who use it.
It wasn’t until November 2017 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a statement about the dangers and deadly risks that are associated with Kratom, which you can read here. In most cases, when kratom is used in smaller doses, its healing properties are quite effective. But its habit-forming properties accompanied with larger doses can lead to tolerance, which, in turn, can become quite dangerous.
Despite the drug’s potential dangers, it’s still legal to buy, sell, and consume. However, recent attention has caused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to label it as a drug of concern and the FDA to issue a warning against its use.
Kratom is a unique drug in that it can have wildly different, dose-dependent effects. Low doses seem to cause stimulating effects, while higher doses make it act like an opioid, causing sedation and euphoria. Long-term use can lead to dependence and addiction. If you try to stop using it abruptly, it can cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
There are two main active ingredients in kratom: mitragynine and 7-HMG. Both of these act as a partial agonist of the mu-opioid receptor. That means it can bind with opioid receptors and partially activate them. They don’t have effects that are as potent as full agonists. There are several other alkaloids in kratom that exist in lower concentrations. Tests on mice and guinea pigs yielded different results when it came to the activity at opioid receptors, so the drug isn’t well-understood.
Because kratom causes opioid-like effects in the body, it does come with a variety of withdrawal symptoms. It has been considered as a potential medication to be used in treating opioid withdrawal. However, it can also cause symptoms that are similar to opioid withdrawal in people who become dependent. Kratom withdrawal may feel like you’ve come down with a case of the flu. In some cases, it may feel like a particularly bad case of the flu. Symptoms can include:
Because kratom hasn’t been extensively studied, little is known about a specific withdrawal timeline for it. However, since most of its effects are similar to opioids, it may have withdrawal timelines that are similar to other partial opioid agonists. It’s been shown that after a few months of use, withdrawal symptoms can become more prevalent after quitting cold turkey.
Your specific experience with kratom withdrawal will also affect the withdrawal timeline you experience. The amount of time you’ve been dependent on it, the dose you are used to, and the size of your most recent dose are just a few of the variables that can affect your timeline. Here’s an estimated timeline that you are likely to get close to if you decide to quit kratom cold turkey.
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Detoxification is the first step toward recovery for many people. It’s the highest level of care in addiction treatment, and it involves 24-hour medically managed treatment. Not everyone who goes through treatment will need medical detox. It’s designed to address severe withdrawal symptoms and medical complications and conditions that need to be treated during withdrawal.
Because kratom withdrawal is similar to opioid withdrawal, it’s not likely to be life-threatening. That being said, quitting “cold turkey,” or abruptly, on your own, is likely to cause more intensely unpleasant symptoms. Physical and psychological discomfort may also come with powerful compulsions to use the drug again. Medical detox can help avoid dangerous complications and ease uncomfortable symptoms. Detox typically lasts between five and 10 days, depending on your specific needs.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, detox is an important part of treatment, but it’s usually not enough to effectively treat severe substance use disorders.
Depending on recommendations from your team of addiction treatment professionals, there are a variety of treatments available after detoxification is completed.
After detox, you may enter an inpatient treatment program if you still have high-level medical or psychological needs that would make living on your own potentially risky.
Once you can live on your own, you may go through an outpatient program.
Through your recovery program, you may participate in various forms of therapy, depending on your needs and treatment plan.
These include individual, group, and family therapy.
Because kratom is so under-researched, some of its long-term effects are still unknown. Addiction is a chronic disease that gets worse if it’s left untreated. As addiction gets out of control, it can start to affect different parts of your life, including your finances, health, and relationships. Addiction treatment can address substance use problems and any other underlying disorders. Learn more about addiction treatment and how it might be able to help you to take your first steps toward recovery.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Kratom.” NIDA, 25 Feb. 2016, from www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/kratom
Office of the Commissioner. “Press Announcements – Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. on FDA Advisory about Deadly Risks Associated with Kratom.” from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/statement-fda-commissioner-scott-gottlieb-md-fda-advisory-about-deadly-risks-associated-kratom
U. S. Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/statement-fda-commissioner-scott-gottlieb-md-fda-advisory-about-deadly-risks-associated-kratom
Stanciu, C. N., Gnanasegaram, S. A., Ahmed, S., & Penders, T. (2019). Kratom Withdrawal: A Systematic Review with Case Series. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30614408