Many people have begun using kratom as a means to stop taking opioids like heroin. While kratom can produce similar effects to opioids and may reduce the withdrawal symptoms, there is a very real possibility of becoming addicted to kratom itself. While there are ongoing and future plans for research into this for kratom, the positive claims for this use are strictly anecdotal and unfounded in science. It is not recommended to use kratom in this way, and it may even do more harm than good.
How Effective is Kratom For Opiate Withdrawal?
It is unclear just how effective kratom can be with regard to heroin withdrawal. The main active drugs in kratom do exhibit cross-tolerance to opioids. Since kratom does work on some of the same opioid receptors as standard opioids, it does make sense that withdrawal symptoms would be lessened through kratom substitution. Someone using kratom in this manner would essentially just be switching one chemical addiction for another, as there are no documented studies even suggesting that Kratom can be used as an addiction recovery aid.
Even with a complete lack of medical or scientific evidence, there have been many anecdotal claims of using kratom to successfully treat opioid withdrawal. It should be pointed out that kratom is a much weaker opioid receptor stimulator compared to standard opioid drugs. This means that someone addicted to opioids is going to have to do a relatively large amount of kratom to suppress the withdrawal symptoms. The lack of research on the dozens of psychoactive compounds in kratom, as well as some early research about a few, suggest that using large amounts of kratom can be dangerous as the long term risks are not fully known.
Some preliminary research published in 2019 has indicated that kratom used as an opioid detox treatment may actually have the opposite effect. Administration of 7-HMG, one of the major metabolites of mitragynine, has been shown to increase future opioid intake and cravings for opioids. Also, 7-HMG itself is considered to have a high potential for abuse which negates any claim that it may help with another addiction. While these findings still need to be discussed and reviewed at length, there seems to be no merit to the claims that Kratom can help with Opioid withdrawal.
Risks of Taking Kratom For Opiate Withdrawal
Kratom addiction has become an alarming safety issue in the United States, increasing in scale as the drug has gained more mainstream popularity. 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 list as well as the National Institute on Drug Abuse identifying kratom as an emerging drug of abuse. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has even gone as far to recommend 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). As far as the use of kratom to detox from opioids and as a treatment for depression or anxiety, the Mayo Clinic has stated that kratom is “unsafe and ineffective” regarding these beneficial claims.