Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) is a popular drug that is derived from an evergreen tree like plant that is naturally occurring in South East Asia, parts of Africa and Papua New Guinea. This plant belongs to the same family of plants as coffee and gardenias. Kratom is a drug that has become popularly known over the last few decades, although its usage dates way back. It has been used as an energy boost and a herbal remedy for a number of ailments for many years in Thailand and neighboring countries. However, it has only gained worldwide popularity over the past few decades with an upsurge of its use in North America and European countries.
Kratom has previously, over the years been seen as an opiate substance and a substitute for cocaine and cannabis. This is because there were no researches and studies that have been able to prove otherwise. However, there is some anecdotal evidence that states that it can be used in the management of withdrawal symptoms that are mostly associated with opiate addiction; apart from being used as an energy boost and as a mild pain reliever.
In order to understand the effects of Kratom on the human body, it is important first to understand how it’s used and consumed. This will help shine the light on how it effectively interacts with the human body in order to induce the effects.
Usage and Consumption of Kratom
Kratom has been used for many years as a stimulant to increase mental awareness and energy boost, as well as an analgesic for relieving mild and chronic pain. This is made possible by the components found in this drug. Kratom is said to contain alkaloid compounds known as mitragynine and 7-hydoxymitragynine. These compounds are believed to help in relieving pain as they attach to proteins in the body known as opioid receptors, which in turn helps reduce pain perception.
For this reason, Kratom has been placed as an opiate substance since its interaction with the body is similar to that of other opioid drugs such as cocaine and cannabis. It has gained great popularity in recent years as an alternative to opioid-derived pain medications such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. However, it has not been termed as an illegal drug in all parts of the world and therefore, its worldwide consumption.
Kratom is usually consumed in the form of tea, a powder that is mixed with water or orally in the form of a capsule. Kratom is used in low doses as a mild stimulant or high doses as a sedative.
In other cases, Kratom is used in the management of pain associated with conditions such as Fibromyalgia and arthritis. But its most popular usage is associated with alleviating withdrawal symptoms such as mood disturbances and muscle aches from opioid addiction.
Kratom Effects, Is It Harmful To the Body?
The available scientific information about the effects of Kratom is quite limited, despite the clinical trials that have been conducted to determine whether it’s safe or harmful to the human body. Most of the available information on the effects of Kratom has been derived from anecdotal reports by medical doctors, users, as well as animal experiments. Different researches have essentially found 20+ biologically active chemicals in the drug, including a number of them that bind opioid receptors leading to the potentiality of addiction.
Although the drug has had long time consumption, it has also been essentially banned in a number of countries in the world, including Thailand, due to its addiction potential. Some of the chemicals in the drug have also been found to interfere with drug-metabolizing enzymes in the human liver, which can lead to fatal interactions with other medications and drugs. There have also been a number of reported overdoses, with some fatal to the point of death, especially if taken simultaneously with other drugs.
However, despite the potential harm to the body by Kratom, its users continue to increase day by day, as well as its accessibility. Kratom induces different effects to the body depending on the amount of dose taken, from being a stimulant to being a sedative.
The Feeling of a Kratom High
Kratom, as stated earlier is consumed as a tea, in powder form or as a capsule. The doses of Kratom can vary between 1 to 5 grams of raw leaves (small doses) and 5 to 15 grams (high doses) depending on the effect the user has after, whether stimulant or sedative. Usually, the users start to experience the Kratom high very fast, usually between 5 to 10 minutes of consumption. The effects are also known to last between two to five hours, also depending on the doses.
Kratom Effects; Short Term Effects
The short term effects associated with Kratom are normally very complex and variable due to the unique mixture of chemical compounds in the drug. Depending on the dose taken, there is a slight balance between the opiate-like effects and the stimulant-like effects. However, various users have reported different experiences, even with the consumption of exact doses. Kratom can be said to interact with the human body at a personal level, hence the significant difference in experiences by users.
a) Effects at Low Doses
At low doses of about 1 to 5 grams, the stimulant-like effects of Kratom are normally predominant. They are normally felt after 10 minutes of consumption and usually last between 60 and 90 minutes. Most users have reported that the effects are very pleasant, although a number has also reported an uncomfortable feeling of anxiety and being agitated. The stimulant effects of Kratom in low doses are reportedly similar to those of amphetamine with less intensity, and they include:
- Increased energy, concentration and alertness.
