Taking kratom can cause adverse reactions in some people, including hostility, aggression, bloody diarrhea, excessive sweating and difficulty falling asleep. It can also lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms, such as rhinorrhea, insomnia, anxiety, constricted affect, and jerky movements of the limbs.
The effects of kratom are dose-dependent. At higher doses, it binds to opioid receptors and produces sedative and euphoric effects.
In low doses, kratom acts as a stimulant and increases energy and stamina. In higher doses, it causes a more euphoric and anxiety-reducing effect. It has been reported to enhance feelings of social connectedness and empathy, a property that could help people overcome isolation and loneliness.
Some researchers have studied kratom’s effects in humans and found it to be generally safe at low doses. However, in high doses it can have side effects like sedation, nausea and vomiting and increased risk of seizures. It is also possible for kratom to be addictive and can lead to withdrawal symptoms when it is stopped abruptly.
One study published in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs tested 15 products advertised as kratom or that came up when the term “kratom” was searched online. The researchers found that all of the samples contained mitragynine, but none of them had the narcotic chemical 7-hydroxymitraginine, which is thought to have opioid-like effects.
The CDC has linked kratom to 91 deaths, but White says this claim should be viewed with skepticism because most of the victims had other drugs in their system at the time of death. He advises clinicians to educate patients about alternative, FDA-approved treatments for pain and anxiety, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and buprenorphine for opioid use disorder.
Like many pain medications, kratom has opioid-like properties that can make it highly effective at relieving chronic pain. Studies in animals have shown that kratom acts on opioid receptors in the brain and central nervous system to reduce inflammation and pain.
However, when kratom is abused, it can lead to a dangerous high similar to cocaine and heroin. The drug can cause seizures and liver toxicity in some people, and its use can result in addiction. It also has sedative effects, which can be dangerous for those with anxiety.
A recent case in The Oncologist magazine documented the liver toxicity of a 23-year-old man who took 85 grams of powdered kratom for six weeks. The patient experienced dark urine, painless jaundice and light stools. The condition is called hepatotoxicity and can be fatal.
Physicians should discuss the risks of kratom with their patients and recommend that they only use reputable products from a reliable source. They should never mix it with other drugs and always have a sober friend on hand in case of an overdose. They should carry fentanyl test strips and naloxone to help treat an overdose, and they should avoid driving after taking kratom. They should also encourage patients with substance use disorders to seek professional treatment for their addiction. They can find a qualified treatment specialist with the help of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s online locator.
The alkaloids in kratom may cause digestive discomfort, including nausea and vomiting. Those with digestive issues should speak with their doctor to discuss treatment options.
Kratom leaves are harvested from Mitragyna speciose, a tropical evergreen tree found in Southeast Asia. The leaf can be chewed, brewed into tea or added to other products such as gummies. People consume kratom to increase energy, alleviate pain and sedate themselves. People may also experience mood enhancement and other effects such as increased sociability, decreased anxiety and improved sexual desire.
Despite its many potential benefits, little quality research has been conducted on kratom. The DEA’s threat to make it a Schedule 1 drug, placing it alongside heroin and methamphetamine, is a major concern for those who use it. Especially as it is sold without regulated oversight and quality control.
Users should be aware of the potential for addiction and should avoid mixing it with other substances. Reported overdoses involving kratom have almost always occurred along with other drugs, such as opioids. Additionally, it is not uncommon for kratom to be contaminated with opioids such as fentanyl. If you or a loved one are struggling with kratom addiction, seek help from an experienced recovery professional. Inpatient and outpatient therapy options are available and can improve your chances of a full recovery. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you examine the beliefs and behaviors that contributed to your addiction and create a plan for change.
The ability of kratom capsules to elicit mood-elevating effects increases with dosage. Mood elevation may occur within 10 minutes and last for one to an hour and a half. Users report increased work capacity, alertness, sociability and heightened sexual desire. They also feel less tired. In high doses, a person may become sleepy and experience what is described as “nodding.” In addition to mood enhancement, the alkaloid mitragynine acts as an opioid receptor agonist. It also has stimulant properties and interacts with the NMDA receptor, producing dissociating effects when used in heavy doses.
Research on kratom is scarce, and the drug has not been approved by the FDA for any medical purposes. But studies suggest kratom can reduce pain, anxiety and depression, and may be helpful for those suffering from opiate addiction.
Until further research proves its safety and effectiveness, primary care providers should consider avoiding the recommendation of kratom for their patients. Instead, a health care professional can recommend safer alternatives for pain relief and anxiety relief. For example, yoga, exercise, acupuncture and CBD products may alleviate symptoms without the potential risks of kratom. And, as far as addressing opiate addiction, there are three FDA-approved drugs [buprenorphine, methadone and naltrexone] that can be used in conjunction with counseling to treat substance use disorder.