Many people have begun using Kratom as a means to stop taking Opioids. While Kratom can produce similar effects to Opioids and may reduce withdrawal symptoms, there is a very real possibility of becoming addicted to Kratom while using it in this way. While there is ongoing and future plans for research into this application of Kratom, the positive claims for this use are anecdotal and unfounded in scientific fact. It is not recommended to use Kratom in this way, and it may even do more harm than good.
Even with a complete lack of medical or scientific evidence, there have been many anecdotal claims¹ of Kratom used to successfully treat Opioid withdrawal. It should be pointed out that Kratom is a much weaker Opioid receptor agonist compared to many classic Opioids. This means that someone addicted to Opioids is going to have to do a large amount of Kratom to suppress the serious withdrawal symptoms. The lack of research on the many compounds in Kratom, as well as some early research about a few (in particular MPI) indicate that Kratom use in large doses is especially dangerous as a possibly neurotoxic agent and as the long term risks are not fully known.
How Effective is Kratom For Opiate Withdrawal?
It is unclear just how effective Kratom can be with regards to heroin withdrawal. As mentioned, the active drugs in Kratom do exhibit cross-tolerance to Opioids. Since Kratom does work on some of the same Opioid receptors as classic Opioids, it does make sense that withdrawal symptoms would be lessened through Kratom substitution¹. Someone using Kratom in this manner would essentially just be switching one chemical addiction for another, as there is no documented studies even suggesting that Kratom can be used as an addiction recovery aid.
Some preliminary research published in September 2019 has indicated that Kratom used as an Opioid detox treatment may actually have the opposite effect. Administration of 7-HMG, a component of Kratom, 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. Strangely, the compound which is most abundant in Kratom – Mitragynine – does seem to decrease future Opioid use. While Mitragynine is more abundant in Kratom, 7-HMG is a much more potent compound so the implications of these findings are not clear as of yet. 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 withdrawal¹.
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 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.