- A decrease in appetite
- Heightened libido
- Increase in sociability
b) Effects at Moderate to High Doses
At moderate to high doses of between 5 to 15 grams. Kratom is able to induce opiate-like effects that normally felt after less than 5 minutes and usually last between two to five hours. However, the euphoric high induced by Kratom is reported to be significantly less intense than that of other opioid drugs such as cocaine and marijuana. Although some users have reported finding it pleasant and calming, some claim that the high is dysphoric and unpleasant. Some of the effects at moderate to high doses of Kratom has on the body include:
- Analgesia/ reduction in pain
- A calm, dreamlike mental state
- Feelings of irritability, uneasiness and agitation
- Cough suppression
- Abnormally fast/ fluttering heartbeat
- Dry mouth and constipation
- Nausea and diarrhea
- Increased urination
- Loss of coordination of muscles in arms and legs
- Seizures and liver damages
- Reduction in the symptoms of opioid withdrawal
- Pupillary constriction (tiny pupils)
These symptoms may require the attention of a medical doctor if they are especially adverse and highly unpleasant.
c) Effects at Very High Doses
Kratom doses exceeding 15 grams are considered very high and are absorbed into the body very fast, and the effects can be felt for many hours in the body. The effects induced are very similar to those of high doses of other opioids, which includes extreme sedation and unconsciousness for hours in other cases.
There have also been cases reported by users and other health practitioners of serious toxic effects which are also rare. However, there is little available documented information on the real dangers associated with Kratom use.
The Long Term Effects of Kratom
Although the information used to classify the long term side effects of Kratom use is anecdotal with no substantial basis, recent studies of frequent Kratom users in Malaysia and Thailand suggest that there are some long term side effects associated with the consumption of high doses of Kratom for a prolonged period of time.
These long term effects include:
- Notable weight loss and anorexia
- Insomnia i.e. difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Hyperpigmentation i.e. dark spots on the skin and especially on the cheeks
- Prolonged fatigue
- Appetite loss and nausea
- Tremors and body shakes
- Seizures and loss of consciousness
- Psychosis i.e. hearing or seeing things that others don’t see
Despite the presence of these effects on long term Kratom users, there is not enough medical evidence that suggests that Kratom can lead to damaged organs and other body parts. These effects are the ones that lead to the potential of Kratom addiction. These effects will prompt contact with a medical practitioner.
Kratom Addiction and Withdrawal; Things to Know
Potential for Addiction
Following a number of studies on rats and mice, Kratom has been found to be habit-forming. However, there is no scientific evidence that backs up this finding in humans. This does not mean that there are no cases of potential addiction to Kratom by long term users. The most significant danger that is posed by the long term Kratom use on the human body is the development of a reliance on it and potential addiction.
One of the uses of Kratom is that of alleviating withdrawal symptoms resulting from addiction to other opiate substances. This is made possible by some of the chemicals found in the drug that activates opiate signaling in the human brain, and therefore, helping mitigate those withdrawal symptoms. However, the ability of these chemicals present in the drug suggests that Kratom itself can lead to addiction. Evidence from long term users does support this claim.
Long term users, especially in Malaysia and Thailand have been reported to develop a tolerance to Kratom and hence requiring larger doses of the drug in order to maintain the same effects as before. This results in compulsive drug taking behavior of those users who are unable to stop usage despite the negative life implications and harmful effects from Kratom. It is also evident that these users suffer from withdrawal symptoms similar to those of other opiates if consumption is stopped abruptly.
Effects of Kratom Withdrawal
According to recent studies, it is conclusive that 50% of the people who people who used Kratom for more than six months developed a certain dependency on the drug. Following the cease of use, certain withdrawal symptoms were evident.
There are both physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms that are associated with Kratom and they vary in severity from mild to moderate. These symptoms include:
- Body aches, muscle pains and cramps
- Tremors and shakiness
- Abdominal pains and diarrhea
- Depression and sadness
- Anger issues
- Restlessness and nervousness
- High blood pressure in severe cases
- Intense craving for Kratom
Kratom Withdrawal Treatment
Just like other opiates, the withdrawal symptoms associated with the ceasing of use of Kratom may require treatment in moderation to prevent severe cases. Users suffering from withdrawal symptoms usually prefer to detox. This process is carried out at professional detoxification facilities where progress is monitored by trained medical staff.
Since the dependence and addiction to Kratom is a relatively new topic; there are no specific treatment regimens for addiction and withdrawal. Only a few medications are available that help to treat patients with Kratom addiction and withdrawal symptoms. These drugs are majorly similar to those used to treat withdrawal from addiction to other opiates such as lofexidine and dihydrocodeine.
After a successful withdrawal to Kratom, it is important for a patient to be committed to drug rehabilitation treatment at an outpatient or inpatient facility that will help patients successfully recover and regain their health. A drug-free life with no relapses in the future is also made possible through after-care and peer recovery programs.
Although Kratom use continues to gain popularity, it is important for users to equip themselves with enough information on the use of Kratom. This will reduce the chances of addiction and hence adverse side effects that may disrupt your life.