Kratom is a plant that mostly germinates in Southeast Asia; it’s leaves have psychotropic and opioid-like pain-relieving effects.

People who live in areas where kratom grows sometimes use it to treat pain, diarrhea, fatigue, and coughs. People living in the U.S. have shown lots of interest in using this substance as an alternative to opioid pain relievers, some other people use kratom to experience the effect of psychotropics or in simple terms, the “high” effect.

While kratom is presently legal in the U.S., the Drug Enforcement Agency mentioned it as a ‘Drug Of Concern” due to several potential issues of safety.

Other names of kratom include:

  • Thang
  • Kakuam
  • Thom
  • Ketum
  • Brak

In this article, let’s learn more about kratom, including safety concerns and the possible effects.

Is Kratom Safe?

While some people use kratom as a substitute to prescription for pain killers, such as opioids, research has investigated how the body is being affected. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved it for medical use.

Kratom may cause adverse reactions, mostly when the dosage is high. These reactions include tremors, psychosis, seizures, and other extremely toxic effects. People with medical conditions and those who otherwise take medications may have a higher risk of adverse reactions to kratom. It is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate or monitor dosage or purity of kratom supplements.

The Basics

  • Kratom is used as a stimulant at low doses and as a sedative at high doses.
  • It’s also used for pain management
  • None of these uses are clinically proven.

What are the Effects?

Kratom has various effects on the body, depending on the dose. People use kratom in different ways, including chewing the leaves itself, crushing the leaves and swallowing, brewing them as a tea or smoking them.

Stimulant effects

In minimal doses, of 1-5grams (g), kratom can act as a stimulant, giving users extra energy. They may feel more alert and awake, talkative and social.

Sedative effects

At higher doses of 5-15g, kratom can have a sedative effect. This is distinguishable from the effects of opioids, which results in users feeling calm, tired, and euphoric. People often use higher doses to treat severe diarrhea, coughs or the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Doses higher than 15grams cause a person to become sedated and tired, even to the state of losing consciousness.

Side effects

Kratom can cause a significant number of unfavourable side effects, including:

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seizures
  • Constipation
  • Itching
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis

Mixing kratom with other medications or drugs can make the side effects more critical or yield different results.

Risks and complications

Kratom usage can lead to some severe complications, such as:

Overdose

Like opioid drugs, it is very possible to overdose on kratom. An overdose can result in sedation and loss of consciousness. This is paramount in people who are taking other sedatives at the same time.

Addiction

Kratom can be addictive; a person who uses the drug regularly may experience withdrawal symptoms. Which may include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Irritability and hostility
  • A runny nose
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Yawning

Someone who is addicted to kratom, or who frequently uses it, may need medical assistance to stop using the drug safely.

Liver damage

In a few cases, kratom usage has caused acute liver damage. Symptoms of liver injuries include nausea, dark-colored urine, fatigue, itchiness and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eye). In most cases, people recover fully from liver problems after they stop using kratom.

Death

Various deaths have been associated with the use of kratom. The risk of life-threatening complications turns out to be higher in people who use additional drugs, such as antidepressants or mood stabiliser.

We’ve discussed the effects and also the risks and complications, let’s move to the long term damages caused by consistent use of kratom. We’re going to discuss three damages of it below.

Kratom Addiction

Kratom dependence may be formed when the drug is regularly abused for a specific period. Changes are made to the circuitry and pathways of the brain involved with the happy feelings of a person due to the way the drug interacts with opioid receptors in the central nervous system and floods the brain with chemical messengers related to mood and pleasure.

When the drug leaves the system, after dependence has come in, drug withdrawal is usually the result. Emotionally, kratom withdrawal may cause depression, insomnia, anxiety, and even trouble feeling pleasure. Drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms are signs of addiction, which is when a person cannot control drug use. Once addiction creeps in, people may take kratom in higher amounts and for a more extended period than they intended to and use it not considering the economic, emotional, behavioral, physical, social or relationship issues that may occur as a result.

Drug abuse costs Americans close to $200 billion annually due to low productivity at work, criminal justice costs, and healthcare expenses. The (NIDA) National Institute of Drug Abuse published this data officially. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) estimated in 2016 that over 20 million Americans, from age 12 and above, struggle with substance use disorder. Addiction to kratom is very possible and is perhaps the worst thing that can happen to anyone abusing the drug.

Lack of Regulation

Until 2014, kratom was marketed in the U.S. as a nutritional or dietary supplement. Due to a number of reports on health toxicity and concerns, the (FDA) has since banned its import. Today, it’s still being sold in tablet or powder form under the radar in tobacco shops or head stores where it is labelled as “incense”, purchased online; or ordered in bars where it is mixed with drinks and sold as “ketum”.

Since it is not regarded as a controlled substance, it is not standardized, and it is unregulated. As it is mostly sold illegally, the drug may not be exactly what it is marketed as. The dangers and possible side effects of taking kratom may not be completely alien to Americans. The drug may be mixed with other substances that may be potentially hazardous on their own, and a buyer may not know the potency of kratom or level of purity.

Possible Negative Drug Interaction

A popular drink among young Muslims in southern Thailand called “4 x 100” is a mixture of the plant-based kratom and either a caffeinated beverage or a codeine-based cough syrup that produces an effect related to being drunk from alcohol. Mixing kratom with other hallucinogenic substances can be very dangerous, as they may have negative chemicals. Seizures have been experienced with kratom abuse when used along with other drugs.

Worsening depression and possibly harmful drug interactions between kratom and other opioids, like prescription-based morphine or hydrocodone, have been reported by the New York Times. When using more than one mind-altering substance at a time, each may exacerbate the potential hazards, risk factors and side effects associated with the others, and this mixing increases the probability of drug dependence, life-threatening addiction or drug overdose. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  reports that almost 50,000 people died in the U.S. from a drug overdose in 2014, making overdose the highest cause of injury death in the nation.

The internet is filled with websites indicating the benefits of using kratom, particularly for people who want to get over an addiction to opioid drugs. However, these affirmations are reinforced only by anecdotal evidence and the industries selling kratom products. People who have tolerance for kratom or opioids can accidentally overdose because they cannot correctly dose themselves. Kratom may have few potentials as opioid addiction treatment, but it hasn’t been studied adequately. So, this claim is not confirmed.

Meanwhile, the dangers posed by kratom are well-reported. Even though it is a powerful drug; kratom can lead to withdrawal symptoms, dependence, tolerance, and addiction. People who have battled with prescription opioid and heroin addiction and have tried to use kratom to overcome addiction, almost always end up getting addicted to kratom instead. As a result, it is not an advisable method to use in treating opioid addiction; instead, it is best to consult a professional for help.

Conclusion

While kratom is legal in the United States, it does pose severe threats, especially to people who have medical conditions, and those who otherwise take drugs. Although it may have some beneficial therapeutic properties, there is deficient research to brace up its use. Anyone considering kratom should be aware of the risks and consult a doctor first.

Without this research, there are lots of things about this drug that remain unknown, such as safe and effective dosage, possible interactions, and potentially harmful effects, including death. These are all things you seriously consider before taking any drug.

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