Kratom Withdrawal, Detox, Addiction & Treatment Guide

Kratom addiction has become an alarming safety issue in the United States increasing in scale as the drug has gained more and more wide scale popularity. The dangers are twofold, with Kratom acting as a gateway drug that leads addicts back to their substances of choice (often opiates), as well as for it’s standalone addiction potential.

Kratom was originally labelled as a dietary supplement, then later as a soap or incense to sidestep FDA restrictions. As such it is currently not subject to regulation under the Federal Controlled Substances Act as a drug. There has recently been a movement in the US towards regulation and it is on the DEA Drugs of Concern watch list¹ as well as the National Institute on Drug Abuse identifying Kratom as an emerging drug of abuse¹. The US Department of Health and Human Services has even gone as far to recommend¹ that the DEA include Kratom as a Schedule 1 drug as it currently has no accepted medical use and poses a high potential for abuse. It is currently illegal in many countries around the world including Denmark, Australia, Malaysia, and Thailand (one of the countries from which it originates).

Other than strictly recreational use or for the reduction of anxiety or depression, Kratom is often used as an opioid withdrawal treatment. As far as a treatment for anxiety and depression, the lack of medical evidence means that any and all claims reporting this are anecdotal in nature and scientifically unsound. The Mayo Clinic has even gone so far as to say that Kratom is “unsafe and ineffective” regarding these beneficial claims¹.

The length of time and amounts involved in developing a Kratom addiction are unknown at present. Kratom withdrawal symptoms appear to closely resemble Opioid withdrawal symptoms with the added possibilities of hallucinations and seizures. Unfortunately, there have been cases of children born to mothers who used Kratom who exhibited Kratom withdrawal symptoms and needed specialized neonatal care.

Kratom Withdrawal Symptoms

As Kratom is still quite mysterious in terms of pharmacodynamics, there is no medication that is FDA approved for Kratom withdrawal or detox and there are currently no drugs in development or clinical trials for Kratom withdrawal. The experience of Kratom withdrawal has been described as very similar to Opioid withdrawal. The timeline for withdrawal is unknown, but some of the symptoms which can be expected include¹²³:

  • Anxiety / Irritability
  • Depression (with or without suicidal ideation)
  • Dysphoria (a general sense of unease or unhappiness)
  • Hypertension (very high blood pressure)
  • Incessant Yawning or Stretching
  • Rhinorrhea (extremely runny nose)
  • Insomnia
  • Mood Swings
  • Tremors
  • Muscle, Bone, and Joint Pain
  • Diarrhea and Nausea
  • Hallucinations

The best thing you can do when experiencing Kratom withdrawal is to go to a hospital to undergo the detox process in a medically supervised setting, as withdrawal is extremely unpleasant at best and could even be life threatening.

Using Kratom for Opiate Withdrawal

Research studies on rodents found that Kratom withdrawal, just like with opioids, can be observed after only 5 days of continuous use, as tolerance starts to develop. Kratom also appears to exhibit 2-way cross-tolerance to Morphine, meaning that when experiencing withdrawal from Morphine, administration of 7-HMG, a type of Kratom, would reduce opiate withdrawal symptoms, and vice-versa.

Additionally, Kratom withdrawal could be precipitated in 7-HMG addicted rodents through IV administration of Naloxone¹. Although Mitragynine does produce similar effects to classic Opioids as well as exhibiting cross-tolerance, the specifics of its molecular docking to Opioid receptors is thought to be different that typical Opioids¹² (like Morphine or Oxycodone).

Kratom is in no way, shape, or form a safe drug. It has been found time and time again to simply prolong opiate addiction and fuel further use of heroin and other opiods by drastically increasing cravings for the drugs. Additionally, there is very real potential to get addicted to Kratom itself, even among hard core, chronic drug users.

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Kratom Addiction

With Kratom being promoted as an Opioid withdrawal suppressor, many people begin using it as a way to get off true Opioids like Heroin or Oxycodone. While there are some studies showing cross-tolerance (mentioned above), continued use of Kratom can produce addiction with withdrawal symptoms very similar to that of true Opioids. 

Kratom, also known as Biak-Biak and Thang, is a relative of the coffee plant. It was originally used in Thailand and Myanmar as a stimulant and pain reliever and was consumed by chewing the leaves of the Mitragyna Speciosa tree.

An online Kratom use survey done in October 2016 had 8,049 people complete the forms. Of these, 56.59% of respondents admitted to using Kratom consistently for more than 1 year. Additionally, 2,352 people admitted to using Kratom for help getting off of a drug dependency (either illicit or prescription). Finally, only 0.65% of respondents admitted to seeking medical help for their Kratom use, suggesting that many people do not consider regular Kratom use a problem. This may be due to the prevalence of the anecdotal benefits of Kratom use as well as the lack of disseminated scientific documentation of the long term effects of Kratom use, either positive or negative.

Regardless of the lack of awareness, Kratom addiction is a very real concern. Beginning either as a hobby, social activity, or withdrawal regimen, chronic Kratom use can quickly lead to physical dependence. The timeline for Human withdrawal symptoms is not clearly defined but, in rodent studies, tolerance has been observed as early as 5 days of use which is an indicator of dependence¹. Daily use is certain to lead to physical dependence at some point, and dependence is just one stop on the way to full blown addiction.

Side Effects of Kratom Use

Some of the minor potential side effects one may experience while using any amount of Kratom for extended periods of time include:

  • Diaphoresis (excessive sweating)
  • Constipation
  • Polyuria (excessive urination)
  • Decreased Appetite / Subsequent Weight Loss
  • Confusion or Dizziness
  • Depressed Breathing
  • Anxiety / Agitation

With chronic use, tolerance will build requiring more Kratom to achieve the same effects. When increasing the dose you use, the risks rise accordingly. Some of the more serious effects which present in Kratom addiction include:

  • Delirium
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Skin Discoloration (particularly of the face)
  • Nausea / Vomiting
  • Increased Aggression
  • Insomnia

Once used for long enough, you will begin to experience Kratom withdrawal. The symptoms are nearly identical to Opioid withdrawal. It is recommended to treat Kratom withdrawal as seriously as classical Opioid withdrawal, as the potential complications are not fully known at this time. For reference, Opioid withdrawal is typically not fatal in and of itself, however it can lead to conditions which are potentially life threatening, especially if you have any preexisting medical conditions such as Diabetes or a heart condition.

Kratom Treatment and Recovery

Currently there are no Kratom-specific detox and treatment programs, however any reputable detox center will gladly accept those going through Kratom withdrawal. Addiction is a disease that requires treatment. The specifics of someones drug or alcohol use may vary, but the underlying issue is the same. For this reason, it is recommended to attend a treatment program for Kratom addiction.

Once through withdrawals, you will need to be proactive in your recovery. This means seeking out a treatment program and support group to further your sobriety. There are several types of short to long term treatment available which can be beneficial. These include:

Inpatient Drug Rehab

In addition to paid treatment programs, 12 Step programs have been adapted for a variety of addictions including drugs, alcohol, or behavioral. 12 Step programs appear to have an extremely solid track record when it comes to people getting and staying sober. There is no apparent reason that this approach would not work for Kratom as well, since addiction is addiction.

While there are many different 12 Step fellowships, the exact one to attend would be up to you. It helps to be around people who have lived a similar lifestyle to you during your addiction and for this reason Alcoholics Anonymous may be a good place to start. You can use the AA Meeting Finder to find a meeting near you. Additionally, since Kratom is technically an Opioid as defined by the FDA¹, it may help to also try Heroin Anonymous. You can also use the HA Meeting Finder to find a meeting near you.

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