The public is now aware of the dangers of substances such as opioids or benzodiazepines. Medical and legal experts have explained the reasons why these medications are not as safe as once thought. Things get a bit cloudy when we discuss supplements or drugs that are currently legal, such as kratom.
After all, if something is sold in bars and cafés, it cannot be unsafe, right? A 2016 article in The NewYork Times reports that bars in New York, Colorado, and North Carolina sell kratom in many forms, including in plastic bottles that make the beverage seem as common as a soda. Kratom can also be bought online, and in some establishments, it can be bought as a powder or tablet.
Dependence can form with regular kratom use. It usually takes several weeks to complete kratom detox. While uncomfortable, kratom withdrawal is not life-threatening.
What is Kratom?
Kratom is an herb the public is just beginning to learn about. Hailing from Southeast Asia, kratom(Mitragyna speciosa) comes from a type of evergreen tree. The herb works similarly to opioids in that it decreases the perception of pain in the nervous system.
It is considered a stimulant in small doses and a sedative in large doses. Some people who use kratom have reported becoming dependent on it and experiencing withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit using it.
Who Uses Kratom?
No federal agency collects enough data to let us know who is most likely to take kratom. This makes it difficult to know which demographics are more likely to use it, or if men and women take it in the same amounts.
News articles and reports can give us a few clues based on people who have been interviewed about their own use or that of someone they know.
In an article in The New York Times, Dariya Pankova told reporters she began taking kratom to ease the discomfort of withdrawal after quitting heroin. She soon found herself wanting more kratom tea, and her cravings for heroin unexpectedly grew.
The same article also talks about Linda Mautner, who says her 20-year-old son committed suicide while on kratom. Robert Waina, a Florida resident, was also interviewed for this report and mentioned attending treatment centers three times because of kratom.
Per HuffPo, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has linked kratom to the death of a 43-year-old man who had also been taking other substances. Kratom was one of the drugs found in his system during his autopsy.
In 2017, 26-year-old Ryan Lloyd told the New York Post that he began using kratom so he could stop using heroin. Lloyd reported that he felt kratom was now beginning to replace his old habit.
While these reports do not give us a complete picture of the drug, they do show that kratom can cause the same symptoms as other drugs. These can include dependency, tolerance, and withdrawal.
Kratom has sometimes been used to aid with withdrawal symptoms caused by both prescription and illicit opioids. It is also used for nonmedical (recreational) reasons.
Some Risk Factors For Kratom Abuse Include:
- Dependency. Per Healthline, this is when the body needs a drug to function normally. With repeated use, kratom has been shown to result in some level of physical dependence.
- Tolerance. This occurs when someone needs higher doses of a drug to get the same effects. If kratom is regularly used, higher doses will be needed to feel its effects.
- Withdrawal. These are the physical and mental consequences of reducing drug intake or quitting altogether. Since dependence can result from kratom use, users can expect withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop use.
Signs of Kratom Misuse
Addiction Happens When A Person Cannot Quit Using A Substance Even When They Want To. Signs Of Kratom Abuse May Include:
- A constant desire to use the drug, sometimes daily or even several times per day
- Using the substance even if it affects personal or professional relationships negatively
- Being unable to quit or reduce intake of the substance
- Always keeping kratom on hand
- Purchasing the drug despite financial issues
- Resorting to questionable and/or illicit methods to get kratom, such as stealing
- Taking part in risky activity when under the influence of a drug, such as driving under the influence
- Undergoing withdrawal when not taking the drug
Signs of Withdrawal
Again, there haven’t been extensive studies of kratom abuse and withdrawal, so much of what we know about kratom withdrawal is based on anecdotal experiences.
According To The Mayo Clinic, Reported Symptoms Of Kratom Withdrawal Include The Following:
- Dry mouth
- Pain in the muscles
- Difficulty sleeping
- Restless legs
Set timelines of kratom withdrawal have not been established due to a lack of structured studies. Users report withdrawal timelines that last up to six weeks.
Each person is different, however. Not everyone will experience withdrawal in the same way or at the same intensity. The lack of regulation also makes it hard to gauge what a proper dosage should be.
Users Who Have Quit Or Tried To Quit Using Kratom Self-Report The Following Detox Timelines:
- People who use low doses of kratom can expect a withdrawal period of one to two weeks.
- Using higher doses of kratom could result in a withdrawal period of four to six weeks.
- Using kratom with other substances is associated with withdrawal periods of weeks or even months.
- Some people may experience PAWS (post-acute withdrawal syndrome). PAWS can last as long as one to two years, but the timeline for this may vary. It is most likely to occur in people who quit taking a substance abruptly (known as going cold turkey) and have engaged in long-term, high-dose use.
In online forums such as Reddit, people who take kratom say they felt withdrawal was easier than withdrawal from regular opiates.
It is also important to mention that not everyone who takes kratom has ill intentions. One Quora commenter said they take kratom to deal with the pain caused by a struggle with cancer, and they didn’t experience adverse effects when they went without the substance.
Getting Help With Detox
Some users recommended tapering doses to reduce the likelihood of experiencing the worst withdrawal symptoms. Like other decisions impacting health, it is best to seek professional help if you decide to no longer use kratom.
Treatment centers have the tools to help individuals detox from kratom in a healthy manner. They can help clients get through withdrawal safely and address issues that led to substance abuse.
What to Look For in a Detox Center
Public knowledge about kratom’s effects is still coming to light. That does not mean there are no resources for people who want to seek help for kratom dependence or misuse.
The National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA) Says Treatment Centers Can Offer These Services To Those Who Need Help:
- Evaluation of possible mental health issues that led to dependency or misuse
- Medical assistance for people who are experiencing withdrawal or who need a tapering plan to safely detox
- Counseling, which could go a long way toward helping people learn new skills or deal with chronic pain
- Strategies to avoid relapse
- Follow-up care, including alumni programs and ongoing social support
- Customized plans to ensure clients get care that is tailored to their needs
While there isn’t a set timeline for kratom withdrawal, a treatment facility can give a client a better idea of what to expect once they evaluate the individual. Since so many personal factors affect the detox timeline, treatment providers will be able to give a better timeline estimation upon assessment.