Kratom, while it is still a fairly new drug, is proving to be dangerous and potentially deadly. Many people who develop a kratom dependence began using it to taper off of opiates such as heroin – only to find that kratom can produce withdrawal symptoms very similar to that of traditional opioids. Kratom addiction also occurs in non-opiate users that abuse it under the misconception that because it is legal, it is safe – which simply isn’t true.
Kratom Addiction Overview
Kratom addiction is an emerging, although 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. Daily use can progress to physical dependence, and later, full-blown addiction.
Signs of Kratom Abuse
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)
- Polyuria (excessive urination)
- Decreased Appetite and Subsequent Weight Loss
- Confusion or Dizziness
- Depressed Breathing
- Anxiety and Agitation
Symptoms of Kratom Addiction
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:
- Skin Discoloration (particularly of the face)
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Increased Aggression
Kratom Addiction: Risks and Dangers
Even though kratom has a reputation for being “safe and natural” it is still killing people in America. Kratom also has a wide variety of drug interactions which can produce extremely dangerous and fatal consequences such as seizures, hallucinations, coma, heart arrhythmias, and stroke. Chronic use has also been shown to cause liver and kidney damage in a relatively short time; typically between 2 to 8 weeks of regular use. The LiverTox publication of the U.S. National Library of Medicine has rated kratom as having a “Hepatotoxicity Score: B (likely cause of clinically apparent liver injury)”.
Kratom use is certainly becoming more popular in the United States over the last decade, as is evidenced by the fact that between 2011 and 2017 there were 1,807 calls to Poison Control Centers about kratom exposure. Of these calls, 65% were between 2016 and 2017 which means the use rates are only increasing. Coupled with the opioid epidemic in America, kratom is seeing growing popularity among more heavy drug users. It is frequently used by people who are addicted to opioids to lessen withdrawal symptoms, but it often ends up becoming an addiction of its own. With long-term human clinical studies being highly unlikely, the negative long term effects of kratom addiction will probably only be discovered as people begin to experience them after years of use.
The legal status of kratom is currently (December 2020) up in the air. It is currently legal on a federal level, but some states have made moves to control and criminalize possession. Due to issues caused by lack of regulation and oversight, health complications and deaths, and concerns over use by teens as a gateway drug it is likely to become illegal on a federal level in the near future.