Kratom Addiction: Signs, Symptoms and Risks

Kratom addiction is dangerous and potentially deadly. Many users who are addicted to Kratom become addicted while using it to taper off of opiates such as heroin – only to find that Kratom can produce withdrawal symptoms very similar to that of the true opioids they were trying to get off in the first place. 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, 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.

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

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

Once addicted to Kratom, cessation of use will result in withdrawal. The symptoms are nearly identical to opioid withdrawal. It is recommended to treat Kratom withdrawal as seriously as classic 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 Addiction: Risks and Dangers

Even though kratom has a reputation for being “safe and natural” it is still ruining lives and 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 has rated kratom as having a “Hepatotoxicity Score: C (probable 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 addicts to detox off of opioids, but ends up becoming an addiction of its own since it works on the same system as traditional opioids. With long term human clinical studies being highly unlikely, the negative long term effects of kratom addiction will only be discovered as people begin to experience them after years of use.

The legal status of kratom is currently (March 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.

Get Help For Kratom Addiction

Author Information:

Michael Smeth
Michael Smeth
Michael Smeth is the Director of Online Marketing at The Summit Wellness Group. He has been involved in the addiction recovery community for over 18 years and has a passion for spreading the message of hope that recovery has brought him and countless others.
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